When you get ready for a PCS move to Germany, there are so many details to keep straight. From household goods, no-fee passports, EFMP screening, and the oftentimes dreaded POV shipment, it seems never ending. I will confess that I didn’t have high hopes for the POV shipment process. Since learning in August that the Army was sending us to Germany, I’ve been the receiver of many headaches. I braced myself for more.
To my great surprise, the process at the Charleston VPC (vehicle processing center) was a delightful experience! Well, maybe delightful isn’t the right word. But when you compare it other experiences I’ve had recently, it truly was a delight. I think the key to a smooth handover process is to be prepared in every way possible. I can’t guarantee that nothing will go wrong, as each experience is unique. But I do believe that preparation is key, as with anything PCS-related.
Schedule an appointment
The first thing you’ll need to do is schedule an appointment with your closest VPC. You can find where it is at www.pcsmypov.com. As it says on the “Schedule an appointment” page, “Creating an appointment to Turn In your POV will save you time and reduce stress for yourself and any family members traveling with you.” That is the truth!! When I signed in at the VPC, I noticed that some people were walk-ins. But especially if you have to drive several hours, I would not show up there without an appointment.
It takes just a few minutes to schedule an appointment. You will not be able to do this without official orders, so don’t try to schedule before you have orders. If you are the spouse of the service member and are turning it in without him, still put his name under the “Member Details” page. This would also be a good time to make sure you have a General POA so that you can act in your service member’s name. Also realize that VPC appointments can only be made for weekdays. I had to schedule mine during fall break.
Tip: page to print off for your PCS binder: http://www.pcsmypov.com/TurnIn#!/
Prepping for your appointment
You will receive an automatic confirmation email after scheduling your appointment. It will have most of the information that’s in the above link. Be forewarned though: there is some conflicting information. For example, the web page says that they’ll need one copy of official orders, whereas the confirmation emailed to me said they would need three copies. I brought my entire binder which had eight copies of official orders and both amendments, so either way I was covered!
After receiving your confirmation email, go back to the Turn In page (linked above) on PCS My POV. Download this document: Attachment K3 Shipping Your POV. I printed it off for my PCS binder. It’s not necessary to read through the entire thing, but it’s a good reference to have.
Also on the Turn In page, you will need to click on and download two documents:
If you want your VPC appointment to go more smoothly and quickly, fill these out before you get there!! True story: the woman who helped me didn’t see that I had initially handed over those two forms. She automatically put the blank forms in front of me, because most people don’t fill them out before getting there. So do them and yourself a favor and be extra prepared!
Preparing your POV
This part is what seemed most nebulous to me. Under the #3 heading of the Turn In page, they give you the rules on what is allowed to be shipped in your vehicle and how clean it needs to be. I actually got our car washed twice in the week leading up to driving down to the Charleston VPC. (A friend who used the Baltimore VPC said that they were made to get their car cleaned again after they brought their car in for their appointment!) Try not to let the cleaning thing overwhelm you; but on the other hand, being meticulous now will save you trouble at the VPC.
Tip: bring moistened wipes with you just in case you need to do some last-minute touch-ups.
I was a little confused on what could not be shipped in the vehicle, so I erred on the side of caution and took out most of my husband’s stuff. (It was his car we shipped.) I clarified in a Germany group for milspouses that yes, even CD visors and items in the glovebox need to be removed. The vehicle owner’s manual can be left in the glovebox.
For writing this blog post, I found this document that I was not aware of before. It’s a good one to look at: http://www.pcsmypov.com/documents/InspectionGuidelines.pdf
Going to the VPC – and watch your gas tank!
Again, VPC means Vehicle Processing Center. The Charleston VPC was the closest for us, but it was still almost 3 1/2 hours away. Before a long drive, it’s standard to fill up your gas tank. However, unless you know FOR SURE that you’ll use at least 3/4 of a tank before getting to the VPC, it’s best to not do that. This is because they absolutely will NOT take a vehicle that is more than 1/4 tank full. I filled up just a little bit, about one tick mark past 1/2 full. I felt anxious checking the gas tank the whole way there, but I was about one tick mark past 1/4 full by the time I arrived – thankfully!
I also advise leaving earlier than needed, in case of unforeseen delays. My appointment was set for 1:00pm on a Friday and I arrived about half an hour early. Before going into the VPC building, I took out my iPhone and filmed a video of the car, inside and out, for our own record of what the car looked like before turning it in.
Tip: bring a bag or backpack for carrying away any items they don’t let you ship in the car.
What to expect at the VPC – Paperwork
I walked into the VPC front office and signed in. Less than five minutes after signing in, they called me to the desk. I sat down in the chair and practically plopped my huge PCS binder on the desk and opened it to the POV section. I kinda got the feeling that the guy behind the desk was like, Whoa okay, she’s got her stuff together. (Or that could just be my ego talking. ;) ) He asked for all the required paperwork, and to my surprise he did not need the General POA! He said that the amendments and my dependent ID sufficed. I’m imagining it also helped that my name is also on the title. With that being said, I would STILL advise you to bring your original POA. You just never know! He also took one set of keys, and I kept the other. The one set is shipped with the vehicle, so I don’t have to worry about sending my key to my husband.
After handing over my packet, I sat down in the waiting area. Just a few minutes later, I was called back to the desk, this time by a woman. She entered our information into the computer and was quite pleasant to chat with. While she did that, the man took the key and took an initial look at the car and also got the mileage. The woman then explained everything that would happen from then on out, including that the vehicle can be tracked and that there is a required delivery date (RDD). (That blew me away!) In fact, she said that they’ve been running about 2 1/2 weeks ahead of schedule.
I signed the Accessory Condition and Declaration form and the Shipping Instruction Summary sheet. (The latter states your RDD and your shipping tracking number. To track, go to the PCS My POV site.)
What to expect at the VPC – Inspection
After finishing the paperwork, I was brought out to the car by another man. I sat in the passenger seat and he drove it to the inspection garage. I was instructed to sit in a folding chair by the wall while he and a second man completed the inspection. Man #1 took notes on the Vehicle Inspection Form, and Man #2 took photos of the car, removed the license plates and antenna, and put all approved items into a cardboard box.
Tip: check the regulations for your state regarding license plates. We are registered in Texas, and they don’t require the plates to be sent back. (Yay! Texas mementos.) However, some states do require that they be sent back.
Of course, there were more signatures to be given. I signed the cardboard box with the car stuff in it. (Which, by the way, contained the owner’s manual, first aid kit, ice scraper, and a vehicle tool box.) I also initialed and signed the Vehicle Inspection Form. That was it! No problems passing the inspection.
Leaving your vehicle
To my surprise, as I sat there and watched the guys inspect the car, I felt a little emotional! I guess I felt that way because this was a huge symbol that yes, Germany really IS happening! At the end, the man who drove me to the inspection garage said we would go back to the office…so I made a step toward the car. He said, “Oh no, we’re walking back! But it’s okay, most people do that.” One last glance at the car, and that was it. Maybe it was also a little nerve-wracking that I was leaving our most expensive possession in the care of someone else!
Back at the office, I filled out a comment card (saying nothing but good things) and got copies of the paperwork. The lady who helped me with the paperwork also directed me to the numbers for cab companies in the area. I had reserved a rental car at the airport so I needed a way to get there.
I think I used the Yellow Taxi company, and landed the most entertaining cab driver! We laughed and joked the whole way to the Charleston airport, which couldn’t have been more than 15 minutes. (It cost less than $20 plus tip.) I picked up my rental and then had an enjoyable Friday in Charleston.
Tip: if your closest VPC is in Charleston, I recommend taking the boat ride out to Fort Sumter. The $21 is 100% worth it! I also ate at Grace & Grits, in Mount Pleasant, for dinner. Delicious!
Now we wait
I literally just checked the PCS My POV site to see where our vehicle is in the process, and it’s still “preparing for transport.” But like I said, the vehicle is guaranteed to be there by a certain date. So I am not worried! Also, make sure you get the two brochures from the VPC entitled “Picking Up Your POV OCONUS” and “Claims: Your Rights and Entitlements.” You can also print out the first brochure:
You will see that in the brochure it says that you will be emailed when the car can be picked up. My husband will be emailed since he’s the one picking up. You can also visit the following page to read about the pick-up process:
Once we have gone through the process of picking up, I will either add to this blog post or write a separate post about what it’s like to pick it up.
Again, I cannot stress PREPARATION enough. Be meticulous and follow all the guidelines, and you shouldn’t have any issues. It took me less than an hour to get everything done at the VPC, which was, again, a delight! If you have a question that wasn’t answered here, please leave me a comment and I’ll get back to you! :)