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Making Sense Of Your Military Orders
Interpreting your military orders can be a daunting task, even for officers who have been in the military for several years. While the intent of the orders is to give you instructions for getting to your next assignment (i.e. the Officer Basic Course), they are written in a very cryptic manor which adds to the confusion. Much of the information that is provided in your orders is used to convey essential information to either the Human Resources Department, or the Finance Office, and is not meant to make sense to you. The key is to be able to sort through the information and decide what information is important, and what information you can safely ignore. This section is dedicated to helping you make those decisions.
This section will address two types of orders: Temporary Duty (TDY) orders (i.e. the orders bringing you to the Officer Basic Course at Fort Sam Houston), and Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders (i.e. the orders instructing you to report to your first active duty assignment). Your orders may differ from the orders presented in this section, but most of the key information will be the same. If you have questions, please visit the following website (https://www.hrc.army.mil/site/index.asp) to obtain the contact information for the Human Resources Command Veterinary Branch Chief or Deputy Chief. They are responsible for producing your orders, and they will be able to answer questions or make appropriate changes to your orders.
In the following sections, you will see an example set of TDY orders directing a recent veterinary school graduate to attend the Officer Basic Course (OBC) at Fort Sam Houston. Following the completion of OBC, you will see PCS orders directing CPT Joe Snuffy to Fort Eustis for his first active duty assignment. On each of these orders, you will see several sections underlined in blue. These highlighted sections represent key points of information that you need to pay particular close attention to when reading your orders. Click on the highlighted section to see a translation of the line into "civilian-speak." The remainder of the non-highlighted sections are still important to read, but may have been written for administrative purposes.
NOTE: You need to carefully read the TDY and the PCS orders together. Often times, the TDY orders will contain a statement like "IF ORDERS AUTHORIZE..." In this case, the TDY orders are making reference to the PCS orders. If you find that your TDY and PCS orders conflict with each other, contact the Human Resources Command for clarification.
Address Line– Be certain that your name, current address, Social Security Number (SSN), rank and branch (i.e. CPT = Captain, VC = Veterinary Corps) are all correct. The Finance Office will use this address as the starting point when they calculate the distance that you traveled from your home to Fort Sam Houston ( San Antonio, TX), and therefore the amount of money to reimburse you for your travel expenses. It is also important to make sure that this information is correct because this is the information that they have in your permanent record. For example, if your social security number is incorrect on your orders, it will likely be incorrect on all future military documents. If you need to make corrections, please contact the Human Resources Command.
Temporary Duty (TDY)– When you are asked to submit a copy of your TDY orders, this is the line that indicates that these are TDY orders and not Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders.
Officer Basic Course (OBC) Location– This line indicates your destination. As of the date of this publication (December 2005), the Officer Basic Course (OBC) for Veterinary Corps Officers is conducted at Fort Sam Houston ( San Antonio, TX). Your orders should read the same way as this example (be aware, the unit CO A, 187 th MEDICAL BN may change, however the OBC course should still be conducted at Fort Sam Houston). If your orders show something different, please contact the Human Resources Command. If they have indeed changed the location of OBC, please notify the webmaster for this site.
Temporary Duty (TDY) Purpose– This line tells you why you are reporting to Fort Sam Houston. The codes will be different on your orders (i.e. Class #401, School Code 081, etc.), however somewhere in the line it should indicate that you are attending the Officer Basic Course (OBC). If it does not, you need to contact Human Resources Command (see website link at the beginning) as soon as possible. Note: classes ending in 01 (i.e. Class #4 01) represents the Prep Course. The Prep Course is an additional period of training (currently 1 week) devoted towards introducing you to the basics of military knowledge (i.e. how to wear the uniform, when to salute, how to read a map, how to fire a rifle, etc.). It is meant for Soldiers who have never had previous military training. If you are prior service (including ROTC students), you should contact the Human Resources Command and request to be placed in the All Corps Course (denoted by a class number ending in 02 [i.e. Class #4 02]). Everyone eventually ends up in the All Corps class, however the Prep Course students arrive one week earlier to start training. Following the introductory week, the Prep Course students are combined with the All Corps students.
Training Period– This line tells you the duration of the Officer Basic Course (OBC), but more importantly it provides the report date/time. NLT 1300 HOURS 26 JUN 05 = No Later Than (NLT) 1:00 P.M. on June 26, 2005. This line is also particularly useful when you first contact your District Veterinary Commander (DVC), as they will most likely ask you when you will finish OBC. Look at this line and you will be able to provide them with an answer (20 OCT 05 according to the example orders).
Will Proceed Date– The Army has determined how many miles you can drive safely each day (currently it stands at 400 miles the first day, and 350 miles each subsequent day of travel). Based on this formula, and the distance from your house to Fort Sam Houston, they determine how many days it should take you to safely drive the entire distance. The “Will Proceed Date” represents the first date that you should begin driving towards Fort Sam Houston in order to safely arrive on your designated report date. You are allowed to start traveling before, or after this date if you choose to do so. This date has more significance when you are moving from one active duty assignment to another, because this is the date that your boss is required to release you to start traveling to your next assignment. Coming straight out of veterinary school, this doesn’t really apply to you. However, you do need to make sure that you are not still expected to be at school (i.e. make-up clinics, etc.) on or after the “Will Proceed Date.” If there is a time conflict, you need to contact the Human Resources Command and your start date for the Officer Basic Course (OBC) will likely be changed to accommodate your schedule.
Early Reporting– This refers to arriving at Fort Sam Houston before your scheduled report date, and making contact with the unit. The reason that “Early Reporting” is not authorized for the Officer Basic Course (OBC) is that they want all of the students to fill out the paperwork at one time, rather than having hundreds of students bombarding their office one at a time. You can arrive at Fort Sam Houston as early as you want, however the housing office will not assign you a room (if on-post billeting is available), and the government may expect you to pay for the additional lodging costs out of your pocket.
Permanent Change of Station (PCS) Orders– This line states that CPT Joe Snuffy will be stationed at Fort Eustis, as part of the Mid-Atlantic District Veterinary Command (DVC). It makes reference to the Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders, represented by “ORDERS A-05-590946.” The order reference code is located in the upper left hand corner of the orders. In our example TDY orders, the order reference code is “ORDERS A-05-5590945.” Your PCS orders should contain the order reference code that is specifically stated in the TDY orders. If they are different, you should contact the Human Resources Command to make sure they haven’t provided you with the wrong set of orders.
Excess Travel Time– This line tells you that if you report late to the Officer Basic Course (OBC), even if you have the Company Commander’s permission, they will remove that time from your available vacation time (aka leave) for the year. Note: If you report late to OBC, and you have not contacted the company and gotten their permission ahead of time, you will be considered Absent Without Leave (AWOL). AWOL soldiers may be prosecuted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), which means that they may penalize you with fines, refuse requests for leave over long holidays, force you to perform additional work after hours, etc. If there is a possibility that you will arrive late, call the company ahead of time.
Use of Government Facilities– This line simply states that while you are at the Officer Basic Course (OBC), the government will pay to house and feed you. If government housing is not available on post, they will pay for you to stay in a hotel off-post (their choice of hotels, not yours). If you are forced to live off-post, the government is required to provide transportation for you to get to/from post.
Taxi Authorization– This line states that you are authorized to take a taxi cab around post, back and forth to the hotel, to the store, etc. ONLY if the government does not provide some sort of means of transportation (i.e. shuttle bus). “IN/AROUND MILEAGE” refers to local travel, for example the distance traveled from the hotel to the classroom building and back qualifies as In/Around Mileage. You can only claim taxi cab expenses that are related to official business. Taking a cab down to the Riverwalk to go party on Friday night is not considered an official travel expense. Taking a cab from the Airport to Fort Sam Houston, in order to report for the Officer Basic Course (OBC) is an official travel expense, and thus could be claimed. In order to receive compensation for your travel expenses, you need to complete a travel log. Save all receipts for expenses that exceed $75. When you arrive at your permanent duty station, you will submit the travel log and all receipts as part of the travel voucher. After the expenses have been reviewed and approved, you will be repaid in a single lump sum.
Rental Car– Rental cars are not typically authorized for the Officer Basic Course (OBC) students, primarily due to the length of the course. It is highly recommended that you drive your privately owned vehicle (POV) to OBC.
Reporting In– When you arrive at Fort Sam Houston, you will travel directly to the housing office (currently Building 592). You will provide them with a copy of your orders, which gives them the authority to provide a room for you at the government’s expense. They will assign you a room in the Bachelor Officer Quarters (BOQs) if there is room available, or they will direct you to a designated hotel off-post. In addition, they should provide you with follow-up instructions as to where the company wants you to meet for the first day to begin in-processing.
Meals – This line states that the government will provide you with meals 7 days a week. Under the current training policy, Officer Basic Course (OBC) students are permitted to dine in the dining facility Monday-Friday, and they are expected to fend for themselves on the weekends and holidays. The government does provide you with per diem pay for all holidays and weekends (currently $41/day), however you won’t receive the per diem pay until you arrive at your permanent duty assignment and submit your travel voucher.
Taxi Expenses– This line states that you are allowed to claim maximum of $30/week in taxi cab expenses. NTE = Not To Exceed.
In/Around Mileage– This refers to the mileage that you accumulate on your privately owned vehicle (POV), as it relates to official travel. For example, driving 10 miles each way to get from the hotel to post for daily training is considered official in/around mileage. If you orders authorize in/around mileage, you can claim these miles on your travel voucher when you arrive at your permanent duty station. This line also indicates the maximum amount of mileage that the government will reimburse you for, if you are authorized to collect in/around mileage.
Family Members– This line states that you are not supposed to bring family members with you to the Officer Basic Course (OBC). Family members are not authorized to travel with you to OBC, and if they do travel with you, the government will not pay to house or feed them. Therefore, all expenses will be paid directly out of your pocket. Even if all other OBC students are being housed in a hotel off-post at the government’s expense, you will be expected to pay the entire cost of the hotel room if you bring your family. Part of the reason is that the government pays married couples (or single parents) a separation allowance to help compensate for the time that they forced you to be apart from your family. If the family accompanies you, and you’re receiving separation pay, then you are guilty of fraudulent collection of funds from the government, which is a crime punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
Lodging – If you plan to fly to Fort Sam Houston, rather than driving a privately owned vehicle (POV), this line states that you should call ahead to notify the lodging office so they can attempt to reserve a room for you (since you will be without a vehicle while you are at the Officer Basic Course). Even when they have the OBC students stay off-post in the hotels, the lodging office typically reserves several rooms for students who arrive without a POV. It’s less stressful for the student, and it’s much cheaper for the government to house you on-post. Rooms are very limited, even if you call ahead they may not have an available room on-post, and you may still have to take a taxi (or ride with a friend) to post every day.
Order Identification Code– This is a unique identifying code assigned to this individual set of orders by the Human Resources Command. The Temporary Duty (TDY) orders make reference to this code when they address your instructions after completing the Officer Basic Course (OBC). It is important to make sure that the Order Identification Code mentioned in your TDY orders matches the code found on your Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders. If they do not match up, it is possible that you have been provided with the wrong set of orders, and you should contact the Human Resources Command to resolve this issue.
Address Line- Be certain that your name, current address, Social Security Number (SSN), rank and branch (i.e. CPT = Captain, VC = Veterinary Corps) are all correct. The Finance Office will use this address as the starting point when they calculate the distance that you traveled from your home to Fort Sam Houston ( San Antonio, TX), and therefore the amount of money to reimburse you for your travel expenses. It is also important to make sure that this information is correct because this is the information that they have in your permanent record. For example, if your social security number is incorrect on your orders, it will likely be incorrect on all future military documents. If you need to make corrections, please contact the Human Resources Command.
Report To– This line tells you which District Veterinary Command (DVC), and installation you are ordered to report to. This does not represent the installation that you are assigned to (unless your next assignment is located on the same installation as the DVC, as is the case with Fort Eustis). In many cases, the District Commander has new officers report directly to the District Command office before they report in at their permanent assignment.
Report Date– This line tells you specifically when you need to report to your next assignment. Compare the report date to the end date for your Officer Basic Course (OBC). Make sure that these dates do not overlap, and make sure that you will have a sufficient amount of time to travel from Fort Sam Houston to your next assignment. According to the Army, you can safely drive 400 miles the first days, and 350 miles each subsequent day. Use this formula to calculate how many days it should take you to safely drive to your next assignment. Do you have at least this much time allotted in your orders? If there is a conflict with the times, contact the Human Resources Command. If you simply will not be able to report by the specified date due to a prior engagement (i.e. wedding), contact your District Veterinary Commander (DVC) to explain the situation. If they feel that the reason is justifiable, they may allow you to delay your report date. However, they will most likely require you to use your leave (i.e. vacation) time.
Assigned To– This line tells you which installation you will be working at. If you have been told that you are going to be assigned to a facility that is different than the one listed in your orders, you need to contact Human Resources Command as soon as possible to make sure that you haven’t been reassigned.
Active Duty Commitment– This line states how much time you have left to fulfill your active duty service obligation. If this time is different than the service obligation that you agreed to in your contract, you need to contact Human Resources Command to rectify the situation.
Security Clearance– This line tells you what type of security clearance is required for you to hold this assignment. You need to make sure that you have the security clearance that is listed, otherwise you may be scrambling around trying to get the approved security clearance, or you may have to be reassigned. If you do not have the security clearance that is required, you need to contact Human Resources Command immediately for further instructions. A security clearance takes quite a bit of time to obtain, and there is a lot of paper work involved. The sooner you realize the problem and report it, the easier your life will be.
Physical Examination– This line indicates that you may be required to report for a physical examination within the first week of arriving at your permanent duty station. Bring your Physical Training (PT) Uniform with you when you report to your first duty station. At a minimum, they will most likely measure your height and weight to see if you meet the standards. You also need to be in good physical condition when you report in, as some units may require you to take a physical fitness test, depending on how long it has been since your last record Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT).
Date of Rank– The date of rank refers to the date that you were initially commissioned as a Captain. In order to justify promoting you to the rank of Captain, without having served a single day in the military, the Army gives you 4 years of constructive credit. In this example, the Captain had accrued 4 years of service time while attending school. Students who enlisted in the Early Commissioning Program (ECP) or entered the military through the ROTC program are eligible to accumulate time in service while you attend school.
Professional Pay– As a veterinarian, you are entitled to additional professional pay. As of the date of this publication, it stands at $100/month, however it may increase with time. Regardless of the amount, you need to make sure that it appears somewhere in your orders. If there is no mention of additional veterinary pay in your orders, you will not receive it.
Household Goods – This line states that the government will pay to package and ship your household goods to your permanent duty station. It also states that your family is allowed to move with you to your next duty station. Certain assignments (i.e. Korea, Iraq, etc.) prohibit family members from accompanying you. Contact the Transportation Office at the nearest military installation to your house (obtain the phone number from your local health care recruiter). If you are a single officer, you should make arrangements to have your household goods shipped before you arrive for the Officer Basic Course (OBC). The Transportation Office will ship your household goods to your next duty station and place them into temporary storage (for up to 90 days), or long-term storage (for more than 90 days). Married officers can make arrangements to move household goods at any time, as long as your spouse is present to release the household goods to the movers. The government pays to have the movers come to your apartment/house and package all of your household goods, as well as move them to your next assignment, move them into your next apartment/house, and unpack them for you. NOTE: Before you turn over all of your worldly possessions to the movers, make sure that you document all of your high-dollar items (preferably with serial numbers and digital photos). The movers are required to provide you with an itemized list of the boxes, but they don’t document the content of the boxes. If someone decides to remove contents from some of your boxes (i.e. tools, CD’s, DVD’s, etc.), if you don’t have physical proof that you possessed it at one point in time, the government may not reimburse you for the stolen goods.
Moving In– When you arrive at your duty station, following the completion of the Officer Basic Course (OBC), your District Veterinary Commander (DVC) will provide you with a reasonable amount of time to find a new place to live. If you have intentions of living on post, it is highly recommended that you contact the housing office at that installation at least 3 months prior to arriving, as there is often a waiting list for junior officer housing on-post. If you plan to rent an apartment or house, the housing office at the installation has a realtor that will help you find a place to live. Once you have a place to live, contact the Transportation Office to make arrangements to have your housing goods taken out of storage and moved into your new place. Be aware that it may take a couple of weeks to find a date when they are available to move your household goods in, but you don’t have to live like a hobo in the meantime. Visit the Army Community Service (ACS – sometimes nicknamed the “Roadrunner”). They have a lending closet for soldiers and their families, where you can obtain dinnerware, pots, pans, sheets, fold-out beds, etc. The ACS has a lot of services to offer, but you have to seek them out. You can borrow the items until your household goods arrive, and then return the borrowed items in the condition that you received them, and there are no fees associated with this service. Once your household goods have been moved in, check all of your items carefully for damage. A digital camera will be your best friend in this situation. Document everything carefully, and have a witness confirm your findings (preferably the movers who delivered the damaged item). When dealing with the government, it’s always better to have too much proof than not enough. You will have a chance to submit a request for reimbursement for any damaged/missing items, as long as you can provide valid proof that the item was damaged in transit. The movers are supposed to fill out a form verifying that the item was damaged upon delivery, do NOT let them leave until you have visually inspected your items. Once the truck pulls away, if you find that something is broken but they haven’t verified it on the form, you may be accused of breaking the item afterwards and trying to rip-off the government.
Official Travel- If you are flying from your house to Fort Sam Houston, or Fort Sam Houston to your next assignment, you need to make official travel arrangements through the military Travel Office (i.e. Carlson Travelit). If you decide to use a commercial travel agent (i.e. Expedia, Orbitz, etc.), the government is not required to reimburse you for the cost of the flight. If you make arrangements through the Travel Office, you will be reimbursed for the cost of your flight.
Housing Office– This line is warning you not to go off on your own and buy a house without consulting the military Housing Office. Some installations require you to submit a statement of non-availability in order to live off-post. If you proceed with buying a house without consulting the Housing Office first, you may end up losing your Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH).
Privately Owned Vehicle (POV)– This line indicates if you are permitted to drive to your next duty assignment or not. Certain duty stations (i.e. Korea, Iraq, etc.) do not permit you to bring a privately owned vehicle (POV) with you. If your orders specifically state that you are not authorized travel by POV, but you decide to drive (or ship your vehicle to another country), you will be held personally liable for the costs associated. If you are authorized to take a POV with you overseas (i.e. Germany), the government will pay to have your vehicle shipped.
Early Reporting– This line indicates if you are allowed to arrive before the designated report date. For most assignments, you will be granted up to 10 days early reporting at your first duty station. Most District Veterinary Commanders (DVC) are anxious for you to arrive and get to work as soon as possible.
Height & Weight Standards– You are required to pass a record Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), and meet the height and weight standards before you are allowed to leave the Officer Basic Course (OBC). If you are unable to meet the physical standards, a comment will be entered into your permanent file saying something to the effect of “officer was unable to meet the minimum physical fitness/height and weight standards….” This will reflect negatively on you as an officer each time you request additional training (i.e. airborne school), promotion boards, etc.
Home of Record– The home of record refers to the city/state that you consider to be your permanent home (usually for tax purposes). Make sure that the correct city/state is listed, if not contact the Human Resources Command to have it changed.
Primary Area of Concentration (PAOC)– The PAOC for all veterinarians is 64A, unless you have an advanced degree (i.e. MPH, DACVIM, etc.). If your PAOC code is anything other than 64A, you need to contact the Human Resources Command to clarify. If they change the PAOC, please contact the webmaster for this website and request that they make a change to this document.
Basic Branch– This line should be “VC,” which stands for Veterinary Corps. If there is anything else listed, contact the Human Resources Command to clarify.
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