Squadrons caring for Airmen

by Master Sgt. Stephen A. Scofield
86th Munitions Squadron

Air Force members make significant sacrifices on a daily basis. Like no other profession in the world, our volunteer members sacrifice their freedoms. Members of our military are on call 24/7. The phone rings and our Airmen are called to the fight. They deploy around the world without complaint or reluctance.

As Air Force members, it is imperative we take care of our Airmen and their families. Unit first sergeants make the sponsorship program a top priority because it encompasses our duty of health, morale and the welfare of our Airmen. Sponsoring inbound members is one of the most important responsibilities our Airmen overseas bestow. Sponsors are the first impression our inbound personnel and families have of the installation and unit of assignment.  

It begins by assigning sponsors that are as close to the inbound members’ rank and marital status as possible.

The sponsor should contact the inbound Airman when the gaining unit is first notified. He or she must be in constant communication online and over the telephone before their arrival, answering any and all questions; from what schools the children will attend to what duties they will perform in their new unit. This is when the sponsor needs to reserve lodging and secure a post office box and send the sponsor package that includes a welcome letter from the commander. It is the sponsor’s responsibility to flood the newcomers with as much information as possible.

According to the Ramstein Airman & Family Readiness Center, the biggest pitfalls for sponsors are lack of communication with inbound personnel prior to arrival, lack of sponsors for spouses and lack of practical transportation by sponsors.

The plane lands and our stressed Airmen and their families’ needs must be met. Once the member arrives in Germany, they must be greeted by a sponsor that is positive, motivated and experienced with all in-processing matters. Typically, the new member is taken to lodging for a much needed night’s rest, before their introduction to Ramstein.

In the 86th Munitions Squadron, once they’re rested, they’re brought to the unit and greeted by the first sergeant, chief and commander. All newly-assigned members are given a newcomers basket made by our spouses group.
The basket is stocked with laundry detergent, spaghetti dinner fixings, snacks and a Find-It-Guide. They also receive a temporary prepaid cell phone with an international plan.

The phone is preloaded with all the key squadron and base phone numbers, such as the housing office, furnishings management office, law enforcement and many other useful numbers. It never fails, the commander always greets the new member with, “How was your sponsor and did you receive your cell phone and basket?”

The most impacting unit sponsor programs have total buy in, by all members. A spouses group working alongside military members will ensure exceptional results. They can provide that additional perspective and experience of moving to an overseas environment, enrolling children into new schools and simply outfitting the home for 220v appliances.

The goal is to enhance the mission by being there for our spouses and families. This can be accomplished by asking the spouses group to be involved in your units program. The majority of personnel stationed here at Ramstein, are away from their extended families, separated by an ocean. Like my wife always says, “Germany would be the perfect assignment, if it were located where Canada is.” The Airmen and the mission deserve our full attention to make this assignment the greatest one for all.

All personnel need to provide honest and open feedback to their unit leadership on how their in-processing experience went.

To improve your unit Intro and sponsorship program, refer to  AFI 36-2103 for specific sponsor information. The Airmen & Family Readiness Center office offers monthly training for sponsors and spouses’ sponsors, and they will provide you with any additional information you may require.