Sgt. 1st Class Jamell Hall, Ramon Ortiz and Elbert Jones prepare equipment at the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Central Issuing Facility. CIF is one of the activities on a Soldier’s clearing papers. If Soldiers don’t have equipment issued to them, they don’t have to clear in person, because clearing can be done virtually. Photo by Julia Simpkins
PCS crisis action team streamlining Soldier movement
Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part story series on the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall PCS crisis action team. Part two addresses the findings of how JBM-HH has streamlined the PCS process.
The Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall permanent change of station crisis action team has been working to streamline and improve Soldiers permanent change of station from the base. One of the problems with the PCS process has been the number of activities Soldiers have to clear in person.
To help combat this problem across the Army, garrisons are taking part in Soldier movement crisis action teams where the primary objectives are to assess subordinate functions that feed into the PCS process to determine how functions are resourced and currently executed against Army expectations and standards. The joint base team has been working on identifying gaps in services, streamlining processes to address service gaps and elevate gaps in services that require senior commander and Army assistance.
Ken Washington, the director of JBM-HH Human Resources, said U.S. Army Installation Management Command came up with five PCS lines of effort to help with this issue. They are:
· Request for orders and publishing orders
· Transportation picking up household goods, delivering household goods and shipping privately owned vehicles
· The availability of housing
· Child care, which includes the child development centers
· Spouse employment
He added that in-person levy briefings would help Soldiers with understanding part of the PCS process that can take the longest if they have an exceptional Family member.
“We are going back to doing in-person levy briefings in November … leaders are going to make sure Soldiers know levy briefings are not optional,” said Washington. “That was one problem we did have in the past that some Soldiers were not coming to the levy briefings. That’s one thing we discovered with the Exceptional Family Member Program. (Levy briefings) were a requirement but nobody was holding (Soldiers) accountable for (not) going. Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall is a service provider and we can provide the service, but there is nothing we can do if (leaders don’t) make sure the Soldier shows up.”
Washington said when the team put everything together their goal was to look at these items individually. He pointed out that the team believed it was important to make sure a Soldier’s file was updated if there was an exceptional Family member. The crisis action team also realized that there weren’t enough EFMP doctors in the National Capital Region, which is an issue that can be elevated to Army senior leaders.
“The other thing that we identified was the need for Soldiers to turn in their packets without delay,” he said. “That’s something we can pass along to first sergeants (and explain) the importance of getting those documents (turned in).”
He added that another possible delay in the PCS process was not all Soldiers on the joint base have the U.S. Army Rader Clinic as a primary care provider, which means the clinic does not have the Soldier’s or his or her Family member’s health records. Washington said that adds time to the clearing process, especially if there is an exceptional Family member.
For example, if a Soldier’s Family member requires specific medical care for an illness or surgery, the medical care might not be available at the new duty station. There is also a possibility that there might be a requirement to stay in the NCR after the medical procedure. If there is a requirement to stay in the area, the Soldier has to make a decision — stay in the NCR or PCS to the new duty station with an understanding that medical care isn’t available. Washington said that this type of problem isn’t a Rader Clinic problem but a decision that must be made by the Soldier. He said that leaders could believe that the holdup is caused by the JBM-HH Military Personnel Division, but it’s not.
Washington said the team looked at the PCS order process, which varied for enlisted and officers. Enlisted Soldiers were receiving their orders 120 days or more before their PCS date. However, they realized officers were receiving their orders 60 days or less, which means they don’t have enough time to take care of what needs to be done and this might create a hardship. “We are just going to elevate that to (U.S. Army Human Resources Command) and share that with them,” he said. “We continue to see where we can make gains on the orders process.”
Washington added that in some instances Soldiers have to leave the joint base and to clear activities on Fort Belvoir. For example, if a Soldier has to clear the central issuing facility, he or she might have to clear on Fort Belvoir and not the joint base.
“In many cases, a Soldier has to go all the way to Belvoir for installation clearance and they will say this is the worst experience he or she has ever had,” Washington said. “I can understand their frustration (because) it’s not a function that the MPD has oversight for. We are trying to look at that.
“Let’s say (CIF) can’t clear you virtually, but you have to clear in person because you have TA50. Everything posted says you can go over to Bldg. 205 to clear CIF, you decide you are going to go over there and CIF is not open and you are mad. We are looking into that. I got a lot of feedback from the activities and we are trying to ascertain from the activities is how long should it take you to clear a Soldier.”
He pointed out that the team decided that the clearing process would change to seven to 10 business days. Instead of having Soldiers clear 20 in-person activities, it will be cut to six because four of those are in the same building.
“The average Soldier will be kind of happy with that, but still I have to address the possibility of going to Fort Belvoir,” he said. “If we give you the Soldiers name and they don’t have TA50, you are going to go into the system to see it (and) you can clear them virtually. That way they won’t have to go to Fort Belvoir or Fort Myer.”
Washington said a possible recommendation from the crisis action team will be having the person from CIF be physically present two or three days a week at the joint base to streamline the process and reduce the need for the for the Soldier to travel to Fort Belvoir.
When clearing, Washington said a Soldier might ask if it’s possible to receive his or clearing papers the next day.
“I can’t ask someone to clear someone in six hours,” he said. “I think we are going to make it a requirement for Soldiers to be cleared in seven business days. Just imagine you have the clearing papers with the 20 activities on it and you get a summary … there are 20 activities on it, but you have to clear six (activities) in person.”
Washington said the team is also working on making sure Soldiers in the unit S-1 understands that once the activities have cleared and there are initials, a signature isn’t required. Having Soldiers return to an activity for a signature adds more time to the clearing process.
Although the crisis action team is continuing to make improvements, Washington said there have been a few quick wins. Soldiers are now able to receive more information about the Exceptional Family Member Program and the unique role the program plays in expediting the process in a PCS move. The team has identified the shortcoming of not having enough exceptional Family member doctors and has elevated the issue to senior Army leadership.
“We are going to establish a standard of either seven or 10 working days in hopes of clearing 80% of the activities that Soldiers have to clear,” he said, “that way; they won’t have to go to as much in person. We are building the framework for this now. After we review the Solider PCS crisis action team, we are going to review some of the other HR footprints.
“It’s amazing what happens when you get people together and they start communicating and coming up with ideas to streamline processes,” said Washington. “I think the things we are doing now should build a blueprint for next summer’s surge. All of this is going to be great for our Soldiers.”
Washington added that there is a separate working group that is working on transportation requirements to see where there are deficiencies.
“We have a separate working group looking into the transportation requirements and what went wrong,” Washington said. “(We are) not going to be able to do anything about (some things) because of the pandemic. The pandemic brings everything to a halt until they can put mitigations in place. (We are) taking a look at shipment of household goods, shipment of POVs (and) other things we can streamline to make those processes better.”
Pentagram editor Catrina Francis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Catrina Francis