PCS Season: What is Command Sponsorship for Overseas Tours?
If you are given permanent change of station orders and your new assignment is overseas, you may be sent on a shorter, unaccompanied tour (typically two years overseas) or a longer accompanied tour if you are married or have dependents.
But to bring your dependents overseas to the new assignment, you must have them registered in DEERS, and they must be named on your orders as “command sponsored.” What does it mean to have command sponsorship of your dependents? The gaining command approves of and has support services for your dependents and/or spouse. And such approval is NOT automatic.
Some issues may interfere with command approval of your dependents or spouse; in some cases, those issues may result in an unaccompanied tour. We explore why below.
One caveat: each branch of military service has its own criteria and standards for approving command sponsorship. There’s no one-size-fits-all rule across all services and assignments governing this issue. Your experience may vary.
Overseas PCS Orders and Command Sponsorship of Spouses and Dependents
A very important rule of thumb to remember: if it is not specifically listed on your orders, you may not be entitled to a benefit, allowance, or option associated with your PCS move. We mention this specifically in reference to your spouse and/or dependents.
- If your orders do not mention a spouse or child by name, and if your orders do not mention that they are command sponsored, you will need to have those orders amended or be given reasons why they will not be amended.
- You must initiate the request to have your orders amended. It is not automatic.
- When you apply for such changes, you will be given instructions–follow them to the letter.
- You will need proper documentation to register your spouse and dependents in DEERS, including current, unexpired photo ID such as a government ID or driver’s license.
If You Get Married Before Your PCS
Those who got PCS orders while single and have since gotten married face a challenge. Your new spouse must be registered in DEERS and your command must be informed that you need to update your marital status, dependent status and request amendments to your orders to add the spouse and/or dependents where applicable.
You will not be reimbursed for spouse/dependent travel if you do not take these steps. You may not receive command sponsorship of your dependents and/or spouse unless you do so.
Command Sponsorship is Not Guaranteed
There are reasons why command sponsorship may be denied. Some of these may involve the inability to support a spouse or child with special needs medically.
Others may be due to a lack of available family housing, political or military tensions in the local area, or other issues.
Command sponsorship is approved on a case-by-case basis depending on a variety of factors, including but not limited to medical records and case histories, the availability of certain services from the gaining base, and the availability of support services for related needs.
If You are Denied Command Sponsorship
If you are denied command sponsorship, you’ll be given unaccompanied orders. In some cases, family members choose to travel to the new duty location anyway, but this must be done at the family’s expense.
- The government will not pay for the relocation of non-command-sponsored family members, they cannot live on post, and they will not be allowed to use facilities reserved for command-sponsored people.
- In some situations, the family may not be permitted to relocate due to hostilities, political issues, high crime, or other factors.
- If you are PCSing overseas without your dependents, it’s crucial to ask your losing base’s command support staff or your First Sergeant about the risks of bringing a non-command sponsored family to the new assignment.
- In some cases, the issues (aside from the financial burden of doing so) may be minimal. In others, the risks could be quite high.
Read More: PCS Season: 5 Things to Know About Unaccompanied Tours
About the author
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.