Air Force Sponsorship Program

by Maj. Mark Ashman
86th Maintenance Operations Squadron

Hats off to the Army for their AFN commercials and catch phrase, “That’s not what right looks like!”

Recently, I saw a commercial on AFN whereby a new Soldier showed up to the unit and reported in. He was asked who his sponsor was. He replied, “Sergeant, I don’t know. I don’t have one.” Needless to say, “that’s not what right looks like,” and that is no way to transition to a new base.

Regardless of your service affiliation, this same scenario can be applied across all services. In the Air Force, we rely on the Individualized Newcomer Treatment and Orientation, or INTRO program, to provide the framework and guidelines to assist newly assigned Airmen. Early on in their transition, this program sets them up for success and helps them become effective contributors to the unit’s mission.

According to Air Force Instruction 36-2103, the INTRO program also serves as a “tool that commanders can use to ensure members, who have a pending relocation assignment, are able to obtain personal assistance through sponsorship.”

However, even the most structured INTRO program is only as good as the sponsor who oversees the transition for each new Airman. Therefore, it is imperative that when choosing a sponsor, you pick someone who is going to take pride and invest time into helping out this new inbound Airman.

Ideally, your leadership team should choose someone of similar rank and marital status as the Airman who is joining the unit. This will allow the sponsor to develop an immediate connection with the newest member of your squadron. There is also training available through the Ramstein Airman & Family Readiness Center to help educate sponsors on their roles and responsibilities, which include providing
assistance before, during and after the move.

Sponsors are the first ones to interact with newcomers and to welcome them and their families to the unit. Therefore, it’s imperative they make a good first impression, and that starts by making contact via email or phone, fielding any questions or concerns inbound members might have.

This also allows sponsors to plan for their arrival by making lodging reservations and to establish the time and location sponsors should be at the airport to meet them.

Over the course of the next few days, the sponsor will be instrumental in getting the newcomer through the Ramstein In-Processing line, orienting him to the base and exposing him to the local community to find a house.

For anyone who has been through this process before, you know PCSing is and can be stressful. But having a good sponsor to ease the transition can make all the difference between hitting the ground running and stumbling out of the blocks.

I was very fortunate that during my transition, I had a great sponsor who took care of my needs and far exceeded my expectations. Having been overseas before, I had an idea about what to expect. However, when my sponsor brought my wife and me to the hotel, we were pleasantly surprised by a large welcome basket full of breakfast items, snacks and several pamphlets and vignettes from the A&FRC, which highlighted the finer points about Ramstein and living in Germany.

From that day on, my wife and I decided we were going to continue that practice for each new member joining the squadron. With that said, before each new member arrives, I follow up with the sponsor to ensure he too has assembled a small welcome basket and information packet prior to the newcomer’s arrival. After all, you only get one chance to make a good first impression.

Though the sponsorship program is not a new concept to the Air Force or our sister services, I felt it was an important topic to discuss. If you consider the sooner an Airman gets settled, the sooner he will be able to contribute to the mission, at the end of the day, that should be the goal of every squadron in the Air

For more information on the INTRO program and the role of a sponsor, reference AFI 36-2103 dated April 30, 2012 or the call the A&FRC at 480-5100.