My husband and I moved from RAF Lakenheath to Osan Air Base on September 29, 2021. Here is a brief summary of our PCS move. I hope this can be a helpful timeline for anyone else that is PCSing to Korea and is hoping to go Command Sponsored. Take everything as a rough estimate! You know how the military is 😉 Please especially take the information related to Covid with a grain of salt – everything is changing daily.
Months Before Departure
9 Months Prior
November 4 – Given Overseas Assignment Listing
Overseas assignment listings are based on the availability for my husband’s rank and job title.
Our Overseas Assignment Listing: Kunsan, Korea – 5 spots, Lajes, Portugal – 1 Spot, Osan – 12 spots
This was a huge bummer of a listing. We were not happy to receive all short tour options, but thankfully we learned that I could go with Phillip to Osan so that is what we were aiming for. We definitely didn’t want to go back to the states.
Phillip changed his “Dream Sheet” to the following order: Lajes, Osan (He left Kunsan off the list completely)
November 28 – Received Assignment Notification for Osan
8 Months Prior
December 5 – Applied for CSP (Command Sponsorship) – Do this as soon as possible! The only reason we didn’t do it immediately is because the application asked for receiving squadron information that Phillip was unsure of so he had to get some assistance on filling out the application correctly.
Most people get a tentative offer pretty quickly (if you are being accepted). However, it shouldn’t take more than 21 days. In our case, the 21 business days passed so Phillip called Korea and apparently they switched people in charge of the applications and the new guy hadn’t been given our application so we had to re-apply and wait another 21 business days. This has since become a trend with Osan. They seem to be very unorganized so make sure you contact them if it’s been longer than 21 days! In fact, it wouldn’t hurt to check the status of your application sooner than that.
6 Months Prior
February 12 – We received tentative CSP notification
Medical Clearance – Once you receive the tentative offer, you will need to get a medical clearance from your current base and fill out some paperwork before you can receive your official CSP notification
To get the Medical Clearance, you will need to have the doctor and dentist at your current base signing off on a form stating that you are up-to-date. I had to have a dental exam and a health checkup before they signed off on the form.
You (the spouse) will also need to meet with EFMP. Due to Covid, they were only doing this via phone call. The Medical Review Board at Lakenheath only did these once a week from 1-2PM. It only ended up being a 5-minute phone call, but it was difficult to schedule since I worked during that time.
5 Months Prior
March 15 – We submitted EFMP paperwork and required documents
March 19 – Received official CSP approval
Shipping Dogs – We have 2 dogs that we knew we’d be bringing with us. As soon as we got the CSP Approval, we started looking around for pet shippers. Because we were going from England to Korea, we knew the rotator wasn’t going to be an option. We also started to plan for taking leave-en-route so knew our dogs would remain in England while we were in the states and then they would follow us to Korea. I think hiring a pet shipper is necessary if you don’t plan on taking the rotator (Patriot Express). I recommend contacting numerous pet shippers to get various quotes and see who is the best at communication. You want someone that is quick to respond and shows that they care about your animals!!
We decided to go with Fetchapet in England and Shindogs Air in Korea. For more information on shipping dogs overseas you can check out: Shipping Pets To/From UK, Flying Pets Korea, and Military PCS with Pets
Extending DEROS – Our original DEROS was July 2021, but our RNLTD to Korea was September 2021. We heard that you must leave no later than the last day of your DEROS month (July 31) and arrive no earlier than the first day of your RNLTD month (September 1). Because we originally only planned to take leave-en-route for 2 weeks, we thought the gap was going to be a problem so Phillip extended our DEROS in England to August 2021 DEROS. Turns out, the information was incorrect and changing our DEROS actually bumped our RNLTD to Oct 2021. Looking back, it’s a good thing we did this anyways, because I highly doubt we would’ve received our hard orders in time and would’ve ended up having to extend anyways.
4 Months Prior
Vaccinations – To be stationed in Korea, the active duty member will need to get multiple country-specific vaccinations (ex: Japanese Encephalitis, Typhoid, Anthrax, Smallpox, etc.). The vaccinations are required for AD and optional for dependents, depending on availability.
June 24 – No-Fee Passport Appointment. I did not have to have hard orders to apply for the government-issued passport, which dependents will need to obtain. I’ve heard this will vary from base to base – some bases may make you wait until you have hard orders, and it may depend on if you’re already overseas or not. Start this application sooner rather than later, as it will be less stressful. Make sure you take all required documents to your appointment or they will turn you away. Don’t worry if you don’t have it before you depart though, as it is only required to BEGIN the process to get into the country. If you don’t receive it in time, the passport office will provide you with a memo that you will need to carry with you instead.
3 Months Prior
Start Cleaning & Selling – I started cleaning out one room at a time. I listed items for sale on Facebook and also started making a pile of things I wanted to get rid of. Every weekend for about a month I would put out free items in my driveway for anyone to come by and take. I took anything that was left to the thrift shop on base.
Month Before Departure
July 13 – Received official orders after they messed up paperwork twice. Once it got routed to AFPC, it only took 2 days. This was extremely late in the game. I believe most people receive their hard orders 2 months before leaving. However, I know that it has also taken some people even longer than this. We were told by TMO that if took much longer, we’d have to extend again because it was busy season and they barely had any availability left to ship our stuff.
July 14 – Scheduled Flights & Hotel – The SATO travel office booked us on an American Airlines flight from LHR to Charlotte, NC, where we would start our leave-en-route. We wanted a month to visit family before heading to Korea. I believe we are authorized 30 days of free leave. They also booked our connecting flight from NC to Seattle and then booked us on the rotator (Patriot Express) from Seattle to Korea. They booked us a hotel in London for the night before we flew out, but we had to book our own hotel in Seattle.
July 15 – Phillip’s sponsor in Korea reached out to him. He was extremely helpful leading up to the move.
July 15 – TMO Appointment – At the TMO appointment, you will schedule surveys, unaccompanied baggage collection, household goods collection, and a temporary storage collection (if necessary)
July 16 – Booked pet-friendly lodging – Because we received our orders so late into PCS season, the pet-friendly rooms on base were fully booked for a portion of our 10 days. Therefore they had to book us into Lynford Hall Hotel for the first part and on-base TLF for the remainder of the days.
July 16 – Called FMO to schedule a pickup date for our loaner appliances
July 16 – Schedule Covid Test (needs to be within 72 hours of departure). The base med group offers this for free for PCS
July 19 – Notified our letting agency that we would be moving. They require at least 30-days notice.
July 20 – Our sponsor in Korea set up our mailbox at the post office for us. This is helpful if you wish to ship a few things (i.e. clothes & essentials) directly to the base so that they will be there when you arrive
July 20 – Rental house pre-inspection – Our letting agency (Flagship Homes) came to do a walkthrough of our house to let us know what we’d need to fix before the official inspection. This was super helpful so that we wouldn’t get any surprises when it came to getting our deposit back. She let us know that a professional carpet cleaning was required (which we planned to hire a professional PCS cleaner anyways).
July 28 – Survey of household goods – The surveyors came to look at what big items we would be shipping and get a rough estimate of the weight and amount of boxes needed
July 28 – No-Fee Passport Arrived – the passport office on base will notify you when it arrives at their office. I was told the estimated time to receive it was 6-8 weeks so I was happy to get it in 5 weeks!
July 31 – Gave notice to cancel internet and our landline phone
Month of Departure
August 1 – Applied for SPCA Pet Grant – You can apply within 3 months of pet’s travel date. The application is open from the 1st to the 7th of every month
August 1 – Phillip posted his car for sale on Facebook
August 2 – Gave notice to cancel gas/electric/water
August 4 – Booked taxi from base lodging to London. We used Phoenix Taxis, which is located on base.
August 5 – Phillip’s car sold and we got a rental car from Reliable Rentals
August 10 – Posted my car for sale on Facebook
August 11 – Unaccompanied Baggage Pickup – We were told it takes approximately 1 month to ship to new location. You do not need to have an unaccompanied baggage shipment, but we wanted to have some of the necessary items (bedding, some clothes, kitchen items, dog crates, computer) as soon as possible. There are some instances that the UB arrives around the same time as HHG, but it is supposed to be much quicker.
What we had on our UB packing list: Iron And Ironing Board, Extra Clothes, Folding Table, Folding Chair, Vacuum, Swiffer, Trash Can, Power Strips, Extension Cord, Computer Printer W/ Paper, Blankets, Clothes, Hangers, Laundry Basket, Laundry Hamper, Basic Tool Kit, Bath Towels, Bed Sheets, Mattress Topper, Shoes, Bathroom Hand Towels, Wash Cloths, Umbrella, Tv, Dvd Player With Dvds, Pot, Pan, Baking Dish, Cooking Utensils, Strainer, Cutting Board, Knives, Kitchen Towels, Mixing Bowls, Can And Bottle Opener, Measuring Spoons And Cups, Slow Cooker, Tupperware, Plates, Bowls, Silverware, Drinking Glasses, Bike, Tire Pump, Tv Dinner Trays, Dog Bowls Leads, Harnesses
August 12 – Dog Vaccinations – Make sure if you are shipping dogs, that they are up-to-date and have the necessary vaccinations. Rabies vaccinations need to be given more than 30 days prior to traveling. Check with your vet and pet shippers for more specifics.
August 12 – Took unwanted items that I hadn’t gotten rid of yet to the thrift shop and food pantry on base
August 13 – After some of our stuff was out of the house, we spackled and cleaned the walls in preparation for the professional cleaner to come. They don’t do this as part of their service, but the letting agency does require that all holes in the wall are filled in.
August 16 – Temporary Storage Pickup – The most unsure thing of moving to Osan is knowing whether or not you will be living on base. You have to wait until you arrive to find out so the uncertainty means you need to prepare for downsizing. We decided to put a lot of our bigger furniture, holiday decorations, and some other items in storage for the duration of our tour. The military offers this for free and they store your belongings in a military storage facility in a warehouse in Virginia.
August 16 – I sold my car and we were down to one car
August 17 – Household Goods Pickup – We were told it takes approximately 2 months to ship to new location
August 17-26 – Moved into Lynford Hall Hotel – We didn’t want to arrange for TMO furniture just for a few days so we decided to go into a hotel earlier than our allowed 10 days. This meant that we had to pay out of pocket for a couple days. Unfortunately the hotel didn’t have a microwave, fridge, or oven so we spent a lot of money eating out.
August 18 – Professional PCS Cleaners came to do a full PCS clean, which included deep cleaning carpets, bathrooms and appliances. We hired E&R Floorless Cleaning Services
August 19 – FMO Pickup – Our fridge, oven, washer, dryer, and transformers were picked up. It is best to schedule this after your professional cleaners come since FMO requires for them to be deep cleaned prior to returning.
August 21 – Turned in our house keys
August 22 – Phillip gave cell phone company (Three) 30-days notice to terminate his cell phone contract (using their military clause)
August 24 – Our letting agency did a walk-through of the house and notified us of what was damaged and how much of our security deposit we would be getting back. If you have any issues with this, you can contact the housing office and they can assist.
August 26-29 – Moved into Base Lodging (pet-friendly TLF). This was so much nicer than the hotel! We got put in a 4-bedroom townhouse with a dog crate for the dogs. It had a full kitchen for us to cook. I wish we had been able to book this for the full time.
August 26 – Squadron Final Out
August 27 – Base Final Out
August 28 – Return Rental Car
August 29 – Took Covid Test on base (schedule this in advance). You will need a negative test within 72 hours of arriving at destination (it can’t expire in the air). We took the test at 10 AM and received our results the same night via our Tricare Online Patient Portal.
August 29 – Dogs went to Forest Animal Boarding Kennel (the best boarding kennel EVER!)
August 30 – Phoenix Taxi picked us up from TLF at 9AM and drove us to our Hotel in London. The military will book one night in a hotel the night prior to departure for you. This is extremely encouraged so that you don’t have to rush to the airport and drive for 2 hours on the same day. So much less stressful! Plus you get to spend one final day exploring London!!
August 30 – Flight from London to North Carolina, where we took our leave-en-route days to visit family and friends
August 31-September 28 – Leave-en-Route
September 1 – Applied for SPCA again since we hadn’t gotten notification of an award from our August application. You can apply at the beginning of each month for 3 months prior to your pet’s departure.
September 1 – Completed K-ETA application (required for CSP dependents entering South Korea). You should fill this out as soon as possible (similar to the No-Fee passport). It is good for a couple years so there is no point in waiting until the last minute. It is best to print this out and have it in hand when boarding your flight and when going through customs. I was only asked for it in Seattle.
September 2 – Received KETA approval
September 21 – I gave my cell phone company (Three) 30-days notice to terminate my phone plan. I was only on a month-to-month SIM plan so I just had to call and let them know I’d be leaving. I did this a bit late – really should’ve called at the end of August since the service doesn’t work at all in South Korea.
September 22 – Completed Quarantine Action Plan (QAP) and emailed to sponsor to be routed for approval
Septemer 23 – Contacted Osan Housing Office (speak to Mr. O) to ask about the current occupancy on base and request that we live off base. Mr. O provided us with an application.
September 24 – Received an email notification that our unaccompanied baggage arrived in Korea. It will stay in storage until we find a house and schedule a delivery.
September 26 – Got a free PCR Covid Test at Walgreens. We already scheduled the one at the airport, but wanted to play it safe in case there were any complications with the airport test. You will need to book this in advance, but the website doesn’t allow you to book too far in advance.
September 27 – Flew from Charlotte to Seattle.
September 27 – Got a PCR Rapid Covid Test at XpresCheck in the Seattle airport. This was super convenient and quick. They accept pre-booked appointments and walk-ins. The results take 1-hour to come back, which you have to wait in the waiting area to receive for. You will get a printed copy. Make sure your results state “Negative” and have two personal identifiers on it (ours had full name and date of birth).
September 27 – We received our Walgreens Covid test results via email. It was nice having two tests just in case the airline wasn’t going to accept one of them.
September 28 – Depart Seattle on Rotator. You are required to check-in about 4 hours prior to flight, although the check-in starts about 7 hours prior to departure. The check-in process was super easy. We filled out paperwork, got our temperatures taken, dropped off our bags, and received our boarding passes before proceeding to security. Our plane was a standard commercial plane(thank goodness we didn’t have to sit in cargo nets). I was happy to see that it had TVs. Each row had 2 seats on the outsides and 3 seats in the middle.
The first leg of the flight was about 10.5 hours to Yokota. We had to get off the plane for 2 hours while they refueled and then it was another 1.5 hours to Osan. We were given 2 meals during the first flight and a snack service during the second leg.
September 29 – Landed at Osan Air Base (may the Jet Lag commence!)
I was so thankful to arrive directly at the base. Even though we had the 2-hour layover in Japan, I was still at ease knowing that I was clearing customs with everyone else in the same situation. If we took a commercial flight to Incheon, I would’ve been more nervous that we’d run into issues with documentation. I also wouldn’t want to take a bus from Seoul to base after a long day of flying.
Once you arrive at the terminal in Osan, you will go into a holding room with other airmen (Osan and Kunsan). Other branches are the first to go through customs. In the room, someone instructed us how to fill out the customs forms, gave us a goody bag from the USO, and talked to us about the quarantine/Covid testing procedures. We then went through customs, which was a smooth process. All they looked at was Phillip’s CAC, my No-Fee passport, and our customs forms. We then collected our bags and met our sponsor in the PAX Terminal waiting area. He escorted us to our room at Turumi Hotel (he set this up for us before we arrived).
Getting Food While In Quarantine – You have a few options of getting food while you are in quarantine. The first that we utilized was our sponsor. Before we arrived, we sent him a grocery list of items that we needed. He picked them up from the commissary and had them ready for us when we arrived. We also sent a second grocery list while we were waiting on our first test results.
You can also order delivery from several places on base. They will deliver straight to your hotel/dorm door and leave it outside the door for you. You can either call or order online @myexchangefood.com.
September 30 – Received notification from the Housing Office stating that we could reside off-base. You will need to have a non-availability letter before attending the off-base housing briefing. Basically this only occurs when the occupancy is at 90% or higher (or something like that)
September 30 – Day 1 Covid Test (actually on Day 2) – Currently you need to quarantine for 14 days in Korea and will need to take a Day 1, Day 6, and Day 12 test (things change daily so don’t count on this information being accurate). If the first test comes back negative and you are vaccinated, you will be able to go on ROM-status – again, this may change so ask your sponsor about the current situation.
October 1 – Received Covid Day 1 Results– Somehow Phillip got Covid in the midst of all the chaos and his test came back Positive 🙁 Still have no idea where/who he would’ve gotten it from, but C’est La Vie. Mine came back negative. He was moved into the isolation dorms and we had to start off our new adventure being separated from one another. This is when we quickly learned that Osan operates very differently from Lakenheath. We had so many questions, but everyone had different answers for us…or no answers at all. He got moved into a dorm room with no bedding and no phone. Thankfully I was given permission to go on ROM-status since I was negative. I went to the BX to get him bedding and a new computer (he dropped his the day prior and broke it).
October 2 – Took the driving training & test online. It is encouraged to do this during quarantine or even before arriving in Korea so that you can look for a car and be able to drive soon after getting out of quarantine.
October 4 – I took my Day 6 Covid Test
October 5 – Received Covid Day 6 Results – Thankfully I was still negative!
October 6 – I was given to permission to go to the housing briefing on Phillip’s behalf. Below is the approved Realty List that the housing office provided. I started contacting realtors and scheduling appointments for after quarantine. The criteria that we provided: single house, maximum monthly rent that we wanted to spend, maximum distance, fully fenced-in yard, unfurnished
Orange circle: Realtors that I found a page for on Facebook
Blue star: Realtors that seem to update their Facebook pages regularly
Purple Boxes: My personal favorites so far
October 6 – Phillip received his first retest since he had been symptom-free for 72 hours. The only symptoms he was showing originally was a runny nose and headache. We seriously just thought he had a cold. The symptoms only lasted a couple days though.
October 7 – Phillip’s Covid test results were still showing positive 🙁 He was given a test every day from then on until he received two negative tests that were at least 24-hours apart.
October 7 – We received a notification from SPCA stating they were granting us $1,500 to ship our two dogs. This will help tremendously (we’re looking at a total of about $10,000 that includes the cost of the kennel for 1.5 months, airline fees, custom-built dog crates, and pet shipper fees).
October 8 – I went to the post office to verify our box number, register our ID, and setup the email notifications. Our box was already setup by our sponsor in advance so this was just to get our lock combination and make sure everything was good to go.
Your mailing address will be in this format:
PSC 3 Box ####
APO, AP 96266
October 10 – I took my Day 12 Covid Test
October 11 – Received my final Covid Day 12 Results – Thankfully I was still negative!
October 13 – I was released from the 14-Day Quarantine. I moved out of the hotel and into TLF.
October 13 – I started meeting with realtors. Yay house hunting!
October 14 – Phillip was released from the isolation dorms finally and was able to start house hunting with me!
Jet Lag – Prepare to be jet-lagged the entire time you’re in quarantine. On average, it takes people about 2 weeks to get on a schedule, especially since you don’t have much of a schedule to follow for the first 14 days. I suggest bringing a firestick or HDMI cord so that you can stream shows/movies on the TV in the hotel. The first 3 days were the worst for me. I was up all night and slept during the day. It wasn’t until I was able to leave the room that I slowly started being awake more and more throughout the day. Even after 10 days though, I was still taking naps throughout the day and waking up several times throughout the night. If you have kids, make sure you bring enough to keep them entertained!
October 14 – We explored the SED (Suwon Entertainment District) right outside the base and purchased pre-paid SIM cards. For unlimited calls, text, and data (3G) it cost $33 a month – which is much cheaper than the $55+ you’ll pay on base. If you go out the main gate and walk straight, it is the phone shop on the left across from Baskin Robbins.
Recommended Realtors – After doing a lot of research online, I met with 4 realtors over the course of 3 days. I ended up looking at about 20 houses and finally found the perfect house for us! The four realtors I viewed houses with were Hollywood Realty, Kozillow Realty, Komerican Realty, and Zion Realty. The two that spoke perfect English (they have lived in the states) were Hollywood Realty (Jason) and Zion Realty (John).
October 15 – Put a $200 holding deposit down on the house
October 18 – Our dogs got on their flight from England
October 20 – Our dogs landed in Korea at 9AM. Leo from Shindogs Air picked them up and took care of all the customs paperwork. It was an ALL DAY process! We didn’t see our dogs until 9PM.
October 21 – Bought a used car from Gorilla Motors near Camp Humphreys
October 22 – Got the car inspected on base ($30), registered the car at the DMV (about a 2-hour wait and 45-minute process), and got the vehicle pass from base.
October 26 – Register dogs at vet on base
October 27 – Signed lease
October 28 – Moved into house! OHA Appointment and TMO delivered loaner furniture
January: Got alien registration card. This isn’t required, but is helpful to have, especially if you’re living here more than a year. With this, we can register our U.S. vaccination cards with the Korean health department in order to get a QR Code. It also allows us to get a Korean bank account, which is helpful because some places are notorious for not accepting American bank cards (like parking garages). We followed the instructions here on applying for the card.
Check out this “Live File” that is posted to the Osan AB Spouses Facebook page. It has all of the base-related Facebook pages that you should consider joining.
Here are some flyers and magazine screenshots that I found helpful (scroll to see all of them):