Dreams of A Diplomat: The Packout

by Juan Thomas
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“I get ideas about what’s essential when packing…” – Diane von Furstenberg

Last week was a very important milestone in the road to Bogotá: the PCS packout. PCS, by the way, is an acronym for permanent change of station. I’m a veteran of such packouts having been through 6 of them during my military career. For Mercedes, this was her 1st exposure to this very unique benefit of national service.

Within the Foreign Service, the packout is split technically split into 5 shipment categories: (1) unaccompanied baggage [UAB], (2) household effects by air [HHE by air], (3) household effects by sea [HHE by sea], (4) consumables and (5) storage. Additionally, if needed, there are special allowances for the shipment of a layette and a personally-owned vehicle. We are headed to what is considered a furnished post location. It should be fairly self-explanatory but I’ll explain this in an upcoming post of this series. For us, our packout consisted of UAB and HHE by sea.

Bogotá, as one of the world’s most populous cities, has no shortage of grocery stores and availability of common American products so there is no allowance for consumables. It’s also not a location that’s really keen on HHE by air. For my family and I, we’re taking this opportunity to start new so nothing goes to storage…at least not on the Federal Government’s dime. I’m still undecided on if The Red Wolf will come to South America or head to the American South for personal storage. That leaves us with just UAB and HHE by sea…and that’s what the packers came and picked up from our home.

In the lead-up to our packout last week, Mercedes was definitely a bit unnerved because she thought we would be personally packing all of our belongings with the packers just moving it. Again, as a veteran of such packouts, I know better and she found this out when they came and did the pre-packout survey. To make things easier for the packers, we separated everything into 3 categories: UAB, HHE, and not going. The packers were very good for the most part. They knocked out the UAB stuff first…all 594 pounds of it off a 600-pound limit. It took about 3 ½ hours…far longer than I ever expected. That spoke a lot about what Mercedes and Ashton need immediately in Bogotá because I’ve never used UAB in my previous moves. The HHE stuff took 5 hours but the movers were very diligent in getting everything packed and crated. By dinner time, the entire house was a shell of itself and all of our stuff was making its voyage to Colombia, where I hope to see it at some point in early-to-mid August.

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