TMO prepared for peak moving season

Philip Pouda, a mover with Mayflower Transit, situates a box inside a moving truck Tuesday afternoon. The summer months are the busiest for movers and Sheppard’s traffice management office. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jacque Lickteig).

Philip Pouda, a mover with Mayflower Transit, situates a box inside a moving truck Tuesday afternoon. The summer months are the busiest for movers and Sheppard’s traffice management office. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jacque Lickteig).

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- While summertime means vacations and lazy afternoons for some people, for others it involves one of the more stressful undertakings a family can face - moving. 

For military members and their families, permanent changes of station are a regular occurrence, but in the summer, even Sheppard's traffic management office could become too overwhelmed to help. 

"The summer months are our busiest because schools are out. The PCS system is built around the school year," said Cornelius Williams, a TMO officer at the 82nd Logistical Readiness Squadron. 

Fred Taylor, the chief of personal property at the squadron, said about 150 to 200 people visit TMO offices daily. 

"Business increases three times as much," he said. "Fifty to 75 people can come through this office in a day," including another 100 Airmen-in-training at the student TMO office. The student TMO is dedicated solely to the base's technical school Airmen-in-training. 

Because of the high volume of customers, briefing and moving dates can get backed up, forcing a customer who's crunched for time into other alternatives. 

"If people don't contact us as soon as they get orders, sometimes the moving industry could be too overwhelmed to take care of them," Mr. Williams said. "They'll have to give alternative dates or give power of attorney to someone while they leave without their belongings. Some have to do a personal procured move, formerly known as a 'do it yourself' move, but even that has a set of rules to follow." 

With a PPM, the customer still has to go through TMO and receive a letter from the office stating it is unable to provide moving service. With that letter, the customer is eligible for reimbursement from the government once they reach their new base. 

"Without that letter, they're not getting their money back," Mr. Williams said. "They need to have that proof that TMO wasn't an option for them." 

The best thing someone can do, he said, is contact TMO as soon as they receive orders. He said it helps to keep in mind TMO does not handle the final move dates, only the briefing dates. 

Movers and moving dates are booked by the Joint Personal Property Shipping Office in San Antonio, which currently handles the moving appointments of 15 military bases.
"It says right there on the back of the orders to contact TMO within 30 days of your PCS date, and there's a reason for that," Mr. Williams said. "Sometimes people come in on May 4 with their orders, and they can't get a briefing appointment till May 22. Then JPPSO needs seven to 10 working days to process the paperwork we send them before they can book the move. That's nearly an entire month right there, just spent waiting." 

Mr. Taylor said customers don't have to wait for orders to begin the process. 

"Even if you just know you're going to get orders, but you don't have them in your hand yet, contact TMO for a briefing date," he said. "It gives you a good head start."
TMO offers mass briefings and one-on-one counseling sessions. Time slots for these, both men said, are already filling up this year. 

In the meantime, there are other tips to make the move go smoother. Get rid of unnecessary things like magazines, newspapers or equipment that doesn't work; things that will only bring you closer to your moving weight limit. 

"Also, you can declare your professional papers, books and equipment so they won't be charged to your limit," Mr. Williams said. "A lawyer's law books, a doctor's medical books, a scuba diver's gear - you can ship that and it won't count against your weight entitlement if you go through the right channels." 

Still, the most important thing one can do, Mr. Williams stressed, is get to TMO as early as possible. It can save the customer both time and money. 

"Even though the orders say come in a month early, we have people come in two weeks before they're due to leave," he said. "The worst situation is when someone figures they waited too late and decide to do a PPM without even seeing us." 

Mr. Williams explained some people hire a moving company and pay the costs themselves. Once they reach their new station, they learn the government would have reimbursed them for the move, but they aren't eligible because they didn't go through TMO first. 

"We want to get the word out, encourage people to come in as soon as possible," Mr. Taylor said. "We want them to help us help them." 

For more information, call 676-5499. Tips for moving can be found at the Air Force Move Home Page at http://afmove.hq.af.mil/Default.asp.