When the dates for AT are announced, most people are in the thought process of “ehhh, that’s along way away and I don’t have to worry about it now”. While most ATs are planned out well ahead of time, some folks wait to the last minute to plan for taking care of the home front while they are away. As you go through the list of all the moving parts in your household, it soon becomes apparent that someone or something has to keep the wheels running. The house or apartment is still going to be there when you are gone, and you have to prepare for your departure and absence for several weeks.
Here are seven things to do before you head out:
UPDATE YOUR ACCOUNTS
Automatic bill pay is now a hot topic and a frequently used tool for a lot of folks these days. This “should” take away the angst of an accidental late fee or cancellation of services for a bill not being paid, but….As the online thieves are constantly hacking credit card numbers and bank accounts, numbers and expiration dates change more frequently now than ever. The automatic bill pay may not go through if you have had a recent change to your card or bank account. Check to see if there are any upcoming bills to be paid before you leave that may not get through.
Who will check your mail while you are gone? If you live alone, the mail can pile up or even worse, be stolen. The United States Postal Service has apps and a website that you can log onto where you can put a hold on your mail until you return. This is an easy and quick fix that will give you peace of mind for official mail. FEDEX and UPS also have alternatives when you are not home to get those packages that arrive when you are not home. And for those who still have a landline telephone, remember to forward your calls to your cell phone if you live alone. You can still keep in touch with those who want to contact you by forwarding those calls to your cell. While taking a call on the range is frowned on, an urgent message left on your cell phone from your civilian employer can help you avoid a cataclysm later on.
KEEPING UP APPEARANCES
The grass still needs water and grows while you are gone as well. If you live where there is a typically evil
home owner’s association, there will be that retiree that has nothing to do but check on the height of your grass and report you. Keep them frustrated and don’t give those old cranks anything to do by coordinating for someone to cut your grass when you are away. Same for the sprinklers. If the weather looks like it will be turning bitter cold while you are away, go ahead and have someone winterize the system. This will save a lot of problems later on when it warms back up. If you need someone to take out your garbage cans or bring them back to the house while you are gone, arrange that before you leave.
Now, take a minute to consider your family and how they will be when you are gone. If you have aging parents, make sure you have someone who will call or visit them to check and make sure they are ok. For those with a spouse and small children, leave important phone numbers and pin numbers for them in case they need them. Too often, someone goes away and something breaks in the house or apartment. Without knowing who to call, life gets real hard real quick. If you are a single parent, make sure you leave schedules and important medical information for your children with their caregiver.
Most folks have a “real” job, and that employment must be respected if you want to return from AT to a good situation. Be sure to notify your employer as early as possible about your AT dates, and be proactive with cross training anyone who may need to pick up the slack while you are gone. Bad news does not get any better with age, so tell the boss early on when you are going to be out— they will appreciate the heads-up and be better able to accommodate your absence.
Look at your physical health as well before you head out for AT. Do you need to get a prescription refilled? Where are those extra pair of glasses? How about any profiles that you may have and did you update your unit with your current physical or limitation? Keeping your medical fileu pdated will save allot of heartache later on.
UPDATE LEGAL DOCUMENTS
It’s a good idea to prepare for the unexpected. Having legal documents up-to-date is a good idea for anyone about to head out for AT. From wills to healthcare directives to a general or special power of attorney, make sure the documents you may need are ready to go. If you need help with this step, check with your commander for legal assistance options.
Two weeks is not a terribly long time, especially when compared to those year-long deployments we all know and love, but being away from home for any amount of time does take some planning. Most of us look forward to AT and getting to do our duty — we get to travel to different places and be around folks we like, doing things we love. Just don’t forget about those things that still need attention while you are gone. As one of my NCOs use to say, “Sometime you have to leave the ones you love and go home from AT.” A funny statement, but it is true in that you gotta go back to the real world sooner or later — just make sure your real world is taken care of for your return.
—COL (R) R. Brian Williams recently retired after 30 years with the Army, most of which was spent as a member of the Alabama National Guard, where he served as an M-Day Solider and as an AGR officer. He currently teaches with the distance learning program with the U.S. Army War College.