Monday, May 17, 2010


I didn't want to post this until I had told my boss (since we are FB friends and all and she could actually find this blog) but we're moving August 1.

When you move in the military (called getting orders or PCS'ing--Permanent Change of Station) there is a certain system that is followed.

There is someone called a "detailer" and this person basically controls your destiny. He is the person who can tell you what places are open for your job and your rank to transfer to. Everyone is always sucking up to these guys, as they are just about akin to God. If the detailer doesn't like you or if you're competing for a place against someone the detailer is friends with, forget it. You're probably going to Fargo, North Dakota or some other really hard position (billet) to fill.

A lot of people do back-door deals with the detailer to get the duty station they want.

Alas, for whatever reason that wasn't an option for us and so we got stuck with Toledo, Ohio.

And we had to fight for it which makes the whole situation pretty Twilight-zoney. I grew up in Ann Arbor and Detroit, Michigan and have only been to Toledo twice in my life. Both times to go to the Art Museum (which is amazing fabulous, BTW).

So this is how the process works.

The military only lets people stay at the job for 3-4 years and then they force you to transfer. The hubs says this is so you don't always have the same Commanding Officer and you experience different leadership styles. You're not supposed to get loyal to one person, rather it's all about the mission.

Personally, I think it's so you don't get too entrenched in a community that when they ask you to go to war/go to Guantanamo Bay for a solo 1-year tour/go to the Philippines/etc, that you don't want to go. Saying that your softball team needs you to play in the state championships is not a good enough reason for the military not to send you to Iraq, lol.

You can transfer within the same city, but that didn't work out for us.

About 6 months before you're scheduled to leave your job, the detailer sends you a list of places that you can transfer to. My husband is in a specialized job, so there aren't that many places to choose from in general.

About 3 or 4 months ago we got our first round of "choices". Let's just say they weren't good.

The only one I really recall was Buffalo, NY which we immediately vetoed because of the year-round snow.

We waited a month to see what new joys the detailer would bring.

This time Memphis, TN and Camp Lejeune, NC popped up.

We debated about Memphis for awhile. It's actually a pretty nice city and much more cosmopolitan that I thought (although we only spent a half-day there when we drove out to the West Coast). It doesn't seem so veg friendly though, so that was a negative.

As for Camp Lejeune, I've had Marines tell me they would rather go back to Iraq then go back to Camp Lejeune. Apparently, it's a very swamp, humid area where the whole town is military (from the cashiers at Wal-Mart to the taxi drivers). Having lived in Norfolk, VA I remember how tiring this can be.

I've never been to Camp Lejeune, but I've heard it's like all heavily military cities. Basically, a 21-year old males dream. Crappy sports bars with cougars on the prowl. Fast food and Denny's everywhere, used car lots and pawn shops, as well as divey strip bars.

No thanks.

So we decided to roll the dice and see what came out our final round. You only get 3 rounds (1 per month) and it's a gamble since other people can take the duty station you want. The general rule of thumb is that if you see something you want, grab it because it may not be around the next time.

On the final spin of the great fate wheel, Dover, NJ was still one of our choices but it came down to a choice between there and Toledo, OH.

However, the BAH (Basic Allowance Housing) was more expensive for Dover than for San Diego (something I never thought was possible) because it's about 30 minutes west of Manhattan. This sounds great until you realize that it's basically a bedroom community for NYC. Not so exciting.

As my brother put it, "How many times, really, are you going to go to NYC? Dover sounds like hell on earth. At least Toledo is a city."

Since I'm not 24 and into clubbing all hours of the night, I had to concede that he had a point.

Plus, my parents are 1 hour away from Toledo and it would be nice for them to get to know Leo, since we met in Philadelphia and got married in Norfolk. I still have some friends in the area, so it seemed like a good fit. Although I have to admit, I cried, mostly out of shock when I first learned that was our best choice.

So we decided and then the detailer calls Leo at 5 p.m. one night and leaves a message saying, "Call me back. It's about your duty station." And that's it. No other info. I hate when people do that because then you're left wondering all night. Which is exactly what happened to us.

The next day, the detailer tells us it was a mistake and that Toledo shouldn't have "popped up" and our only choices were Dover, NJ and Billings, Montana which just popped up.

To make a (very) long story short, Leo was like, "No, this is your problem. You have to fix it. My wife's parents think we're coming. We've mentally prepared to go to Toledo. This isn't my problem."

Well, do you remember how I mentioned about back-door deals? Well, we ended up kind of making one of our own.

The only way we could go to Toledo was if the other corpsman (medic) there was willing to leave and take one of the open options (ie. Dover or Billings).

Whether it was luck or whatever, the corpsman in Toledo is a Haitian guy from NYC so he was happy taking the Dover billet.

So after all that, we're going to Toledo, Ohio.

However, there are a couple good things about it which I'll put in my next post since I know this is hella long.


  1. Oh my gosh! So glad that worked out in the end for you guys. I would love it if my husband got stationed up in WA and we could be an hour from my parents, although the chances of that are really slim because of what he does too. It is a pins and needles waiting game. My husband had one really awesome detailer who actually cared about people and families and tried to make it work as much as he could. Best of luck to you and your husband in your move!!

  2. Hey Becca-

    Thanks for the kind words! It's been a stressful couple of months. I'm just glad it's over no matter what the outcome. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you guys to head back up to WA. I've only been to Spokane, but it's a beautiful state.

  3. Wow that sounds so crazy. Do you have to move every 3 years his whole career?

    At the end of the year my husband applies to places for his last year of training. So we'll be moving in two years. And we'll just go where ever they offer him a spot first.

    Good luck with the move!

  4. Wow, Toledo was the best choice! Although, I do have to admit, after living abroad from America for as long as I have already, I would be excited & dancing around the room if my man's work offered to us a shotgun shack in the middle of Nowheresville, USA. Don't get me wrong, as I love the opportunity I have of living abroad & don't take the experience at all for granted. And I agree completely with what you've decided from your choices ;-) Again, so well-written! And I laughed outloud at the description of the town of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina [aka Cougar Town]. I'd never heard of the place until I read this, but now I'll know if any of my friends whose spouses are in the military utter these four little words ;-)

  5. @ Mrs. Carioca-Yes, we have to move every 3 or 4 years. It's actually ok because I was pretty much a nomad before I met the hubs. It's only a problem when you have to go somewhere you don't want to. I'm not sure how I'm going to adjust once he retires and we have to live in 1 place. lol.

    @Isabella-I never thought I'd say it but Toledo was the best choice. Crazy world. It's funny you saying you want to come back to the States. I really want to go to Europe to live. Not sure for how long but at least to try it. Although, as you say you've been abroad a long time, so I can imagine homesickness would set in.
    Yeah, Camp Lejeune is not a very good choice to be stationed =)
    Thanks for the comments!

  6. I had no idea it worked like that. This was an interesting post for me to read. Good luck in your new city!