Experts advise community members on moves, leave regulations under COVID-19 restrictions
Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (June 18, 2020) – The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unorthodox PCS (permanent change of station) season for service members and their families, leaving many with questions and concerns about moving to their next duty station.
Leaders of the 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum conducted a virtual town hall June 18 to provide guidance to current and future post community members about policies and regulations pertaining to travel.
Brig. Gen. Brett Funck, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum acting senior commander, said that subject-matter experts on transportation, military pay and housing were available to address frequently asked questions that could benefit the larger viewing audience.
He also suggested that individuals with concerns that apply to their specific situations should use the PCS Resource contacts available on the Fort Drum website HERE.
As travel restrictions in certain states and regions ease, more service members will be able to move to new duty stations. However, this week alone, 10 states saw record numbers of COVID-19 cases. Funck said that as long as the virus remains a threat, people need to remain patient and flexible.
“It’s very unique, and you’re going to have to use all the resources that we provide to you to make sure that communications are open and that we are able to answer and address the issues, concerns and questions that are out there,” he said.
Funck said that although New York is responding well in most regions to the gradual phases of reopening, there are still pockets of restricted travel areas across the state. The policies in place regarding quarantines and restricted travel are designed to protect the entire force, even if individuals feel personally safe and at minimal risk of contracting the virus.
“We have to look at this not just from a Fort Drum standpoint, but from across the 50 states and even outside that, based on where PCS moves can occur,” he said. “There are a lot of risks associated with travel right now. We look at it as a risk to the gaining installation: Fort Drum itself or the installation you are going to. And we look at the risk to the traveler, to the Soldier.”
Chief Warrant 3 Sheree Johnson, 10th Mountain Division (LI) G-1 senior human resources technician, answered specific questions relating to exception to policy requests and leave requests associated with PCS.
Many of those topics are addressed in a FAQ sheet with scenario-based PCS examples and helpful links on the Fort Drum website HERE.
Phil Hemminger, chief of Personnel Processing Branch, Military Personnel Division at Fort Drum, said that the pandemic coincided with the busiest PCS time across the DoD. The stop-movement order caused many Soldiers who were scheduled to travel in the March-May timeframe to delay their PCS move. Hemminger said that this also affected Soldiers whose PCS date was not originally affected by the stop-movement order.
“They saw their dates change to some point later on in the year,” he said. “The workload in our office for deletions and deferments went up 700 percent as a result of that. We did 132 deletions and 774 deferments over the past several weeks because of that. It all goes back to trying to make sure that the transportation companies’ ability to move Soldiers will match up with the number of Soldiers that there are to move.”
Richard Northrip, Army Field Support Battalion-Drum installation transportation officer, said that the Army is encouraging Soldiers to take advantage of do-it-yourself moves, or Personally Procured Moves (PPM).
“Soldiers are now authorized to receive 100 percent reimbursement at the government rate, where previously it was at 95 percent prior to COVID-19,” he said. “You have complete control, from start to finish, of your move, and you avoid a lot of problems with carriers and you are not subject to blackout dates and things like that.”
To learn more about the PPM incentive, visit https://www.dfas.mil/MilitaryMembers/travelpay/armypcs/dityppmmoves/.
Col. Jeffery Lucas, Fort Drum garrison commander, said that the town hall covered a lot of information in a short time, but people should continue to contact those subject-matter experts for additional guidance.
“For our Soldiers, our families and everyone who is anticipating PCS moves, we know absolutely that there is a great deal of uncertainty for what the future holds,” Lucas said. “And that’s what we were attempting to address in today’s town hall, and we will continue to do so as we answer your questions as situations continue to develop and as we continue to get more guidance and information from our higher headquarters.
“If I can ask you to be certain of one thing, it is that our subject-matter experts and each of us in the community are going to do everything we can to take care of you, to take care of your families, to answer your concerns and to make what is a very stressful time as least stressful as possible,” he added.
To watch the livestream, visit www.facebook.com/pg/drum.10thmountain/videos.