Personnel Exchange Program (PEP) Germany
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(Updated March 2009) My assignment in Germany is as a Personnel Exchange Program "PEP" Pilot for the Germany Navy. A prerequisite for this billet is of course a thorough knowledge of the German language, taught at DLI among other skills including flight training and experience especially with the types of missions but also just some good-old-fashioned guts and open-mindedness. I will not describe the job any more than that until the tour is over, please email me from a .mil or .gov e-mail address and I can send details. My efforts here are to educate new transfers to Germany who are members of the Navy and/or PEPs, Embassy, NATO or other people who do not fit the standard mold of the Army or Air Force members who make up mot of the US Military operations here. I will journal as much of the basic administrative processes to lessen the headache for you, since the Army's methods, facilities and services are sometimes 180° from what most Navy service members might expect.
The first understanding to realize as a Personnel Exchange Program billetholder is that the only mold you fit into is the single job and unit you work (or will work) in, the same goes for your exchange cohort, and this is by design. Outside of that, the "system" is not designed for you and there are NO concessions. If you must drive 10 hours to a small Army facility to simply change your USAREUR registered address for your POV, simply say "thank you" for the service because it remains a courtesy on thier behalf and there is no alternative. You may need to wait months for the same services that Army individuals wait days for, and if you thaught that as a Navy veteran of overseas PCS moves that your HHG, POV, UB shipments, CAC card, Passport or other normally painless task might be simple; think again. Every step of the job, even months before it begins, will require much more time and effort, and the possibility of error is that much higher. But, do not let this frustration get to you because there are taller obstacles to overcome once the job starts.
There are many individuals in the "system" who will be of huge help, ranging from a civilian in an AAFES Shopette to an old German storeowner who knows how to deal with the "Ausländer". With a little knowledge and respect this small network is what keeps everybody on this boat afloat. It might be one of them who saves the day when someone asks you, "Why don't you have a CMR address? What are they teaching you at the TRADOC anyway?" or, "You need a personally signed letter from the Provost Marshal to do that.". What are these things, these people, and what is a building called "ze impeese". (The MP station or "MP's" as referred to by civilian contract workers). I hope that these and other terms will become clear to you after reading this gouge.
Once I found the job, I contacted my XO and detailer to let them know I wanted the job, and deliberations ensued. While this was going on I began to research all of the prerequisites and details about this job to see if it was something I could handle. Also, this is a good time to start thinking about how one can best prepare himself and his family for such an assignment. By the way, you must somehow get your family to become fluent in German independently since there is no longer government funding for family members at the Foreign Language School (DLI).
This is where the most complicated PCS move begins, especially if you just came from an overseas PCS and thought you had this process "licked". Start every task early and be on top of who you talk to, what his complete contact information is, and never relinquish original documents for any request without a personal scan/copy. Keep on top of it to ensure everything is done early and the monkey will not have a chance to climb on your back, plus you can plan other more important things to do with your free time; which is of course the purpose of en route leave anyway!
- Flight Physical, Overseas screening, FEA, etc.: start this process as early as possible. In Monterey, at DLI these are easier said than done. There are only a small handful of Officers at DLI compared with NPS. Of those even fewer are heading off to PEP where no US Military post exists. This is confusing not only for paperwork but for the Presidio Medical clinic which does not allow a military member to transport his own medical records. You must ensure that the records are in your hand before leaving DLI even if it violates DLI policy. Otherwise, the records will be simply lost. Enough said.
- Passport. Easy and completely free if done early. I have the Official DOD Passport requirement documentation. Just contact my by e-mail from a .mil or .gov address and I can send it to you.
- Household goods. If your DLI graduation date is near the end of an NPS graduation, then start and confirm your pickup dates even earlier than I did because the days will fill up and you will be stuck with a 4 day pickup job from 5-9pm each day. I have a separate section on shipping cars to Germany below.
- Household Goods shipment or HHG or "main shipment" or "boat shipment". This is the bulk of your house items. This is everything not stored or shipped "express", usually between 9,000 and 18,000 lbs, or, an american 4BR house full of typical light-weight, low-quality furniture.
- Household Storage or Long Term Storage. This is the pickup and transport of personal items to a location local to your point of departure. This usually includes large items that may not fit into a foreign household (such as a piano to Japan or a 110V hot tub to Europe), or even motor vehicle including boats or ATVs, or simply items that are prohibited in that country or household furniture that you are displacing to reduce your weight conveyance to a number under your allowance.
- Express Shipment or "Unaccompanied Baggage" or "Air freight". This is the small (400-1000lbs depending on service and rank) stack of items you might need in a hotel on one or both ends of the PCS. For example, baby crib, stroller, computer, small kitchen stuff, off-season clothes, etc. This shipment goes by air unless a ship is departing soon and the stuff can arrive before your RDD (required delivery date).
- Shipping your POV. First off, ship one car regardless and send it early, unless you have a new one already waiting for you at the other end (new one at the other end is the better plan). This is where it gets interesting. Be sure to look over the requirements provided here: http://www.hqusareur.army.mil/rmv/. Pay special attention to window tinting, aftermarket add-ons, items adhered to the inside of windows (GPS, smog stickers, etc) and especially for motorcycles, EXHAUST.
- If you plan to drive from DLI in Monterey to Richmond to the vehicle drop-off site, then drop off your car and take public transit back, be prepared for a rude awakening. Here's my itinerary:
Public Transit, Richmond to Monterey
15:12 departed Richmond on the BART, 16:22 arrived Millbrae
16:25 Caltrain scheduled arrival 17:06. 17:41 actual arrival.
17:53 MST Bus leaves, actual arrival in Monterey 19:47.
That's right, 2 hours to get there, 4 1/2 hours to get back. the little A below is the location of the Richmond VPC, the closest Vehicle Processign Center near DLi in Monterey.
Solution? I recommend BMW Military Sales or Pentagon Car Sales as better alternatives to the hassles of shipping a used POV from the States. Not just for the USAREUR registration hassles with an old car, but for the safety of your family on the autobahn and in sketchy areas where vehicle crime is high. For more military sales dealers, download a copy of the Stars & Stripes for Europe and check out the ads as well as the classifieds for used cars. Most makes are available, and they are all at significantly lower prices when compared to those sold inside of the U.S.
- YOU. Start your travel arrangements as soon as your landlord has agreed on a move-out date so that you have plenty of time to manipulate the flight tickets to your advantage. It also saves taxpayer money considerably. Waiting to the last week costs everybody more stress and waste.
- Take the high road and have your seat assignments on Continental or United months ahead of time. This way you can obtain seats up front with few stops, short layovers and at a time of your choosing. Plus if you are lucky you might be able to stopover for a couple of days on en route leave and see mom and dad for no charge.
- Hotel on the other end. I chose to stay at the American Arms Hotel in Wiesbaden. I called months ahead of time and confirmed again and again. I arrived with my confirmation number in hand, kids and bags in trail to find that my reservation number was cancelled due to computer problems. Needless to say, we stayed there for 3 days and were forced to leave because the hotel was over-booked. Luckily it was for the better, the Ibis Hotel in Mainz just across the river is nicer, costs less, and they will not simply "cancel" your reservation. The hotel is in poor condition and generally dirty for the price charged, despite the fact that a 2007 award for "best hotel" hangs above the front desk. A new hotel is being built to replace the American Arms in Wiesbaden; this will undoubtedly be a better place to stay, and the build of the new hotel project clearly explains the derelict condition of the old military lodge. However, reasons to sway you the other way include:
- The two front desk people are very helpful and are some of the few that offer helpful information to new transfers without asking. They will get to know you by name and will never let you down. They are doing the best that they can with what is available.
- Coin Laundry facilities.
- A Welcome Center that is open on Tuesday/Thursday mornings.
- Restaurant & Bar at American prices (sort of).
- DSN phone line.
- Wireless internet included.
- Community computer with printer.
First thing to do when arriving in Germany: stay awake until as late at night as possible. Then, early the next morning start to make phone calls to all of the places at your next stop - one of the Army Posts. Call and confirm EVERYTHING - trust nobody unless you have met him personally.
- I recommend NOT to go to your billet location but to go straight to Wiesbaden and obtain your car that you shipped from the U.S. or the new one you ordered months in advance. The Wiesbaden area of bases (Posts and Fields) has the largest stores and widest selection of support services.
- Train on the other end from Berlin. Your travel arrangements will be aboard the train, so be sure to verify that you have a SEAT reservation, especially if you have a family. If on Friday or Sunday, be sure to get to the station even earlier and be prepared with bags in hand directly in front of the car you plan to board. In Germany these days are the two days each week that citizens make thier Exodus to thier home cities by car and train. Visit the German Train website Deutsche Bahn at www.bahn.de and create an account, then verify all of the details well before the day of travel. About the trains, see http://wikitravel.org/en/Germany.
- Car rental on the other end. Let's say that your car did not arrive on time. Or, you bought a car and want to pick it up. Or, your car did in fact arrive and now you want to drive it. With proper planning this can be a painless experience. Here are the steps to follow to 1. obtain a rental car and 2. obtain the gas card to fuel it on base or at Esso stations for the discounted fuel rate so that you can get around Wiesbaden for all of the adminsitrative tasks required for picking up your car. Yes, that's right, YOU WILL FIRST NEED TO HAVE A CAR IN ORDER TO PICK UP YOUR CAR. See the map at right, or go direct to the AAFES site with the maps. There is a tram system but it does not get you to the driver's course on time, nor does it make good use of your limited time in Wiesbaden. This is a stark reminder that the US Army system is not designed to support the PEP.
- Go to Wiesbaden, to the Hainerberg Shopping Area.
- Rent the car (see Car Rental locations serviced by Sixt: http://odin.aafes.com/europe/wiesbaden/mainmap.htm). Hainerberg has the largest one.
- Pick up a local area map while you are there that shows all of the local bases with phone numbers and hours.
- Go to the MP PMO with rental papers. This is the Military Police Station Provost Marshall's Office at Wiesbaden Army Airfield. There you will surrender your orders, CAC ID, rental contract, etc. Now that your car is registered you can pick up a fuel ration allowance.
- Go to the Hainerberg PX (Post Exchange), Customer Service. It is at the back end of the store. Surrender all the usual documentation and obtain a registration in the AAFES/Esso computerized fuel rationing and registration system. Now you can load money onto the card, or leave it empty. (If the card is left empty, you can only fill up on base and must pay in person at the counter like any other purchase). More about this: http://www.imcom-europe.army.mil/sites/news/fuelcard.asp
- Take your rental car, get setup overnight somewhere, and head over to POV registration and licensing, at Mainz-Kastel Housing. This is not the same as Mainz-Kastel Station even though many printed maps and blog posts indicate such. See my Google Map below.
- Go to the Driver's testing center and make an appointment for the driver's test(s). If you have kids, you'll have to split it up so that one of you has the kids while the other takes the test. There is NO DAYCARE.
- Wiesbaden, Building 7514, Room 20, Mainz-Kastel Housing
- DSN 334-2470/2639, CIV 06134-604-492 or -2470 FAX 334-2458
- Hours of operation - Mon - Fri 0730 - 1600 hrs Last Signin will be at 1500 hrs CLOSED 1200 last working day of each month. CLOSED American Holidays
- Orientations held once a week from 0800-1130, CALL IN ADVANCE to reserve a seat.
- Take the course and test, pass it on the first try, then go to Vehicle Registration with all documentation in hand.
- POV Registration at Mainz-Kastel Housing, nextdoor to Licensing: 06134-604-639
- Bring: USAREUR License, Vehicle Shipping Docs (if shipped), Stateside Registration, Title (or AMSTO clearance if bought new locally), Lien Permission (if shipped and exists), Vehicle insurance. USAA is ideal for Germany. Your data will be in the computer system 24 hours after enrollment and available direct from POV Registration.
- Pay $30 for the first year. Up to 2 years ($60) for new/current year cars ONLY may be purchased.
- Go to the Hainerberg PX (Post Exchange) as noted above to obtain an Esso Fuel ration card. Load it with funds (can be loaded later direct through checking online).
- Drive the rental car with your car in trail ("employ" somebody if you are there alone to drive your rental car back).
- Take plastic Esso ration/payment card obtained for the rental to the gas station on base to fill up before handing over the rental car.
- Return the Esso ration/payment card to the Hainerberg exchange.
- Each year (starting 2nd year for new cars) you must drive to Wiesbaden for a vehicle inspection and re-licensing.
View Larger Map
For more details about a tour as PEP, feel free to email me using the Contact Me form.
All things considered, from the end of my operational tour to being moved in and settled in Germany required one year exactly. 10 months of DLI, 2 months to locate suitable housing and complete administrative tasks in Germany. Consider this when you ponder the idea of a PEP tour in your Officer career. Of course there are PEP jobs that require no language school such as Australia and Italy. However with the exception of Naples, no other PEP location has a massive American military infrastructure behind it comparable to the U.S. Army situation in Germany.
After about six months in Germany you will need to consider renewing contracts, vehicle licensing, Commissary, etc. Also, U.S. Army support services change frequently in Germany with regard to location, hours, POCs and unless you watch AFN constantly, you will not recieve any notice. Since arrival it has been determined that the Schweinfurt as well as many other facilities will soon close, so don't do a vehicle registration there - you mind as well just consolidate all vehicle reqistration to Wiesbaden since it has been determined that the Wiesbaden services are staying put.
Note; non-operational permits for vehicles (such as a motorcycle in winter) are only good for 6 months. Also a simple address change to a registered POV in germany will require a PERSONAL VISIT to vehicle registration. There is no option or concession for PEP individuals; you must personally drive 5 hours each way to a POV registration/licensing station to make an address change.
US Army Headquarters for POV registration: http://rmv.hqusareur.army.mil/textonly/povinfo.htm.
Wiesbaden Map of local installations and services at those installations: http://odin.aafes.com/europe/wiesbaden/mainmap.htm.
GOUGE HOME | OCS | API | PRIMARY & INT. | ADVANCED HELO | SH-60B FRS / RAG | HSL-51 | Defense Language Institute | PEP Germany | Pacific Partnership 2012 - COMDESRON 7 [ Homepage ]
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