KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany— U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz is part of a pilot program aimed to improve the permanent-change-of-station process and experience for all Army personnel and their families.
The effort, initiated by Installation Management Command and Army Materiel Command, is intended to deliver a high-quality PCS experience for Soldiers and their families as they transition to and from the focus installations.
Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania; Fort Bliss, Texas; and Fort Leavenworth, Kansas were selected to conduct the pilot in 2020, and USAG RP and USAG Hawaii were added in 2021 to include the overseas component.
“First and foremost, we want our new team members to know they’re taken care of and their families are taken care of,” said Mike Waschek, Directorate of Human Resources director. “When they know they’re taken care of and their families are taken care of, they can focus on the mission.”
The pilot program also includes a new application built to house all information, documents, and checklists associated with the PCS process. According to Waschek, the app will be tested by those PCSing into the garrison footprint, and will eventually act as a dashboard of information used by every Soldier and every installation during the PCS process.
“The app will ask all the necessary questions to learn the service members’ specific needs, populate that information into the system, and point them to the right support elements they should contact,” said Waschek. “The app will also alert those on the garrison end, and link all databases and forms in one place. Right now everyone has the binder of paperwork they carry around, but, eventually, it will all be on a phone.”
According to IMCOM, Summer Surge 2021 and the feedback received from the pilot program will be used as a model for validating and improving services for all Soldiers and families transitioning to and from installations worldwide.
For Waschek, the crucial component of the Summer Surge pilot– and “the key to a high quality PCS experience”– will be process improvement: “making sure what we can control is the best it can be, and every step toward transition is as smooth as possible.”
The DHR team is working to further improve specific areas that could elevate the PCS experience for inbound personnel, and make the transition to life outside the continental U.S. smoother.
“One of the things we’re focused on is sponsorship in general, as we believe sponsoring is key to a smooth PCS,” said Waschek. “Most of us who have moved and had a great sponsor, it made all the difference in the world. And when we’ve had sponsors that have maybe not been the best, it didn’t go quite as well – especially in an overseas environment.”
Sponsors are unit representatives who help facilitate the different steps of the PCS process with personnel, and maintain communication with the individual through arrival in country. The garrison provides sponsorship training to ensure sponsors from each organization are prepared to provide incoming personnel with all the information needed to complete each step in the PCS process.
"While we don't manage the people who PCS in, we do manage the process they use," explained Waschek. "Sponsorship is still a unit responsibility, but we provide the resources for the unit to be successful.”
Waschek said the garrison’s “Sponsorship Rodeo,” currently scheduled for April 21 via Microsoft Teams, has been revamped to meet COVID-19 mitigations and set the tone for this year’s focus on Summer Surge.
Another component of the PCS experience that will be focused on process improvement is the USAG RP Housing Office. According to Charm Sutton, chief of customer service for the Housing Office, all of the office’s internal processes are being reviewed, with some already moving to an electronic setting to get as much done before Soldiers actually arrive.
“For housing specifically, the goal is to shift as much of the transition process to the front end,” said Sutton. “For example, housing applications are now done online; images of different housing options will be made available and easily accessible; and we’re hoping future tenants will know what housing options are available and know which homes are offered to them before landing in Germany.”
Sutton said the added stress of PCSing to an overseas location can be overwhelming, and she is hopeful the focus on process improvement can help soldiers and their families get better insight on what their future is going to look like.
Both Waschek and Sutton agree: the most important thing is making sure Soldiers, their families, and all personnel are set up for success.
“Being open to the possibility that things can be better, more efficient, is the best part of this pilot,” said Sutton. “A bad PCS experience can make or break a family’s tour, and can put a damper on the whole Army experience. It’s our job to try and make this the best possible transition.”
The garrison is expecting more than 1,200 incoming/outgoing personnel during the 2021 summer season. For more information on the PCS process and the Summer Surge pilot program, visit the garrison 'Newcomers' page here.