How to Navigate a New Duty Station

It’s always good to learn your new duty station -whether you live on the installation or not. Today I want to talk about how to learn the new installation. My suggestions are aimed at families getting ready to move, but are just as valuable for newcomers who want to be better prepared.

Luckily this post isn’t just for military installations, this general guide can easily apply to civilian moves – especially those work-related moves. This is also useful for those who often travel to the same city for work (or fun). In fact, this is easier for civilians because reliable maps are much easier to obtain…thanks Google!

The point here is that it’s nice to arrive and not be helpless.
I’m here to give you the tools to be comfortable and productive as soon as possible. 

Getting ready to PCS, or are you a new arrival? Here is my advice to you, so you can be comfortable and productive as soon as possible. Good luck! #PCSing #askingforafriend #milspouse

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links that help support, you understand.

Let’s say that your family just got orders and are moving in four months. You have a lot to do, my friend. Whatever is most important to you will come forward real fast, but don’t forget to look ahead once in a while. I prefer to look ahead after a productive day with a (pint) glass of wine. My first casual order of business is to find maps, and get a general lay of the land.

Why are maps important? Because knowledge is power. Most installations keep the Commissary next to the Exchange, and the gas station is nearby. How will you get there from the front gate? Side gate? School? Spouse’s squadron? Also, a thoughtful map studying day will acquaint you with the immediate amenities, such as libraries, parks, and walking trails. Take the time now to relax and look forward to using those benefits and enjoying them.

Where do you find the maps? Look first on your new installation’s .mil website, search for Newcomers Info, or Welcome topics. Some are robust, others are not.
My #1 map resource is AAFES. Their facility maps show all of the AAFES buildings, plus other major buildings, street names, and gates. Example, here’s the facility map for Maxwell AFB, it’s clear and concise. Bookmark or screen capture these maps. Email them to yourself and flag it. Your future self will thank you for this when you’re in a hurry to get on base but the main gate is backed up for a mile and you need an alternate route. You can even print them and place them in a PCS Binder if you like.

☐ Find maps

☐ Save maps for reference

Getting ready to PCS, or are you a new arrival? Here is my advice to you, so you can be comfortable and productive as soon as possible. Good luck! #PCSing #askingforafriend #milspouseMy second casual order of business is to start using an app called Waze. This is a crowd sourced GPS application, and I know both Apple and Android users. It’s easy to use and is excellent when there’s a good community of Wazers around you. Example: Mister Jupiter and I were on our way home, and Waze suddenly told us to exit the highway. We shrugged our shoulders and exited, and drove on the access roads. Turns out that the highway was an ice rink and closed ahead. Wazers that were stuck on the highway notified the app, so in real time it saved us from the icy gridlock. We seriously saved about two hours by exiting when it told us. That was in 2015, we’ve been using it ever since.

Get familiar with the interface now, and use it to help you navigate your new installation! Husband and I both use simple magnetic mounts in our cars and we both love them. Our cars both have vent mounts, so it doesn’t matter which phone is using Waze -it’s highly visible to the driver.

Install Waze

☐ Buy these magnetic phone mounts (one per car)

My third casual order of business is to relax when you get there. This may be obvious, but it may not. You should be relaxed and open to living in your new location. When spouses hate their new post it shows and stresses out the whole family. Let’s say that you just left the BEST BASE EVER, and you’re highly disappointed now. It’s okay to be a little sad about leaving, but it’s better to look forward and make your life happy. It’s like that saying “bloom where you’re planted” because we can’t choose where to be, but we can choose to thrive.

The point here is to do things that make you happy. If you don’t have an immediate recipe for happiness, make one. You can make a new ritual of taking the kids to the library on Tuesdays, or volunteering once a week. Maybe you live off of the installation and have the time to have lunch in new restaurants searching for the perfect dinner date or the best nacho plate. The world really is yours.

☐ Choose to be happy

☐ Enjoy the little things

What unique struggles have you faced when getting ready for a new duty station?

I am writing a PCS series and if this article was meaningful for you, take a moment to see the other posts in the series:

If you’re interested in more in depth information on a PCS topic, please email me. I have several posts drafted and if you need one that I am working on I will happily bring it forward. Just email me at

Curious to see what PCS topic I write about next? Sign up for my email list. No spam, just a quick update once or twice each month.


Author: Tracey

Tracey has a bachelor’s degree in Technical Writing from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She has one amazing husband and two fluffy beasts.

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