The peak season to move to a new duty station is here.
Many Soldiers are arriving to Fort Knox as others leave. At the center of all these comings and goings is the Fort Knox Transportation Division, and officials there say confusion about the shipping process is adding undue stress.
"When you're moving, it's such a significant emotional event," said Horace Bowden, Installation Transportation officer.
To alleviate the stress, Bowden and others are reaching out, not only to Soldiers but also their leaders, with information they say should make the moving process much easier.
"We're trying to give them the five or six key things they need to know so that they can make their move smooth," said Bowden.
The first big problem arises right after Soldiers receive their orders.
According to Bobby Hardaway, traffic manager at Fort Knox Transportation, many Soldiers mistakenly think they must wait until they have an approved leave form before contacting Transportation.
"That's just not true," said Hardaway. "As soon as they receive the orders, they need to contact Transportation and start making arrangements to have their property packed and picked up."
Another big problem comes during the counseling phase.
Under the new regulations approved by U.S. Transportation Command, service members in certain circumstances can elect to participate in self-counseling through a web-based system called Defense Personal Property System, or DPS, rather than sitting through counseling sessions at Transportation. Among those not authorized to use self-counseling are Soldiers moving for the first time, second lieutenants and retirees.
"For all the brand-new second lieutenants, when they in-process here with Cadet Command, [instructors from our office] go over and give them a Transportation brief," said Bowden. "It has two values. It's to help them with their first move, but it's also to get them up to speed on all of the things their Soldiers are going to face when they report to their first duty station. [Our instructors] do an excellent job."
Bowden supports self-counseling but doesn't recommend it.
"For the DPS moves, the lion's share of the problems we have is with self-counseling. They lose the interaction and the clues [to ensure a smooth move]," said Bowden. "Physical counseling, while it's not required, is highly encouraged because the counselors know what kinds of leading questions to ask."
Bowden stressed there are a number of details and nuances to the moving process that self-counseling can't address, but which can greatly affect a move. Hardaway said they have a system in place to help resolve some of the issues.
"We require them to follow up with us for one-on-one counseling also, just so we can give them any additional information [on items] they feel uncomfortable with,"
said Hardaway. That counseling follows closely on the heels of a mass briefing, also conducted by Transportation.
Another issue that causes stress and confusion is required delivery dates, or RDD. According to Hardaway, the RDD is the date when household goods are due to arrive at the nearest local delivery point, not when the goods are due to arrive to the Soldier's new home. On the flip side is confusion about pickup dates.
Bowden said the office receives complaints from families who have run into problems thinking they have secured a solid pickup date for their goods.
According to Bowden, there have been several instances recently where families blame the Transportation Division because they booked vacations and the movers didn't arrive the exact day they requested.
"Just because you ask for it, that shipment is not booked. It's not locked until you and the vendor come back and lock it," said Bowden.
Transportation has a small arsenal for Soldiers and their Families to take advantage of that Bow-den said is being underutilized.
"I have two full-time quality assurance folks who their sole job is to go around and visit people in 44 counties to inspect their household goods," said Bowden. "If you live on the other side of Louisville and you're moving, they will go to your house and make sure the mover is doing everything they're supposed to do."
Bowden and Hardaway said their quality assurance professionals can do more than just inspect household goods; they can also solve any problems with the pre-move or the mover.
"We've had instances where the shipment shows up; driver loses all his labor to offload; driver looks around and says, 'Hey, you teenagers, you want to make some money?'," said Bowden. "So, he grabs a bunch of untrained teenagers from the neighborhood to come in. That's an instance where a Soldier or Family member should call quality control."
The last issue that officials want to make Soldiers aware of are blackout dates. Those dates indicate when there are no local agents available to deliver household goods. Transportation officials share those dates with Soldiers and Family members during counseling sessions, but Hardaway said it's important that Soldiers know not to assume they will get the delivery date of their choosing during these times.
To alleviate any confusion, Hardaway recommends spouses accompany their Soldiers at briefings.
"Information is being lost in translation," said Hardaway. "We want everyone to be informed in this process."