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Caring for service members starts before arrival at JBLM — via sponsorship

I Corps command sergeant major

Published: 05:02PM June 12th, 2014

First impressions are important. We often make immediate decisions about whether or not we like someone within a few minutes. Once we’ve made up our mind, it takes a lot to change it.

Occasionally, I walk through the Welcome Center at Waller Hall to check-on the inbound Soldiers. On one such visit I saw a bright young Soldier, fresh out of basic and advanced individual training. He had a confused look on his face while he sat straddling his green duffle bag and clutching a binder full of paperwork.

This Soldier had no clue about who he should see or even where he would sleep that night.

We let that Soldier down.

Can you guess what his first impression of his first duty station could’ve been?

It’s time to take a hard look at sponsorship. Recent regulatory guidance requires Soldiers to be held at their losing installations until they have an assigned sponsor. Units are required to assign a sponsor to every inbound Soldier. When assigned, sponsors are prohibited from shirking this responsibility.

We must get this right. As leaders we must ensure our Soldiers are mentally and physically ready. This preparedness starts when they first step foot on JBLM. We cannot afford to let our newly arrived Soldiers down.

We are a family, and family takes care of its own. Sponsorship is a building block for future success.

A sponsorship checklist (source: www.militaryinstallations.dod.mil/pls/psgprod/f?p=311:20:0:NO) follows:

Pre-arrival

n Complete Sponsor Training

n Contact the newcomer via phone or email.

n Ask questions about the newcomer needs, and family needs if necessary.

n Compose and send a welcome letter based on the newcomer’s needs and your unit’s procedures.

n Make temporary lodging arrangements for the newcomer and family.

n Arrange a post office box for newcomer.

n Keep the chain of command informed about the entire sponsorship process.

Arrival

n Personally meet your newcomer upon arrival or arrange for someone to meet them.

n Make sure that you directly email and/or phone them to tell them who will be meeting them upon arrival or where to go for transportation at an airport etc.

n Make sure you bring transportation that will accommodate the entire family as well as pets.

n Personally take the newcomer to lodging.

n Personally take the newcomer to the Family Center and encourage them to make use of the Relocation Program.

n Introduce the newcomer to his/her commander, supervisor, key personnel and fellow co-workers.

n Show the newcomer around the base.

n Give the newcomer a community tour.

n Accompany the newcomer through in-processing and check-in procedures.

Post-arrival

n Arrange a social gathering where the newcomer (and family) can meet coworkers and their families.

n Escort the newcomer to housing office and assist with house hunting.

n Offer assistance with vehicle registration.

n Offer assistance with transportation needs.

n Offer help getting settled into the newcomer’s new home; obtain loan closet items, if appropriate, from Family Center.

n Ensure that family has contact information for schools, medical care, child care, and other resources.