Military families in the midst of moving continue to suffer as shipping disruptions leave them without their household goods for extended periods of time after they’ve arrived at their new duty stations.
One Army wife, Valerie McNulty, deployed a brilliant solution to help track down her family’s household goods as they made a permanent change of station move from Fort Carson, Colorado, to Fort Drum, New York. Concerned about lost or delayed items, McNulty attached an Apple AirTag to one of the boxes prior to the move.
“You hear so many horror stories when it comes to PCSing,” she told Military Times. “With those stories in mind, and having read about people putting AirTags with some of their HHG, I decided it would be worth testing the theory.”
She attached the device — a small Bluetooth tracker you can locate from another Apple device like an iPhone, iPad or a MacBook — to a box of her son’s toys.
This is the couple’s fourth PCS, two full do it yourself (DITY) moves and two partial.
“Our prior partial PCS, we were very fortunate,” McNulty said. “All of our items were delivered when they were supposed to be and very few household goods were broken. This PCS was a very different story.”
After surpassing the expected delivery date on Jan. 7, McNulty reached out to the move coordinator, Suddath, and learned that the HHG was to be delivered the next day. When she turned on the AirTag, she was able to confirm that her family’s belongings were a mere four hours away in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
So, McNulty said was surprised a short time later when she received a call from the driver who told her he had just picked up the HHG in Colorado and a next-day delivery was impossible. When she confronted the unnamed driver about being just a few hours away, he hung up on her, she said.
“I made him aware that I knew he was only four hours away from us,” she noted. “He called back several minutes later trying to bargain with me to see if he could deliver it on Sunday or Monday.”
Afterwards, McNulty attempted to raise alarms with Suddath, but the company was reportedly unaware of the driver’s location.
“At this point, I had more information than they did all because of my AirTag,” she said.
The driver called back, she said, and claimed he was at his girlfriend’s house. He told McNulty, “I didn’t know you could track me, I’m going to go see my lady. I can still have your HHG to you by tomorrow, but I will have to hustle.”
She suggested he do that, and continued tracking his whereabouts until their household goods arrived. McNulty shared her experience to Facebook, and the post went viral, amassing more than 4,200 shares.
“You read so many stories about lost or missing HHG and this is part of the problem,” McNulty said. “Instead of waiting for someone to change something I took matters into my own hands. I hope the word spreads, I hope other military families hear our story and they, too, add AirTags to their HHG.’
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digital Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.