A Texas-based soldier said he moved out of his apartment near post and sent his car and belongings out-of-state, where his wife lives with their two children, in anticipation of a deployment.
“I moved out of the cheap apartment and onto a friend’s couch, with only two bags of uniforms and a few pairs of civilian clothes in preparation for my flight,” scheduled for last Friday, he said in an email to Military Times.
But then the stop-movement order came down, canceling the deployment and preventing him from traveling out of state to get his car and belongings.
“I am still expected to make it to work and staff duty, so I’ve been walking and biking an hour both ways,” he said. “I also had to re-sign my apartment lease, and rent has increased.”
Though there is some financial relief available for troops, it does not necessarily cover the two households he has to maintain.
“Most soldiers drink when they get to this level of helplessness, but I can’t even afford alcohol right now,” he said.
On even the best day, top-down guidance from the Pentagon can be complicated to implement and confusing to troops at the small-unit level.
But in the midst of a deadly pandemic, the Pentagon’s last week’s stop-movement order was the culmination of a series of travel restrictions that have thrown service members and their families into turmoil. In many ways, it has flipped the table on daily life in the military ― and equally alarming to some troops, not affected daily operations as much as some feel it should.
What started as holds on permanent change-of-station moves and temporary duty travel earlier this month evolved into a near-total ban on any travel, including delayed and extended deployments. Caught in the middle are thousands of troops and family members whose lives are already complicated by military service.
“We are committed to taking every precaution to ensure the health and wellbeing of our people,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper wrote in a Friday memo to the force. “That is why we have imposed restrictions on all domestic and international travel. We understand the impact of delaying PCS moves, modifying training exercises, and temporarily closing some installation services. These decisions are necessary to mitigate risk to you and your families, while we work to ease the burden on the force as much as possible.”
For some, that meant troops trapped abroad, in Europe or South Korea or in far-flung parts of the U.S., after packing up their households and sending their families on to new stateside duty stations.