By Scott Prater | Mountaineer staff
FORT CARSON, Colo. — If changing duty stations wasn’t taxing enough on Soldiers and Families already, the international pandemic has wreaked havoc on Permanent Change of Station (PCS) season this year.
“Normally, we see many Soldiers and Families begin their PCS in April,” said Jean McClintock, client services and relocation manager, Army Community Service. “And PCS season is typically spread out more — from April to August — but this year, with all of the stop-movement restrictions due to COVID-19, it’s been condensed to July through August and maybe September 2020.”
That means many Soldiers and Families will be moving at the same time. As a result, many Soldiers are contacting multiple agencies on post in their attempts to clear Fort Carson. Since so many Soldiers are clearing at the same time, the agencies they contact must also work quickly and efficiently to keep up.
“We are seeing Soldiers clearing and obtaining their final outs on the same day because they are on such a short crunch,” McClintock said.
Like many agencies, on-post Army Community Service has developed a virtual office out of necessity and created multiple options for Families to clear ACS.
“At the beginning of this pandemic, labor force experts at the DOD mentioned that COVID-19 has pushed us ahead in technology,” McClintock said. “Unfortunately we didn’t want COVID, but the positive that’s come out of it is we’ve gone virtual, and it’s been great because it simplifies the clearing process for Soldiers.”
Prior to the pandemic, Soldiers had to visit ACS in person as part of the clearing process. Now, they can simply visit https://carson.armymwr.com/programs/army-community-service, download the forms, fill them out and then email the completed forms back to ACS.
“Within a few hours, Soldiers will then get a memo saying they are cleared for three stops at ACS,” McClintock said. “I know many agencies on post are working this same way, so it’s really easier.”
ACS provides another clearing option, as well. Soldiers can call ACS at 719-526-1053 and clear over the phone.
“We can fill out their forms for them, save them and then either send them back or send them to Consolidated Assignments Processing Section (CAPS),” McClintock said. “And people can still clear with us in person. We schedule appointments with our relocation specialists every week.”
Pete Garza, CAPS manager, indicated that CAPS has developed clearing-process work arounds since the pandemic began. Army leaders also decreased the number of required agencies Soldiers have to clear — from 25 to under 10.
“The required agencies are those that affect big Army, and allow a Soldier to PCS elsewhere or separate in good standing,” Garza said. “Required agencies now include Finance, Central Issue Facility, medical and dental records and Soldier Readiness Processing, among some others. Of course, Soldiers who are separating will also need to clear through the Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program as well.”
Much like ACS, CAPS directs Soldiers to send their clearing packets to a centralized email box. The CAPS out-processing section then processes requests the same day. After 10 business days they automatically send out clearing packets to Soldiers, which include all of the same briefing sheets and directions.
“We understand there are a lot of limitations placed on Fort Carson agencies,” Garza said. “They are trying to protect their teams as well and want to limit face-to-face contact. But we want to make sure the Soldiers are getting the same quality transition.”
For those moving to Fort Carson, the 4th Infantry Division and Mountain Post Living are conducting newcomers’ briefings on Facebook live every month.
“We’ve been seeing increasing requests for welcome packets and we have a person dedicated to welcoming new Families to Fort Carson,” McClintock said. “If a Soldier would like us to call his spouse and welcome them, we do that, as well as provide community and things like child care information.”
For more information on changing duty stations or resources for newcomers, visit https://www.carson.army.mil/.