Bob Kerr | Editor
The Army is looking into ways to improve permanent change-of-station moves and Fort Leavenworth is at the forefront of this effort.
At a meeting with the Defense Writers Group last week, Gen. Gus Perna said Fort Leavenworth, along with Carlisle Barracks, Pa., and Fort Bliss, Texas, are part of a pilot program that could lead to improving the PCS process for all soldiers.
Each summer, these three installations see rapid turnovers of large numbers of students — about 1,300 for the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, about 400 for the War College at Carlisle, and about 700 for the Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss.
Under the pilot, students PCSing to and from these locations will now receive their requests for orders 120-180 days out. This enables the arriving students and their families to start their PCS process early, and it will help synchronize the movement of their household goods, Perna told Army News Service.
“We can make sure their houses are available when they (arrive). We can make sure their houses are clean, and there are no work orders required on them,” Perna said. “The day they show up … they will already have their address (and) their household goods will show up right behind them.
“Now they can settle in, enjoy their family time and be educated — without worrying about their house (or) work orders,” he said. “These sergeants major, majors and colonels will be running our Army.”
Garrison Commander Col. Harry Hung said Fort Leavenworth is the flagship of this effort.
“Fort Leavenworth has the hardest, most difficult challenge with the volume of personnel coming in and out in the shortest amount of time,” Hung said.
The earlier RFOs give PCSing families more time to prepare for their moves, which is especially important to families enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program who are slated to move overseas. (See related article, page B2.)
To make the summer transition of students and their families smoother, Hung said, emphasis is being placed on several areas, including housing, transportation, schools, spouse employment, child care and medical/EFMP needs.
Seven teams were formed to address these summer transition needs and ensure accountability, Hung said. These teams include team members and subject matter experts from outside of the Garrison to ensure a wide base of knowledge and experience in each of the focus areas.
For housing, inspections and repairs have been moved up to ensure on-post homes are ready for new residents as soon as they arrive. Fort Leavenworth Frontier Heritage Communities began performing pre-inspections of departing School of Advance Military Studies students’ homes in late January. Pre-inspections of Command and General Staff Officer Course students’ homes have continued through this month.
Under the old system, the homes were inspected within 30 days of the students’ departure, leaving little time to paint or repair any damage before new students and their families arrive. With inspections performed earlier, the housing partner has more time to plan and perform maintenance on the homes.
Also new this summer, incoming families will have a specific assignment to their new homes before arriving at Fort Leavenworth.
Knowing a specific housing address and move-in date means household goods can be delivered quicker with less chance of them going into storage while a family awaits quarters, said Vicki Hamlin, chief of the Garrison Plans, Analysis and Integration Office.
“General Perna has given some guidance to us — he wants it to be seamless,” Hung said. “We have a tall task of trying to integrate the housing between the occupancy, maintenance, with Transportation and those delivery dates — it’s a very tight window.
Hung said the incoming students will get one-on-one counseling to help accomplish the task, and the whole sequence of events will be tracked and held accountable.
Hung described it as a concierge or tailored approach, taking into consideration each incoming family’s specific needs, including medical care and EFMP, child care and spouse employment.
Communication is important to the success of the summer transition process, Hung said. The Garrison website and app are continuously updated to provide in-coming families with information and links to Fort Leavenworth service providers. The Garrison will also host live Facebook town hall meetings as the transition season approaches.