“If a man who cannot count finds a four-leaf clover, is he entitled to happiness?” ~Stanislaw Jerzy
“Entitlement is the opposite of enchantment.” ~Guy Kawasaki
Shouldn’t You Know Where Your Car is Stored??
Well, I can count, and I am completely disenchanted with the Navy…so what does that say about my entitlement to be happy? Let’s talk about POV. And that means, oddly enough, both my Point of View AND Privately Owned Vehicle, the euphemism that the military uses to refer to your cars.
But maybe not RVs or wheeled campers.
And certainly not motorcycles or mopeds.
So, we are moving to Okinawa. There are very clear restrictions on bringing POVs (vehicles) to the island, specifically those built after some year in the early 1970s…the actual year escapes me…but is rather unimportant. The specific restriction is that we can’t bring our western cars to eastern Japan. The rules and regulations governing what a service member’s entitlements are in relation to vehicles in such a situation are equally as clear: we, as a married couple with no children, are entitled to store a POV at government expense.
Now, as you may recall from my previous entries, I’ve done this move not once, but twice before. Oh, and both times, I’ve stored at least one car (one move I stored twice), so you would figure that I know this drill.
You – and I – figured wrong!
Jody and I own three cars and a motorcycle. Yes, that’s a lot of wheels for a couple, but the Harley is just for fun and to drive fast and take chances (a bike should never be a primary mode of transport), and Jody likes to have both a car and truck, you know, for those year-long home-improvement projects that requires multiples trips to Lowes and Home Deport each and every week. Renovating all the bathrooms in our home just before leaving for Japan for 3 years will be the subject of another blog, however (wink).
What we really want to do is to dispose of the cars – by selling two (to create the cash for buying two cars and a bike in Okinawa), transferring one to my son (his young family is in dire need of a more reliable vehicle), and storing the motorcycle. Remember, we are entitled to store a POV….
But not a bike. Or moped, if you prefer the European-sheik Vespa/scooter mode of travel. You see, after weeks of back-and-forth emails and phone calls with at least four different people in the Navy’s “Personal Property” chain of command, it has been proclaimed by a royal “they” that, for the Navy and Marine Corps, such two-wheeled vehicles are “…treated as HouseHold Goods (HHG).” This means that such vehicles are, for all purposes, treated the same way that your living room couch or toaster or picture frames are treated. They are thrown into a non-climate controlled warehouse and forgotten. Even though the Defense Travel Regulations (DTR) clearly state that a member is entitled to store a vehicle “with two wheels” in lieu of a POV with four wheels when there is an entitlement to store a vehicle at government expense. It seems, someway, somehow, the Navy/Marine Corps gang has decided that there’s “no motorcycle” in “team,” and has restricted POV storage entitlements for some unknown reason through a publication labeled no more than “NAVSUP.” More on that later.
Okay, at least I have an answer. But how to work an end-run around such nonsensical regulations? You see, if I’ve learned anything after spending 20 years in the Navy, it’s there’s always a way, or that anything (and everything) is “waiverable” as long as you can find the right person with the right authority who remains somewhat enchanted with remaining part of the human race and treating the military servicemembers who are asked to already sacrifice so much with sound reason and some measure of respect. An unlikely proposition I must say.
So, I contact the company I stored vehicles with before during my previous overseas assignments. They do take care of motorcycles, but charge the same they would for a car, which happens to be exactly what the government will reimburse, which is $222/month! Businesses aren’t stupid; I would do and charge exactly the same thing. This company, (ADKOS – look’em up online), owned and operated by retired and ex-military, caters to vehicle storage for the military. They have sites all over the country, and located a site with qualified and experienced bikers who can care for my bike while in storage (starting, riding, rotating wheels, keeping the battery charged). Long story short, after explaining my sad, disenchanted story, and after reducing their price for the bike to $160/month(which I am still not paying out-of-pocket), the retired Navy commander running the site in Montgomery, Alabama, made me a deal that as long as I stored a car with him (at the going rate), he would take care of the bike on the side.
Done deal, yes?
Oh hell no.
Seems even though the regulations again state that we, since we are entitled to vehicle storage, are also allowed to self-procure commercial storage, the local Personal Property office claimed (initially) that we could only use the government’s contracted storage system…which will not accept a motorcycle…. You see, the government has their own vehicle storage contract, but anything the government can do, private business can do better. These VPC’s as they are called collect your vehicle at like seven different locations across the nation. So, for starters you may have to drive a really long way to use one…. Worse, they then sub-contract our storage of your vehicle, which literally – and get this – may be anywhere in the country!! So, there is yet another contract for transporting the vehicles, and even another subcontract for warehouse space for the vehicles, since the company responsible for the storage leases storage space. I dare anyone to explain to me how that’s cost-effective! Further, there are so many additional middlemen in the chain, and so many more chances for damage to vehicles that there is no-doubt increased claims against the government for damage and failures in providing quality service. With a self-procured company, you can visit the site, meet the people who will take care of your vehicles, and avoid additional risk from transportation and uncaring and non-value-added middlemen. This whole government vehicle storage program is in desperate need of Lean Sigma Six initiatives…
Not only that, Personal Property claimed that we are only allowed to use the “Vehicle Processing Center” in New Orleans…when we wanted to use Atlanta if we were going to be forced into this option. There are rumors of kick-backs from the various VPCs to specific personal property offices for directing vehicle traffic, but I won’t pursue such hearsay here. However, I don’t take “no” that easily.
After numerous other phone calls and emails to people in Pensacola, Panama City and Jacksonville, and even talking to the Commanding Officer of personal property in Jacksonville, Florida, I finally am referred to someone that agrees that we are “allowed” to self-procure storage. But of course no one really seems to know the process….
We can’t be the first people to do this, right??
I’m still slightly worried that we’ll be gone and in Japan, I’ll have a car and bike in storage, and the Navy is going to reject our entitlement because of some SNAFU in paper or what seems to be multiple interpretations of governing instruction. Fingers crossed and breath held.
Now, let’s take a journey down a logic by-way. Two or four-wheeled, doesn’t matter to me – whatever moves you. The central question I have is this: why does the Navy care about what type of vehicle I intend to store? If I have an entitlement to store a vehicle, and storing that vehicle results in no-cost difference (and maybe even lower cost), what does it matter to Uncle Sam? In my particular case, it is the exact same cost to the government whether I store a car and bike, or just my bike. Surely Uncle Sam is a closet-biker; it’s simply too American to think differently.
There is not an increase in paperwork. There is no additional staffing that is needed, no hidden costs, no supplementary per diem or travel expense to worry about. It is, as politicians and policy-makers like to say, “transparent.” But we know that many policy makers are at least color blind, and most simply see with eyes-wide-shut. All that results from this business transaction with the Navy is a HUGE amount of frustration on our part, increased workload with the Navy as we chase rabbits down through a series of Wonderlands of rules and regulations, and ultimately, a large degree of disenchantment with the service. Businesses realize that such chasms of loyalty are tough to put a price on and are to be avoided at almost all costs; government often fail because it/they never apply rational, logical business sense to completely analogous business transaction situations…. And don’t get me started on the personnel they hire to front the customer.
Occam’s Razor would conclude these parting thoughts. First, that one of the modern great evils to the Navy is owning and operating motorcycles, and second, that people are really not their most precious resource. It is, in the end, their dollars that are most precious.
I am more disenchanted with the Navy than ever, but my own POV remains bound in a complete refusal to allow any type of flavor of POV – car, bike, unconstructive, reticent, or other – to taint my search for that four-leaf clover.
One assuredly is waiting for me across the pond in Okinawa.