When a Soldier or a Department of the Army civilian receives Permanent Change of Station orders for their next assignment, the upcoming move and all that is involved can be a stressful time.
Even so for a move to Kwajalein in the beautiful Marshall Islands, located halfway between Hawaii and Australia.
Before COVID-19, a PCS to Kwajalein was a lot different than it is now.
Due to the strict Republic of the Marshall Islands travel issuances, there have been zero COVID cases in the RMI. All Kwajalein residents and new hires receive an exception from the U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll commander to travel under strict quarantine procedures that begin in Hawaii.
All military, Department of the Army civilians and their families, as well as contractors and their families, must quarantine in Hawaii for two weeks prior to flying to Kwajalein where they will quarantine for another two weeks on island before release. Yes, four weeks of quarantine. Before January, it was five total weeks of quarantine with three of those being on Kwajalein.
Their sponsors provide all incoming personnel with instructions and information on their upcoming travel and transition to Kwajalein. “Items such as passports for all travelers, traveler health screening, proof of immunization, COVID-19 test results, COVID-19 Pet Isolation Waiver ETP if applicable and a request/authorization for travel of government personnel form are just some of the items required,” said Capt. Hardy Temoney, USAG-KA installation transportation officer.
When it comes time for household goods delivery, there is no better team than the logistics contractors and Marshallese packing and shipping workers to get the job done, said Temoney.
Household goods are transported from the aircraft or vessel to get processed with the packing and shipping team, the delivery date is coordinated with the receiver, and then all items are delivered to the customers home, Temoney added. Serviceable boxes for the outbound PCS personnel are recycled for future pack outs.
Staff Sgt. Effie Banks, USAG-KA’s Custodian of Postal Effects, who arrived here with her family from Fort Hood, Texas April 6 and went into two weeks of quarantine, said, “I would advise everyone to keep in constant contact with their sponsor. I lost contact with my sponsor for two weeks while on leave. Don’t do that. Keep in contact throughout the process especially the last 60 days until check-in here at Kwajalein.”
She advises potential Kwajalein residents to buy your bike before you get here, as well as rain gear and only bring summer clothes, along with the least amount of home items you possibly can.
Col. Thomas Pugsley, USAG-KA commander, arrived with his family from Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina in April and shared his thoughts on PCSing to Kwajalein.
“I know there is a lot of emphasis from the leadership right now across the DoD about really focusing on the impact that this PCS season is going to have on families, because you have a lot of people who didn’t move last year who have to move this year,” said Pugsley.
Pugsley shared that his household goods were shipped in March with no issues getting them, his long-term storage and unaccompanied baggage all scheduled for pick-up. And, they were all waiting for the family when they got out of quarantine.
He praised the crew here for being awesome and said he liked how they didn’t bring the whole truck at one time, rather, bringing smaller trucks so it took three trips to get it all loaded into the house. “It was great we had an hour in between between trucks to separate and move stuff around to make more room. They worked hard. I was pretty happy with the crew.”
Pugsley says that “If you know you are coming to Kwajalein, ask yourself – ‘Would you rather have all your stuff where you are now until you leave, or, would you rather have it right when you get there so you can get set up?’” He said he leaned forward and chose to move into a hotel for about five weeks before departing the U.S. after having his household goods picked up.
“But guess what?” he said. “Our stuff was waiting for us when we got here – ready to move in.”
Another addition to the USAG-KA family is Chief Warrant Officer 3 Yessenia Johnson, USAG-KA’s Food Services Officer, who arrived recently with her family from Fort Stewart, Georgia.
Johnson said that while her family dog was a breed that is not acceptable for any airlines, she praised the USAG-KA leadership and her sponsor, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael Schafer, USAG-KA’s marine engineering officer, for their constant communication throughout the process. Johnson also provided a list of lessons learned for moving to Kwajalein during COVID-19.
CW3 Yessenia Johnson’s Travel Lessons Learned
If you have kids, register them for school K - 12 online as soon as possible for the school year required at Non-DoD Schools Program Student Online Education. Click here to get started: www.registration.dodea.edu You will need your child’s immunization record, last report card, copy of passport or birth certificate in pdf format to upload.
Reserve your hotel at the Hale Koa. Call 800-367-6027 for reservations. Ask for the ocean view! The Hale Koa address is: 2055 Kalia Rd; Honolulu, HI 96815
Submit request for postal APO AP address with your sponsor before departing your state as well as on-island K-badge request.
Pack your router, COVID vaccination and proof of negative test with you on the flight.
Before flying to Hawaii, create an account on the State of Hawaii - Safe Travels site. Click here to get started: https://travel.hawaii.gov/#/dailycheckin, then scan code at the end of the survey. That will be required at the Hawaii airport before you can get your checked baggage.
Once through the screening area, get your luggage and walk to the taxi area and save all your receipts. Call Charley’s Taxi at 808-233-3333. They are the only cab service on Oahu that can get onto military installations. Recommend you stop at the Don Quixote grocery store before you head to the hotel, buy a case or two of water. The room at the Hale Koa has a small fridge to store perishable items. Some things that helped us was cereal, milk, tuna, can opener, grapes, oranges and apples, yogurt, deli meats, bread and noodle cup soups.
Day 2 in the Hale Koa: Submit your daily check-in status. Reply GO to this message or visit https://travel.hawaii.gov/#/dailycheckin
The medical staff you see daily during quarantine for temperature scans and COVID tests can help with special requests. For any medical issues you’ll need to contact your region health net for a referral request while in Hawaii or go to the ER, with the head medical person in charge.
Call the Hickam AFB transportation office for the ATI flight details, time, etc., for follow-on flight to Kwajalein at 808-448-0747.
Hale Koa room service has two restaurants for you to choose: Koko’s and Bibas. Use the scan code for the menus (one serves breakfast and one serves lunch/dinner).
You can also order from the AAFES Shoppette in the Hale Koa. The welcome packet has their email to make orders. You will provide your phone number when you order and they will call you for payment.
Alternatively, you can download Door Dash, Instacart or Uber Eats apps to order groceries or food delivery. Once delivered to the front desk, a Hale Koa staff member will bring your items to your room.
Laundry drop-off outside your room occurs on Monday, Tuesday and Friday at 7:15 a.m. It is returned to you by noon.
No tobacco use on the balcony or inside the room. You neighbors will report you and security will give you a warning. Bring smoking cessation products of your liking.
Medical staff provides day-of-flight instructions for POC, date and time for the check-out day.
Your flight to Kwajalein is about approximately five hours, and you’ll receive a meal and snack.
Upon arrival to Kwajalein airport, you are met by USAG-KA leadership, receive temperature checks, asked about any dietary restrictions, and you and your bags are transported to your lodging for the next two weeks of quarantine. If you have a pet, your sponsor will receive the pet upon arrival.
Email or call Robyn Riddle for household good status at email@example.com or 5-1136.
Your sponsor can pre pay for your internet modem at your house before arrival.
Make a list of items you would like to have bought by the sponsor to fill your fridge/freezer and pantry. Monday’s and Thursdays are delivery days. Hot meals are provided by the Zamperini Dining Facility three times a day if you choose.