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Unrecognizable Truths About Military Transition: How Is It That We Move Household Goods Better Than We Move People?

By Colonel (U.S. Army, Ret.) Jim McDonough Managing Director, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families

From time-to-time, particularly around Veterans Day, I find myself reflecting upon the details associated with our responsibilities here at the IVMF focused on enhancing the post-service lives of veterans and their families. Recently, while attending an In-Progress Review (IPR) of the work associated with our PAServes-Greater Pittsburgh partnership, I struggled with the understanding that in simple terms, transitioning from military service can be really ugly for some of us. So ugly, that I’ve discovered an unrecognizable truth about military transition that I had not reconciled before: as a nation, we do a better job at moving service member’s household goods across the nation than we do moving those very service member’s needs to solutions across the same country.

Let me explain. If you’ve ever soldiered for any period of time, you know the experiences associated with making a military move from duty station to duty station. There’s a process, one that guides all service members to plan their move ahead of time, to preparefor that move to their next assignment. The process is full of written procedures, templates, checklists – even an office with people at every installation– that exists solely to see our personal possessions estimated, packed, weighed, inspected, loaded, stored, driven, delivered, and unpacked – tens of thousands of times annually, all around the globe. Its scale and efficiency are staggering, and when you really think about it, it involves a lot of moving parts, no pun intended.

Yes, making a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move to duty assignments in far-off places does seemingly take a village – and a moving truck.

That moving truck is also a useful metaphor, in that it represents a vehicle by which we as a nation move personal possessions belonging to service members with GPS accuracy anywhere around the globe with pinpoint accuracy. Today, the Department of Defense can get your charcoal grill to Barstow, California, from Seoul, South Korea, in time to cook dinner on it next week.

Fast-forward to the actual service member who owns that grill for a minute and alternatively, replace their personal possessionwith a personal problem such as housing or employment. Now ask yourself if we can do the same thing: can we move a personal problem to the right solutios in the least amount of time, with the same degree of efficiency and efficacy as we do with someone’s personal possessions?

Up until very recently, the answer to that question was, without question, no. But that is finally beginning to change in ways that resemble the moving solutions pioneered by the moving industry when trucking and airplanes allowed them to think and act more collectively. Through technological and multi-modal transportation improvements, a systems approach emerged to moving personnel possessions, leveraging what each element – storage containers, trucks, ships, airplanes, RF ID chips, and people – did best originally, individually, but now acting only as a collective, systems-oriented industry could do, globally.

Think and act collectively– great business for a moving company, but can that business thinking be applied to delivering health and human services solutions for the over 200,000 military connected members and their families who transition out of the armed forces annually?

Yes, it can. Through the same building block approach that created systems-oriented solutions to moving personal possessions and property, health and human services delivery systems are now moving people to the right solutions in the least amount of time. Exactly what the moving industry did for service members’ household goods, health and human services can now do for our nation’s finest and their families.

Here in the IVMF, we’re leading a substantial part of that movement, driving a scalable, technologically-driven, people-powered series of solutions found within our AmericaServes initiatives. Constructed uniquely in health and human services coordination efforts intended to transform health care in this country, AmericaServes aims to solve two fundamental problems plaguing the human condition: 1.) as consumers, we do a poor job navigating ourselves to those solutions best-equipped to solve our problems (we make mistakes, sometimes costly ones) and, 2.) once we get there, providers do a poor job of coordinating solutions beyond themselves when confronted with problems and issues that exceed their capacity.

Much like the moving industry that today delivers personal possessions to where they were intended to go in record time, with the highest possible precision, and reliability, AmericaServes networks can deliver a PCSing Marine family with an exceptional family member heavily burdened with needs tethered to good care and services from San Diego, California, to Hampton Roads, Virginia in a known, navigable way, and in record time, with the highest degree of precision to solutions required to support their child’s health and well-being, before they even load up the car and drive east.

That’s happening today across 16 American communities (and growing) in AmericaServes.

Now if I could only find that silverware set that never made it through the PCS move from Germany to Indiana in 1989…

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