5 Memberships to Get Each Time you PCS
by Meredith Flory - August 10th, 2022
Every military family has a long to-do list each time they PCS. With so much on your plate, it’s easy to overlook memberships and activities that can help you quickly integrate into your community.
Here are several memberships, military discounts, and passes that can help you live your best life at any duty station.
And speaking of to-do lists, click here to get your FREE PCS checklist! (Scroll about halfway down the page to find it).
On-post and off-post libraries
There are so many families who don’t use libraries to their fullest potential. Yes, they are a place you can check out books, but they are so much more. Some libraries will allow DOD cardholders to join before they have proof of residency, so check with your local library as soon as you arrive at your new duty station.
Librarians are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to finding necessary resources. If you’re a spouse who works from home or is on a job hunt, libraries can provide internet as you wait for your tech to arrive. Some libraries may also offer résumé writing or skill-based workshops.
Ellen Eyberg is the Manager of the Richard Burges Regional Library, one of the El Paso Public Library locations close to Ft. Bliss. They offer a wide range of programming, including educational and social opportunities such as Learning with Legos, storytimes, summer reading programs, and Friends of the Library stores where you can find used books and media for purchase.
Eyberg said the library has “had people find jobs using our computers, which is always very satisfying.” She also teaches conversational English for adults, which she says is extremely rewarding.
Libraries in El Paso are close to border crossings and Ft. Bliss, an expansive military installation. Having resources like computer labs, passport offices, and a place to enjoy reading or programming in the air conditioning is invaluable for this desert region.
National and state park memberships
One of the benefits of a military move is the chance to explore all the beauty the United States has to offer as you move from place to place. State and national parks are a wonderful way to turn long drives into exciting road trips, get outdoors on a beautiful afternoon, or spend a holiday weekend on a mini-vacation. Active and reserve military, Gold Star families, and veterans are eligible for a free annual National Parks America the Beautiful Pass, allowing entrance into national monuments, parks, and other recreational sites nationwide.
Purchase a National Parks Passport online or at a visitor’s center to collect stamps with each visit. At the end of your military career, you’ll have a souvenir to show all of the places you explored with your family.
Eligibility for discounted state park passes varies from state to state. Many state park discount passes are primarily for disabled veterans. However, even a full-price annual park pass will pay for itself after a few visits.
State and national parks offer a wide range of recreational activities, such as hiking, wildlife viewing, historical monuments, Junior Ranger programs, camping, and boating. Annual pass holders often receive discounts on many of these activities.
Gym or athletic club memberships
On-post athletic facilities do not require memberships. When you arrive at your new location, check out the facility’s hours, fees, and available sports and programs for youth and adults. If you live off-post or want something that your on-post facility doesn’t offer, look into community gyms and athletic clubs. Many community athletic facilities offer military discounts.
Swimming can be a great way for you and your kids to meet new friends. Families that live off-post may need to join a neighborhood or community pool for outdoor swimming, lessons, or swim teams and swim clubs.
Non-profit gyms like the YMCA or Salvation Army Kroc Centers may offer military discounts and amenities you can’t find on post, like daycare during your workout and specific exercise classes. A PCS disrupts your normal routine, so if working out, meditation, or organized sports are important to your family’s well-being, make sure to look for your local options and get enrolled quickly. Each new PCS also provides an opportunity to try new things that weren’t offered where you lived before. Maybe your new city has a facility that offers a unique class like aerial fitness or a sport like fencing.
Off-post religious or community service organizations
Many military families are active with on-post religious and community organizations. Programs through spouses clubs, the chaplain’s office, MWR, and the USO are excellent ways to find people who share your beliefs and values and want to give back to the community. However, there are perks to finding similar organizations off-post as well.
From a pragmatic point of view, volunteering can be beneficial to a career, added to a résumé, or make you eligible for service awards. More importantly, becoming part of an organization that aligns with your values can help you feel less isolated as you adjust to a new place. Spending your Sundays walking shelter dogs, worshipping in a new congregation, or serving on a planning committee for a community event can help you find a renewed purpose.
Dusty Wammack is the Discipleship Pastor at Quest Church in Grovetown, GA, located near Ft. Gordon. The church has many guests and members who are connected to the military.
Wammack says, “as a church, we have noticed that military families make connections fast and get plugged into community quickly.” He continues, “helping military families connect while they are here reduces the burden of constant relocation from the PCS process. We have found many military families call their church friends ‘family.’”
Hobby clubs or museums
Whether you’re a military family waiting for your furniture to arrive, a military spouse looking for a way to spend time when your service member is away, or have kids you need to entertain during summer breaks, it’s important to seek out ways to explore your hobbies and interests.
If your new post is near a zoo, aquarium, art museum, children’s museum, or other educational museum or space, consider purchasing an annual membership. Annual memberships are often discounted for military families and usually pay for themselves in just a few visits.
If your local zoo or aquarium is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), they meet high ethical and scientific standards. Plus, your membership includes reciprocal free or discounted tickets at other AZA locations when you travel.
Searching out hobby groups in your area can also help you quickly make friends and settle into routines. Using social media or local networking websites will help you find a group for any interest, from hobby trains, to cycling, to book clubs, to sewing. For parents of young children, you may find a group on post or a chapter of a large organization like MOMS Club®. For older children, participating in nationwide groups like scouting programs can help them settle in quickly after a military move.
PCSing isn’t easy, but each new location is a chance for new adventures. Ready to explore your new duty station? Check out the PCSgrades Area Guides to find activities, resources, and more!