It’s hard to imagine, but it wasn’t that long ago that military families didn’t have the convenience of the internet to help them navigate the great unknowns of military life. Instead of emails, couples mailed letters and waited weeks for them to arrive. Texting was just a dream, FaceTime unheard of and the closest thing to a social network was an oft-outdated address book.
While it might be romantic to think of spouses pining for their other halves across the Pacific and checking mailboxes every day, it’s nearly unfathomable to think about moving to a new location without Google, Facebook and one of our very favorite PCS resources: MILLIE.
We sat down with Army wife and MILLIE’s chief operating officer, Kellie Artis, to talk about how MILLIE is changing the PCS landscape.
How does MILLIE work?
From the day the detailer starts throwing out locations to the day you close on your house at your new duty station, MILLIE guides you through each step.
“Let’s just for the sake of a timeline, assume you’re PCSing in the summer, as that’s when most military families move,” Artis explained. “So, in January or February you get an idea of where you’re heading. You can come to our website and find your duty station in our list. We have base installation guides for over 70 installations across all branches including the Coast Guard. There you’ll find background information on the climate, culture, commute and big things you need to know. For example, in our DC guide we talk about traffic. We don’t want you to experience culture shock after you get to a location. We want you to be able to think through different things and have realistic expectations of things like neighborhoods and housing price points and spouse employment as you’re making the decision about where you want to live.”
And the installation guides are structured similarly. Artis shared, “We started to see patterns in communities. We had focus groups of military spouses at different locations and we got really good at asking the right questions. For example, we’d ask, ‘Where are the cute, charming houses with no garages and peeling walls?’ and that’s how we find our historic districts or older homes.’ The base guides are codified in a manner that every military spouse craves: simple, organized and with enough details that you can formulate ideas, but not so many details that you’re overwhelmed.
So you’ve read the base and installation guides, now what? You need a place to live. While Artis recommends a house hunting trip, she recognizes that with the burden of childcare, a hotel stay, airfare, meals and even just time, it can quickly become prohibitive.
MILLIE has an answer for that. If you’re looking to buy, you can partner with an AgentHero: a hand-picked real estate agent that is either a veteran or a spouse, who understands firsthand what military families need during a PCS. They get the timeline, the VA loan — all of it — because they’ve been there.
Boots on the ground
Not ready to buy and don’t want to rent sight unseen? Enter the scout program.
“They are your boots on the ground,” Artis said. “You can hire a military spouse to go do things for you for a much smaller fee than you’d pay to take a trip.” For example, your Scout can do a FaceTime walk through of your house.
Artis elaborated, “Sometimes listing photos don’t do a property justice. You want to see the inside of a closet, or make sure it doesn’t smell.” A scout can be your eyes, ears (and nose!) in a property without you having to get on a plane.
The scout program is how Artis found MILLIE in the first place.
“I had a rental property in North Carolina and was living in Virginia,” she recalled, “and I had to let a painter in. I had just fired our property manager because I thought I could do it myself, but I had to drive from Virginia to Fayetteville just to open a door.” She had plenty of friends in North Carolina but didn’t want to inconvenience them. Ultimately, she wanted to be able to hire one of them for an hour.
Artis shared her situation on social media and someone forwarded her a job application as a scout. The more research she did on the company, the more she wanted to work for MILLIE. Although she swears her only “expertise” was posting on her own Facebook page, Artis applied to be their social media manager.
“Fortunately, they hired somebody else,” she laughed, “but in my application I wrote, ‘Hire me. I want in. I believe in your mission and I’ll learn any job you give me.’” And so they did. Artis was hired to build content, which she’s done through the base and installation guides and her contributions to the MILLIE Journal.
As the company grew, so too did her role. Artis now serves as the chief operating officer, and she is just as excited about the company today as she was in that initial application.
“I wake up every day knowing that we are making a difference in military families’ lives. When you work alongside such passionate veterans and spouses with common goals, it doesn’t feel like work,” she said. “It feels like family. We are passionate about easing the pain of PCS.”