Sponsorship: Start strong to be strong

IMCOM CommanderJune 10, 2010 

I have moved many times in my career, within the United States and overseas. I have deployed several times, leaving my wife to pull double duty at home. I know the good, the bad and the ugly of moving firsthand from my Family’s experience and the stories shared by other Soldiers, Civilians and Family members. Every move brings new opportunities but also challenges and stress that can have a negative impact on work and home life.

I also know from personal experience that sponsors can be the determining factor between a good or bad move.

An excellent sponsor plays a key role in making a positive first impression and helping the new person and Family integrate into the unit, workplace and community.

During the past several years the Army has been experiencing a high volume of transition due to Army Force Generation, modularity, Grow the Army, Base Realignment and Closure and troop mobilization. Now more than ever we need effective sponsorship to mitigate the stress of transition; however, Soldiers, Civilians and

Families continue to express frustration with the Army’s Sponsorship Program. Sometimes our personnel and Family members have an exceptional sponsor − someone who truly makes them feel welcome and gets them off to an excellent start − but that is not always the case. There may be sponsors who are not well-equipped or motivated to provide the needed assistance or, even worse, no sponsorship at all.

These experiences make sponsorship a pressing Army Family Action Plan issue. I am taking this opportunity to improve on our Total Army Sponsorship Program (TASP) to enhance the readiness of our Soldiers and Civilians, and deliver on our promise to take care of Families.

The Army’s Sponsorship Program, as prescribed in AR 600-8-8, The Total Army Sponsorship Program, requires every first-term Soldier have a sponsor. The sponsor acts as a big brother or sister and helps the Soldier learn Army standards and develop a sense of responsibility and teamwork. After that initial assignment, TASP offers sponsors for every Soldier, Private through Colonel, and likewise for every Civilian in grades up to GS-15. A vital part of the Sponsorship Program that is often forgotten or overlooked is the rear detachment support provided to Family members of deployed Soldiers and Civilians.

So we have in our regulations a Sponsorship Program that covers all members of our community. I want to make sure that what is outlined on paper is also happening in our communities. Soldiers, Civilians and Family members will have a sponsor to provide information and support before, during and after transitions, mobilizations and deployments.

We must make sure sponsors are well-equipped for their important role. Sponsors must understand their role and have the necessary information and resources to fulfill it. Even more so, sponsors must be willing to reach out and make human contact, especially with new Soldiers, first-time Civilian employees, and Family members who are unfamiliar with the Army way of life.

Above all, I want to ensure that commanders are invested in the success of the Sponsorship Program within their community. TASP is a commander’s program. Its success is contingent upon the commander’s involvement and support. It is leadership’s responsibility to send the message that sponsorship is something important to do and to do it right. At the most basic level, that means having an adequate pool of sponsors to meet the needs of the community and supporting those sponsors with reasonable time and resources to do a good job.

I have asked CSM Neil Ciotola to lead a working group to review sponsorship from a holistic perspective and to update the program to meet the needs of Soldiers in today’s Army. Two important aspects of the Sponsorship Program under examination are integration and tracking. We must have a means to collect, transmit and follow up on their needs and issues. We do not want Soldiers carrying unresolved issues from assignment to assignment. We do not want Families to fail to connect or to become disconnected from their community, especially if their Soldier is deployed. We are looking at the feasibility of using current systems to integrate and track TASP processes Army wide, among other possible improvements. I anticipate that new recommendations, guidance and requirements will be forthcoming as a result of our review.

We are approaching summer, the traditional moving season for the military. Most of us in an Army environment, Soldiers, Civilians and Family members alike, know what it is like to relocate. We know what a difference it makes to have a helping hand along the way.

Leaders, your direct experience alone, whether good or bad, should be enough incentive to make the Sponsorship Program in your sphere of influence as effective as possible.

With a successful sponsorship program, we can treat every one of these moves as an opportunity to show that we will do right by Soldiers, Civilians and Families. The time and effort invested up front will pay big dividends in the satisfaction, commitment, and increased cohesion and mission readiness of Army units. All Soldiers, Civilians and Family members must be provided with quality programs and safe communities that meet their needs while enabling them to thrive and maintain resiliency. We will keep our promise. Support and Defend.

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