“we’re going to japan”

everything changes the moment those words come out of your husband’s mouth. getting orders overseas is very exciting a TON of paperwork!

throughout this blog i’m going to provide useful tips that worked for us. i hope these are helpful to you. 

this process will be frustrating & at times you will wish you had more, or complete control. it will be much easier if you accept this now. i’m type A, organized, & like, well need prefer to be in control of situations. this process hasn’t changed who i am but it has taught me to be more flexible. my husband would completely disagree with me.

if you’re new to the navy get familiar with the “hurry up & wait” mentality. it’s all rush, rush, rush & then nothing.

all of this paperwork is going to need a home or else there goes your counter space & who can live with all that clutter??

tip #1 buy a 3 ring binder & a few packs sheet protectors. don’t wimp out & buy a 1 1/2 in binder thinking the 3 in. one is too big. in about 4-6 weeks you’ll be wishing you’d listened to me & bought the bigger one.

make sure the sheet protectors can handle heavy loads, as some paperwork might be about 10 pages thick. for longevity i got some heavy weight clear sheet protectors. while you’re at it make a nice cover for this binder since you’ll more than likely be lugging it around for the next 4 months.

the approval paperwork consists of medical screening for both the service member & all dependents.

tip #2 as SOON as you find out about overseas orders {before the medical screening} start getting all of your medical records for yourself & your children. keep in mind doctors offices have different policies when requesting records & this can include turn around time & cost. some offices might be able to copy them in a day or you might have to wait a week.

some of our records were free of charge, others we had to pay the equivalent of 2 movie tickets & #1 combo, the large bucket of buttery popcorn & a humongo drink you never get a refill on since you don’t want to miss the movie {we couldn’t afford the box of junior mints for $4.50} sadly you can’t get around copying fees, so suck it up & put your big girl panties on.

when you find yourself in a bind, which you will & you just can’t tolerate “Betsy” the receptionist who must handle your request use this line that worked like a charm for me, several times!

“My husband is in the Navy & we’re going to Japan. In order to complete our medical screening I need my complete record for our appointment on Monday. I realize you have other requests that might be ahead of me but I can’t let this delay our screening.”

that statement was said on a friday morning, so make sure to alter your day depending on when you call. that particular “betsy” at my ent office was complaining about being short staffed, people needing to fill in & how she wasn’t going to be able to accomplish copying my records because her panty hose probably just broke.

make sure to get the name of the person who took your request & a copy of any releases you fill out. your brain will be fried as you will have to do this several times, make sure to write down the estimated pick up date, contact name & phone number so you have it all in one place.

you don’t want NOT having medical records to hold up your overseas medical screening process.

there is paperwork that you will need both your civilian doctor & dentist to sign {if you were Tricare standard, like myself}. however, the Navy doctor that signs your approval will go over this again so it is quite redundant. get used to this.

when we did our paperwork our kids had yet to see a dentist as our son was 29 months & our daughter was 17 months. i quickly scheduled them appointments for evaluations {it’s just counting teeth at his age & reinforcing brushing habits with parents} & brought in the necessary paperwork. their dental forms were signed off & everything was a go. yes even little kids need dental clearance.

medical screening is a 2 part process. 1st part is paperwork, 2nd part is when you’ll meet the doctor. my kids & i did not have a physical exam with the reviewing doctor. i’ve heard from a marine wife friend that they did have an exam with the doctor so check & see what you can expect.

the 1st part ensures that your immunizations are up to date & that you {the spouse} are up to date on your female wellness exam & that your dental class is either 1 or 2, etc. depending on how your base schedules overseas screening appointments you might get one that day, but chances are there will be a wait. we were scheduled as a family all on the same day, with a week wait.

after of our screening was completed i was informed by the doctor that my husband could’ve handled our approval screening so we didn’t need to be present. my husband doesn’t know my kids or my medical history like assassin’s creed & since we didn’t have a babysitter we had no choice but to bring the two littlest of circus with us.

tip #3 get a backpack for all of your medical records/paperwork. the less you have to hand carry the easier it’ll be. when you arrive in japan you’ll need all of this paperwork. you CAN NOT risk loosing any of this. this is your life summed up in a 24 lb backpack.

we used our backpack as one of our carry on’s on the flight & it also held my laptop & electronic devices/cords.

when you come in for your medical appointment with the doctor you will need to bring all of your records including your husband’s service record & his most recent PFA results.

you will be seated in the doctors office in very uncomfortable metal frame, black wool seat cushion, circa 1987 office type chairs while the doctor sits at a desk in front of you to review all of your records, asking questions, scribbling notes, all while making you sweat.

as hard as it will be just relax. it will be ok. i know, i know, much easier said than done. so cliche.

the doctor probably will start with your husband’s record & verify all of his medical history, but if you’re like me, your husband will be driving back to his command to print out the results of his last PFA as the friendly people in the office informed to tell him this in advance. which means you’ll be left alone with the doctor, a backpack full of records & 2 wiggly toddlers who can’t understand why they can’t touch & play with the 10 long line row of stamps on the doctors desk. forget the fact that you brought an arsenal of never before seen toys just for this purpose.

temper tantrum on the floor? sign my son up!

somewhere at this point when the doctor had his back turned to me, with sweat dripping of my face & while holding a fussy little girl i peered over the stamps, hoping to find a “DENIED” stamp that i just might be able to grab & hide for the length of our appointment.

the sound of “your son must sit in the chair & not touch the stamps on my desk” just filled my body with fear. was he talking to me or my son?

the doctor began with my daughters record & after reviewing her medical history by asking me questions & making notes that everything was normal she got the stamp of approval that she was fit for japan. then it was my son’s & husband’s time to get their approval stamps.  

yeah that same husband that left me with 2 toddlers. i sure do love him.

i was last.


after many tears & sleepless nights over this issue, known as a thyroid condition, which is controlled through medication that is available over here, we knew this might be a deal breaker. however it had to be disclosed or else you’ll end up wishing you had mentioned it when you shoud’ve. lying is not tolerable.

i’d either get approved or denied.

service member & 2 kids approved. wife?? we’re not sure. 

what brought on the tears was the uncertainty if i was denied.

we didn’t know if my husband would have to go unaccompanied for 2 years, as opposed to an accompanied tour of 3 years or if his detailer would cut him new orders.

the thought of our family potentially being apart for so long was unbearable, especially since my husband has already missed so much, including the birth of both of our kids.

if you’re in this situation, as hard as it is, stay positive. i’ve been there & know that fear you feel but just take it one day at a time. having someone to talk to, besides your husband is also a huge outlet.

had his orders been re-written they might have been bottom of the barrel where he might not enjoy his job. there’s always a catch.

to get approved your paperwork needs to be sent to the medical review board here in japan for them to determine if they have the resources to treat you. keep in mind this is because NAF Atsugi DOES NOT have a hospital or speciality doctors, NAF Atsugi is a health clinic. Meaning general care.

there isn’t allergy testing, cardio, endo, dermatology, ent, general surgery, internal medicine, ob, ortho, ophthalmology, etc at this base. they don’t even have a pediatrician, just a general practitioner & PAs.

so if your kid breaks a leg & needs surgery ortho chances are they’ll take you to the hospital @ Yokosuka {pronounced Yo-ku-ska} which is about an hour-90 min depending on traffic.

pregnancy: low risk pregnancies are followed by the doctors here at, but high risk pregnancies are followed by the medical team at Yokosuka.

vision/optometry: you can get eye exams & prescription glasses here {finally something} but contacts are limited. if you wear contacts bring your current box {even if empty} to your appointment with you.

dental: because we all LOVE going to the dentist right?? my advice, even though i’ve yet to see dental here, brush, floss & use that fluoride rinse.

 apparently they schedule annual cleanings rather than the bi-annual you’re familiar with in the US.

 “how do you expect me to keep my chompers clean?” was what came out of my mouth..

yeah i have a minor serious problem in learning when to keep my mouth shut.

tip #4 schedule your last dental cleaning to be a few weeks before you leave for Japan. that is unless you want to see navy dental shortly after you arrive.  

braces, crowns & bridges are very extremely limited {straight wording from the dental dept.}. braces are available at camp zama, which is the army base about 10 minutes away. i’m not sure how one sets up an appointment at zama. but i’m sure i’ll find out.  

so if your kid breaks a leg & needs to see ortho chances are they’ll take you to the hospital @ Yokosuka {pronounced Yo-ku-ska} which is about an hour-90 min depending on traffic.

so the doctor reviewed my paperwork & there was the red flag.

my thyroid.

he said he couldn’t sign off on my paperwork as the medical board in japan would need to decide on my approval.

so off the paperwork went & then we waited.

we went on leave to visit family & tried our best to have a good time while constantly checking our phones & email hoping for some news.

that’s when you realize you need to ask more than 1 person to verify what you’re being told. we were misinformed of the wait time. first is was a week. then it was 10 working days. then it was 2 weeks. then it was 10 working days. gracious! get your facts straight!!

chances are you’ll have to wait 10 business days for an answer before the base medical that sent your information can send in a second request for an answer. in july, japan was 13 hours ahead of the east coast.

while on leave we talked with the person handling my paperwork & found out we wouldn’t be getting word till we got back from leave {as our waiting period for them to review the records hadn’t passed yet}. while it wasn’t the relief we needed we were able to enjoy the last few days with friends & family.

a few days after returning home i got a phone call early one morning from base medical.

tip #5  save the base medical phone number as a contact in your phone so you’ll know when they call.  

i recall jumping in bed & showing my still sleeping husband the phone & grabbing his hand for moral support before answering the phone. i hadn’t been so anxious for a phone call since i started dating! even that didn’t compare to this.

my paperwork had come back & i’d been approved!!!

i had to wait for the dr at base to sign off on my paperwork & then i could come pick it up. generally they won’t call you until you can come pick it up which is after the dr has signed it, but if you ask them to call you as soon as they get word they will. you just need to ask. make your requests known.

i was thrilled, such a huge weight off my shoulders. our shoulders.

we had told our closest family of our possible move to japan, but now we could confirm it.

we were over the biggest hurdle but now have more paperwork to complete.

here’s hoping i don’t need a rolling cart for all of this paperwork.


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