Embracing Adventure “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” ~~Hellen Keller

Pre-Orders Preparations

Two months ago today, I first found out about moving to Germany. At that time, my husband was only considered on assignment. To get his orders and make sure we could go together, there were several things that had to be done. While much of it was handled on my husband’s end, there were some things I had to do.

The most important things were to apply for a no-fee passport, complete an anti-terrorism awareness training module, and go through an Exceptional Family Member Program screening. Two out of the three involved multiple steps and stretches of time before anything else could happen. You can read more about each of these three requirements and my experiences with them below. Others’ requirements and experiences may (and for parts of it I hope will) differ.

No-Fee Passport

Pre-orders Preparations: Find out about getting a no fee passport, doing anti-terrorism awareness training, and having an EFMP screeningA no-fee passport is a special passport issued in certain circumstances. Because I am a dependent of someone traveling abroad on military orders, I will need to have one to accompany him. While we were on post, we stopped in to apply and found out we had to have an appointment.  Fortunately, we were able to make one for the next day. We were told I would have to fill out the DS 11 form online (as opposed to the one I had picked up at the post office), print it off, and bring it in with me. I was given a sheet of instructions for how to fill it out, including using the office address instead of my residence for part of it and leaving off the dates of travel.

Since everything was already filled out, the appointment was a pretty quick process. I showed the lady my driver’s license, social security card, and marriage certificate and she made the necessary copies. She took my photograph with a digital camera. She actually took a couple because she didn’t like the first one and wanted a good smile. As standardized photos go, I think it turned out pretty well, and it was nice of her to make sure it was a decent picture.

While I had read that I would need a tourist passport for personal travel, I’m glad I didn’t apply for one before I found out that I needed a no-fee passport. Since the original birth certificate must be sent in with the application and is sent back with the passport, I wouldn’t have had my birth certificate back in time if I’d gone in the wrong order.

My appointment was September 7th and I received a call October 3rd letting me know my passport was back. I was told I could get my birth certificate but will need the orders to have the passport released. As it turned out, my husband got his orders the following day and was told by someone else in the office he’ll actually have to have the airline ticket before they’ll release the passport.

While at the appointment, I had asked the lady helping us about needing a tourist passport for personal travel as I’d heard the no-fee passport was only to get me into Germany. She told me that it is possible to use it to get in to countries other than Germany, but they could deny me entry without a tourist passport if they want to. She said that France is notorious for doing that. Since it will probably be awhile before we travel outside Germany and we’re close enough to some countries to see which if any will accept the no-fee passport for personal entry, I decided to wait until we get over there to worry about the tourist passport.

Anti-Terrorism Awareness Training

I had to complete an online module on anti-terrorism awareness, which took about an hour. Once I finished the module, I had to print a certificate, sign it, and have my husband turn it in. The course mostly detailed how to be vigilant and where to report if something doesn’t seem right.

It also discussed what to do in several situations. For example, if you are somewhere with an active shooter you should get out of the area, secure yourself if you can’t get out, and stay crouched on the ground if you’re in the room with the shooter. Since ricochets tend to hug the ground, you shouldn’t lay down.

On the other hand, if grenades are being used, then you should lay down with your feet facing the assailant. While I find it unlikely I’m ever going to be in a situation as a civilian where someone is throwing grenades at me, this information did help me later that night while playing Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune when the baddies started lobbing grenades my way.

Exceptional Family Member Program Screening

Because my husband was on assignment instructions OCONUS (Outside the Continental US) where family travel is authorized, I had to go through an Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) screening to determine if I would be eligible to accompany him. There is a screening packet, part of which must be filled out by the service member and part by an assigned doctor. To do the latter part, we needed to make an appointment.  I hadn’t gotten enrolled in the DEERS (Defense Eligibility Enrollment System) until mid-August and TRICARE wouldn’t be effective until September 1st, so I wasn’t able to get an appointment to see a doctor until September 13th.

When I first got called in for my appointment, a nurse took my temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate and asked me some basic health questions and why I was there. I was told the doctor is usually on time but had an emergency so it would be longer. I was sent back to the waiting room. When I was called in for the doctor some time later, he asked questions about my medical and mental health background and filled out the form as I gave my answers.

If there had been anything in my background that might require on-going care, then he could have marked that EFMP enrollment is warranted. EFMP enrollment helps make sure family members with physical, emotional, developmental, or intellectual disorders have resources available for the care they need. However, if the appropriate care isn’t available for the family member where the service member is being assigned, the service member may still be assigned there but have an unaccompanied tour.

Fortunately, the doctor determined an EFMP enrollment was not warranted in my case, so in theory we were ready to move on in the process. Unfortunately, when my husband went to turn in the forms, he was told someone at Fort Stewart had to do the screening and a doctor at the hospital there had to sign the forms, despite the fact that I had been assigned the doctor at Hunter Army Air Field. Because the earliest available appointment was September 26th, this meant another wait.

When we got in to the office, it seemed like it was a quick matter. The guy who was helping us had everything transferred over and signed in a few minutes. He handed us our packet and we went to turn it in. When we got to the building where we had to turn the packet in, we discovered someone else’s packet was mixed in with ours and we were missing most of our info.  So, we had to go back to the hospital and get that sorted out. To add to the frustration, it was pouring rain.

When we went back to the hospital, we had to talk to someone different who told my husband he couldn’t be going to Heidelberg because they’re going to be closing (although he is clearly on assignment to that very place). Then she gave me some hassle about not having civilian medical records. As far as I understood and the original packet I’d looked at stated, they needed either civilian records or me to be seen by military doctor. Since I had been to a military doctor who had determined everything was fine, that should have sufficed. She threatened me about not leaving things out of the packet and UCMJ action if I wasn’t honest. I found that laughable considering that spouses aren’t generally subject to UCMJ, and I hadn’t omitted anything I was asked about regardless.

Finally, we got the records signed by her and the doctor and went to turn them in. As far as we knew, this would be the last step in getting my husband’s orders and finding out if we were approved for concurrent travel. When the lady we turned the packet in to tried to pull up my husband’s orders, she said that he actually had to be available for three years to accept the assignment. He would have to extend his enlistment by 9 to 10 months and come back once that was done for her to pull them up.  So, we had a few more days to wait while he worked on that process. Coincidentally, it was on 10-4 that the orders were cut and we found out we were OK for concurrent travel.

Have you ever moved overseas? If so, what were some of your preparations?

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2 Thoughts on “Pre-Orders Preparations

  1. I can’t wait to read more!

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