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USCG experiences successful transfer season during a pandemic

By Lt. Luke McConnell, MyCG Writer

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Mask, gloves, hand sanitizer. Wipe everything down and don’t touch your phone. Get what you need and get out as quickly as possible. If you thought the simple chore of running into the grocery store during a pandemic was a new level of complicated, imagine what 11,000 Coast Guard families felt on the verge of their scheduled relocation. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered non-essential businesses and halted Department of Defense travel, Rear Adm. Joanna Nunan, Assistant Commandant for Human Resources, pulled together experts in human resource policy from the Personnel Service Center and Director of Operational Logistics to focus on the primary consideration of risk to the mission versus risk to our force during the planned summer transfer season.

“With those risks in mind, we set about to prepare for a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) season that would be unlike any other,” said Capt. Anthony Williams, Chief of Military Personnel.

Early efforts included expanding the timeframe for moves, uncoupling household goods from travel, allowing for breathing room in move schedules, and minimizing leave while traveling to new duty stations. Emphasizing this flexibility allowed families to speak up about what they needed and encouraged local commands to provide the flexibility required for a move in the midst of a global pandemic. 

 “The decision was to provide centralized guidance and support with de-centralized execution and risk management,” said Williams. “The early stages of the season were authorized in chunks of time so leadership could continue to evaluate the COVID-19 threat and logistical support throughout the country.”

The Military Personnel Policy office created and chaired the Continued PCS Risk Assessment Team that met weekly with representatives from the administrative levels of headquarters and the Gold Badge Network to discuss the national landscape and progress of the COVID-19 threat. These teams advised our senior leadership on PCS strategy as the situation continued to evolve.

To mitigate risk and to support our members and their families, PCS Assist Teams were created and managed by the Director of Operational Logistics.  Also, the Coast Guard created the first ever PCS Float Plan worksheet. The document served as a checklist for departure and required members and their commands to get on the same page – literally – prior to departing a unit or arriving to a new unit. The Float Plans enabled clear and coordinated communication between hundreds of local Coast Guard commands of when and how every single member and their families would safely travel to their new location. 

Lt. Cmdr. S. Lincoln Puffer and his family transferred from Marine Safety Unit (MSU) Chicago to Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C., and were impressed that the PCS Assist Team was always available to troubleshoot the moving process. 

“This year I had the most household goods I have ever had in my career,” Puffer said. “This was the smoothest transfer I have had in the Coast Guard. The movers arrived on time and with their masks and made sure we felt comfortable during the whole move.  Overall, we were very happy with the PCS and during a stressful period it made a big difference for me and my family.”
Coast Guard policy and transportation representatives met weekly with Department of Defense (DoD) leadership from the U.S. Transportation Command to ensure that Coast Guard household goods (HHG) and vehicles would continue to move despite DoD’s early halt of all PCS transfers. 

While the PCS season generally concludes the end of August, the Coast Guard has authorized moves through the end of September. As the 2020 PCS season winds down, over 10,000 HHG shipments have been picked up and either delivered or are in transit, with close to 400 moves left to complete the PCS season. 

“During this PCS season there have been some delays experienced in various parts of the country, however through extraordinary effort by Coast Guard leadership, local commands, and our individual members and families, we were able to keep the life-blood of the Coast Guard PCSing safely, during a very challenging time,” Williams added.

WASHINGTON - Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr S. Lincoln Puffer and his family stand in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., Aug. 1, 2020. The Puffer Family transferred from Marine Safety Unit (MSU) Chicago to Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C., and were impressed that the PCS Assist Team was always available to troubleshoot the moving process. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)
Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr S. Lincoln Puffer and his family stand in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., Aug. 1, 2020. The Puffer Family transferred from Marine Safety Unit (MSU) Chicago to Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C., and were impressed that the PCS Assist Team was always available to troubleshoot the moving process. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)