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It’s a “Trail of Tears” Said One Military Member About Transfers…Out of Pocket Expenses Are Draining Their Paychecks…and Their Morale

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Between freshly sworn-in recruits heading to boot camp and first termers saying they’ve had enough, and lifers retiring, U.S. military members move around a lot to fill various vacancies at various required skill levels. They’re aware of this going in and many of them welcome the opportunity to live and see new places. To them, it’s a caveat not afforded to most civilians and it’s all on Uncle Sam’s dime.

These days though, what they expect and are accustomed to, isn’t quite what they’re receiving. The ease with which the military has always relocated its troops has one service member now describing it as a “trail of tears.”

Generally, household goods arrive at a military transferee’s new duty station on or about the same time as the member does. The contracted moving company unloads their truck, unpacks the service members’ belongings for them, and in a matter of a day or two at most, bam, they’re on the job and reporting for morning PT.

Due to major worldwide and in-country cargo delays, things aren’t going so well for relocated troops. The smoothness they once took for granted has rippled and it’s causing some major problems.

An Army family who was not so recently transferred from Hawaii to the U.S. east coast hasn’t seen their belongings in over three months. The shipment includes uniforms and other issued items required for them to do their jobs since the husband and wife are both military members.

Due to the couple’s military ranks and job titles, the couple chose to remain anonymous. “We’re both officers. I can’t imagine what people who are making less money do if they have to wait four or five months for their stuff,” said the wife.

The entire scenario can be blamed on worldwide shipping disruptions. Laborers, drivers, boat captains, pilots, and you name it, are all in short supply. There simply are not enough working people to get shipments where they need to go by the time they need to arrive. Household goods are sitting in warehouses for months waiting for the next available crew and transportation, and experts say this will continue to be the norm for some time to come.

Director of government and military relations for the International Association of Movers, Dan Bradley, offered up this tidbit. Moving companies “can’t get stuff onto a ship, off a ship, out of a port, into a port, onto a rail, off the rail. It’s craziness everywhere.”

The military couple mentioned above finally has an estimated delivery timeframe of late October for their shipment, which will be long after they reported for duty at their new station.

The ordeal has cost the couple out of their own pockets. Not only had they signed a lease for the place they were going to move into, but they have also been paying rent for a fully furnished place since they had no furniture.

In addition, the couple’s children needed warm clothes since all of theirs were in with the household goods. And since the family has to eat, they had to buy pots, pans, dishes, silverware, and containers. They needed sheets, towels, and other items they already owned but couldn’t get to. And for this, they will not be reimbursed. 

Military morale is suffering greatly as a result of all of this. Service members cannot be expected to give 100% to their duties while other concerns are weighing on their minds. Concerns they aren’t accustomed to, and ones they shouldn’t have.

For now, there is no solution for the problem at hand as frustrations among our military families continue to build. Will there be a breaking point for them? At this point, we don’t know. Do you?