The Life Cycle of a PCS: An Illustrative Guide


Several weeks ago, I came home from work to find my husband grinning mischievously in the kitchen. Never a good sign.

He played coy for several minutes, no doubt enjoying the forboding sense of doom that crooked smile cast across the room. My heart began to race. My brows instinctively furrowed. I glared at him suspiciously, searching every inch of his face for a sign. Nothing. 

Then he hit me with the news:

“Guess what you’re doing tomorrow?”

I shot him my trademarked death glare. Pausing momentarily, he continued, “You’re going skydiving!”

“Nope. No, I am not.” Hands on hips accentuated my resolve.

“Well it’s already paid for by name so, yeah, you are.”

Let’s pause briefly to acknowledge the myriad of explosive responses that would have been perfectly reasonable in this situation. OK, so most of them shouldn’t be articulated. Suffice it to say, my husband was wise to remain behind the kitchen counter while I paused to consider my options. 

Luckily for him—and our marriage—it didn’t take long to warm up to the idea. Not because I’m a daredevil at heart. Not because my stubborn nature demanded I meet the challenge (well, not entirely at least). No, the reason I agreed to hurl my body out of a perfectly good airplane is simple: I’m a military spouse and I know what it’s like to PCS.

Turns out, falling from 13,000 feet feels surprisingly familiar when you’re used to living at the whim of a bureaucratic green light. Here’s why:

1.) You know what it’s like to have a perfect stranger interrupt your calm, peaceful life without a care in the world. Oh, somebody we’ve never met thinks moving across the country on short orders, in the middle of the school year, immediately following a deployment is just what we need? 

Life as I know it is ending. Might as well slap a smile on my face and go with it.

2.) You greet orders with a nauseating mixture of excitement and terror, hoping for the best while fearing the worst. You smile on the outside, successfully suppressing the urge to scream when orders are changed the day before packers are set to arrive. 

Climb in and buckle up. There’s no other choice now. 

3.) You endure cramped spaces (cars, hotel rooms, dark closets hiding from your children while eating all the chocolate) for long periods of time. 

Still smiling, though less genuinely now. Deep breathing has commenced. 

4.) Arriving at your new duty station, you get the sudden urge to turn back. 

This is not what I signed up for! I am NOT a fan of this view!

5.) All chaos breaks loose. Half your household goods are lost. The kids’ vital records have disappeared from the PCS binder. Your furniture doesn’t fit in the master bedroom. And, oh my god, THEY BROKE THE TV! 

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what is referred to as ‘free fall’–otherwise known as, ‘your entire life flashing before your eyes.’ It isn’t pretty.

6.) Things eventually settle into a new normal. Life still comes at you fast–deployment rumors are never far away–but you start to enjoy yourself again. 


I’ve totally got this. Why didn’t anyone tell me it would be this fun?

7.) You meet some new friends, enjoy a few girls’ nights, and finally let loose. 

I’ve never been happier! What was I so afraid of?

8.) Right when you’re really getting the hang of things, some stranger behind the scenes gets ready to pull the rug out from under you again. 


9.) A whiplash of bad news throws you off balance. Your lost boxes are only being reimbursed at half cost, the deposit  from your previous residence is lost in the mail, and your spouse is unexpectedly moved to a new unit (so long brand-new FRG friends). Bring on the ugly tears! 

I mean, who doesn’t look ridiculous in the midst of sheer panic? 

10.) But it’s nothing a couple of deep breaths and a little perspective can’t handle. 

Turns out, if you open your eyes and look around, your “horrifying” situation may not be all that bad.

11.) You begin to fully embrace your new reality. You take in the sights, find joy in the moment, and finally feel like you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. 


Maybe I’m crazy, but I wouldn’t trade this for anything.

12.) And though the landing may be rocky, you’ll always end up on your feet. Because you’re never alone in this wildly unpredictable military life. Your fellow military spouses always have your back and they love you–ugly tears and all. 

Cheers to an unforgettable adventure!

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Caitlin Antonides
Caitlin is a wife, mother and sometimes English teacher (thanks PCS schedule!), who is originally from the Chicagoland area. She jumped headfirst into military life after marrying her husband, James, in 2010, and has enjoyed a whirlwind of adventures ever since. Her favorite part of being a military spouse is the frequency with which her family is able to travel and explore new cultures. She enjoys snuggling her two children, cruising Netflix with her husband, and writing with her sister at their joint blog, Loud Is Ladylike. Caitlin is thrilled to be part of the Military Moms Blog team and looks forward to connecting with the many wonderful members of this community.