Salute to Spouses Blog

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The Paper Trail

PCS season is upon us. Do you know where your paperwork is?

If there is one thing I have learned as an Army spouse, paperwork trumps all else at any time and in any place.

Checking in to a military hospital to have a baby? Better have the paperwork from your doc and your ID card.

Trying to renew your ID card or sign your kid up for the once a week dance class on base, while your husband is deployed? Better have orders in hand and a power of attorney.

Getting on a plane to move to a foreign country with four kids, a dog and a very grumpy husband? Better have several copies of PCS orders with you if you don’t want to pay the extra baggage fee. And even then, you might have to.

I’ve heard tall tales of the military records facility in Indiana that allegedly burned to the ground years ago. My husband swears that everything was lost and that we, in turn, must keep hands on all his records at all times.

I have no idea if that story is true or not. I’ve looked for a good solid answer on what paperwork to keep and what to toss. That answer seems to be a nebulous, mish-mash of answers – and it depends on who you ask.

What I do know is that we have a single suitcase that we carry during every PCS that weighs about 60 pounds. Its contents: nothing but paperwork.

Orders, physicals, school records, dental records – it’s all in there for every member of our family.

 As a backup, I scanned it all and put it on a thumb drive. I thought I was being cool. Seems I was just turning the system over on its head. The first time I offered an Army office worker my thumb drive with my handy dandy files, I received a look of confusion and then a “no ma’am.” So much for being organized.

So as you head for your next duty station this summer, keep your paperwork close at hand and at a minimum, your PCS orders. I guarantee it will save you days, even weeks, worth of hassle.

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