Being a good sponsor

by Katie F. Boltuch
contributing writer
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While many of us grow accustomed to or just accept the fact that they’ll be moving every two, three, or four years, it can still be incredibly stressful. According to a study from Worldwide Employee Relocation Council, moving is the third most stressful event in life, following death and divorce. Add in the fact that the average military family moves 10 times more often than non-military families and you essentially have the potential for a major meltdown*. But wouldn’t it be great if we could help alleviate some of the stress associated with PCSing?

Unless you are brand new to the military, it’s likely that you’re familiar with the concept of a ‘sponsor.’ You’ve either held the role yourself or had other military members sponsor you when arriving at a new duty station. Extra duties, in addition to the ones you already have, can feel a bit cumbersome and overwhelming. But if there is one extra duty that has a huge impact, it is likely most people will tell you having a good sponsor makes a big difference.
Although most military members are provided the training and guidance with respect to being a good sponsor, it is understandable if it is not a priority. However, in case you’re in need of a refresher, here are some suggestions on how to be a better sponsor.

Before Arriving:
Put yourself in their shoes.
Remember how you felt when you realized you’d be moving? Maybe you were incredibly excited at the prospect of a new state or country, but then the reality kicked in – you remember you have to pack all your stuff! Keep in mind everyone is in the same boat. One of the best ways to help new military members is to remember some of the things you would have liked to know prior to your arrival. If you’re traveling OCONUS, are the outlets different? If you’re moving to Alaska after a few years in Texas, will a new wardrobe need to be purchased? If you have a large family, what was available for housing if on-post or on-base housing was full?

Reach out to the incoming family or single military member. Send them an email or give them a call. Something as simple as making sure they know who you are and that you are aware of them can help with their stress. Be sure to do this far enough ahead of time (if you are given enough time to do so) so they can prepare on their end.

Learn about their needs
Once you’ve opened up the line of communication, ask them about them. Do they have kids? Pets? If they’re a larger family moving to Germany, how much space will they need? The average home in Germany is nearly half the size of the average home in the U.S., according to a 2015 study from Price Waterhouse Coopers and Urban Land Institute. What about schools and childcare? Or maybe it’s a single military member that has a special interest. Asking co-workers and other members of the community for help can also help! If you cannot get all the information they need, encourage them to connect to the local community through Facebook. Most military installations have their own “411” page or community page. This is an easy way for them to introduce themselves and become familiar with their future home.

Get organized
Be prepared for their arrival. If you’re scheduled to pick up a family of five, is your car big enough? Do you need car seats? Do they have pets? Most military installations will provide sponsors with basic information for dissemination. Have this information on hand for them when they arrive. Maybe there are things you can add to the packet that you feel would have been helpful to you such as a few local eateries or places to buy a car.
Additionally, organize your time. Being a sponsor doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you are prepared. Plan for a certain amount of time to be devoted to the process. If you know you do not have enough time, make other arrangements. Ask a fellow co-worker for help or ask your boss for suggestions.

The Arrival:
Make the effort
Once they’ve arrived, take some time to show them around. Give them a tour of the installation and maybe even some of the local sights. Help them secure necessary things during in-processing. If they are OCONUS, it is likely their car hasn’t arrived yet. Show them where they can rent cars. Additionally, if they arrive OCONUS, explain how to obtain a cell-phone. Take them to buy necessary items they might need.

Be Pro-Active
Don’t wait for them to contact you once they’ve arrived. More often than not, people feel they are intruding in your space and would rather not reach out. Take the initiative. Ask them if they need anything. Even if they don’t, just asking usually goes a long way and leaves a good impression.

Make a back-up plan
If you cannot help when they need you, make a back-up plan. You wouldn’t want to be left ‘high and dry’ so why do it to someone else? Ask a co-worker to help or go to your commander/boss for suggestions with regards to making sure they feel welcome.

*Source:Department of Defense