Sunday, January 27, 2013

What I have learned about getting things done on base

When one becomes involved with a military base, whether to work there, live there, or whatever, there are many official "chores," so to speak, that must be completed. These chores include getting one's ID card, receiving a background check if working there, etc.

What I have learned in the last month from completing these chores is this:

-it is generally not straightforward nor excessively easy to get many of them done;
-it is not uncommon to have a difficult time finding the correct office to visit, either because it's been moved, closed, or consolidated in one fashion or another;
-offices might be closed for US or local holidays;
-staff might not know the correct office to visit so you'll have to talk to multiple people/departments;
-you might be told different things by different staff and those things may be in conflict and have to explore all options to find out what is the correct way of accomplishing your chore.

Here are some hints for dealing with these problems:

-always call the office you want to visit before you go there to make sure that they're open/available to help you when you plan to be there and take note of their closures for lunch breaks;
-make sure that you are prepared and have all necessary documentation for what you are trying to accomplish; check both online and ask people working there when you call to check the hours (and if the two sources conflict, err on the side of caution and bring everything that both sources recommend);
-write down the dates, times, and names of the employee you talk with regarding your situation;
-don't be shy about POLITELY explaining to a staff member what you've heard from a conflicting source and quote it if it's official to work through the problem;
-approach the chores with a hopeful attitude that things will go smoothly but with the realistic thought that they probably won't and have a back-up plan;

-don't abuse the staff working at the offices; there is a good chance that they are just as frustrated as you are but their hands are often tied because of staff cuts or administrative requirements -- being nice to them might just help you get some extra help or consideration; and
-bring something to amuse yourself while you wait...and wait...and wait in the office for your appointment; also bring your cell phone in case you need to call someone to confirm information during the meeting (i.e., calling your sponsor to ask what your official department is, etc.).

Here is an example of trying to do one simple thing that turned into a major chore: I was trying to find out where to pick up my ration card, which I am entitled to as a civilian employee. I looked online and noted that the office was at a particular building. However, upon talking to people within my own department, I learned that it probably had moved. I called someone in another department. He gave me information about what I had to do to get the ration card, but he also didn't know the new location of the department (which is very odd because he deals a lot with that department). He asked me to update him when I found out where it is (which I did, after this ordeal). We finally heard through word of mouth the possible location of it. When we showed up to the base and building where it was supposed to be, it wasn't there. We asked one office and they had no clue. We stopped by another office and they said that it was in the first location, where we had unsuccessfully already visited. After some conversation with staff in that office, we realized that we all knew a mutual acquaintance who had just received his ration card, so the staff there was kind enough to call him for us and ask the correct building number. The ironic thing is that this person works in the same building that we do, but we hadn't run into him to ask him ahead of time. He gave us the correct building number and once we arrived I had my ration card within a few minutes. The ridiculous thing was that we spent probably about 45 minutes trying to figure out where to go.

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