Pay it forward, be a sponsor

by Kathy Latzke
Ramstein Airman & Family Readiness Center director

North Dakota, Italy, Utah or Germany. Wherever we are PCSing, knowing some of the details before we get there can be helpful and stress-reducing. At the end of the day, not all surprises are good.

Everyone has a sponsor story. The good, the bad and the ugly. We all have one and have all heard them. There are horror stories out there that are as diverse as the Air Force itself. The bottom line unfortunately is, not all Airmen are treated equally when it comes to sponsorship.

My family and I have a sponsor story that can hardly be beat. Germany was our seventh assignment, but our first overseas with children (and two high school girls, at that). We received it Sept. 1, 2010, with a report date of April 20, 2011. There was lots of time to plan, sell our home and worry.

Not 24 hours after receiving our orders, my mind was swimming with questions, especially about our initial arrival and how quickly I could get our daughters enrolled in school. Enter Master Sgt. Amy Winger, our sponsor.

Transatlantic phone calls, Facebook and email — we employed all means of communication. By the end of the first month, she knew as much about my family as a close friend. Yes, she asked that many questions.

The date of departure approached. We visited family before heading to Baltimore. Of course, like many, when you are traveling you lose touch with current events. I heard chatter about an Icelandic volcano and caught brief comments. Never did I think that there was a correlation between something so remote and my future. And as I stood in the MAC terminal in Baltimore, I realized my situation was far from isolated.

We stayed in contact with Winger. She gave us updates from Ramstein, providing us with the news on the street and when they may lift the flight restrictions. Apart from that, I gave little thought about what our delay meant to her. I guess, as I reflect, I thought that it simply adjusted the day she would meet us at the terminal.

However, when we landed at Ramstein, it became perfectly evident what Winger had been tasked with. As we shuffled our way through the line at lodging, we witnessed family after family being told that their reservation had been given away because they had not arrived as scheduled and no one had kept them abreast of changes in their itinerary.

But not us. As we approached the desk, we anticipated the worse. When we were told that our sponsor had called everyday to adjust our arrival date, we could have wept. Pleasantly, we were handed our keys to TLF.

Our first impression of Ramstein, Germany, and the men and women of the KMC was great.

I wish I heard positive sponsor stories more. And they aren’t all bad. But it is the unfortunate situations that permeate conversations and leave a lasting mark. It simply does not need to be this way. As an Airman and a wingman, we should accept zero tolerance for a regrettable arrival to Ramstein. No one should find themselves alone after landing at Frankfurt International Airport. If we equate the first impression saying with sponsorship, we want more than anything to make incoming Airmen’s first impression right. This responsibility rests with the sponsor.
Maybe you want to pay it forward by being a great sponsor or make PCSing a better experience than what you had. Either way, the Air Force wants your desire and your talent.

The Ramstein Airman & Family Readiness Center wants to help you with your sponsorship duties. We are now offering the class Sponsorship in the KMC as a way to highlight the special considerations and needs that should be addressed when folks PCS here.

To give sponsors a general look at sponsorship duties and tools, offers online training. A certificate is generated when completed and can be accessed by your unit intro monitor and by the A&FRC. From there, sponsors should schedule themselves for Sponsorship in the KMC so we can pass on KMC-specific issues, policies and points of contact.

A friendship bloomed from our sponsorship experience. By having the forethought that she did, Winger went above and beyond in helping my family settle in.
Yes, we planned ahead. We did our part. But we had to relinquish some of the details to Winger and trust she would do well by us. She was a sponsoree’s dream. Let’s pay that forward. Let’s truly welcome others to Ramstein.