NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. â€“ Whether it is Â the first move or just the latest of many, a move to a new base can be one of the most stressful parts of a military career, full of uncertainties affecting every aspect of life. That’s where unit sponsors come in.
The unit sponsor’s job is to assist newcomers with their move, serving as a direct representative of the unit, the installation, the local community and the commander. Sponsors provide a “bridge of information” to the new assignment so that newcomers have their needs met, transition smoothly and settle in quickly.
Unit commanders are responsible for assigning unit newcomers a formally-appointed and trained sponsor. Kris Heick, relocations subject matter expert at the Nellis Airman and Family Readiness Center, said a sponsor is crucial no matter the newcomer’s history.
“Each move, regardless of a person’s rank or family circumstance, has a different dynamic,” Heick said. “Even if you’ve moved several times, there’s always at least a little ‘tweak’ based on the location that makes it different.”
The sponsor’s job is to make the move as easy for the newcomer as possible. Sponsors’ responsibilities include supplying information on the local area, assisting with transportation and lodging arrangements (including daycare and pet care arrangements if needed), greeting them on arrival, showing them around the base and local area, and helping with settling in and in-processing the base.
The DoD has established a single point for sponsorship training, the eSponsorship Application Training program, or eSAT. Not only does eSAT provide clear instruction on the sponsor’s role and responsibilities, it also has many tools to simplify getting information to the newcomer.
According to eSAT, two-way communication is the most important part of being a sponsor.
Sponsors should begin working with the newcomer within five days of being assigned, then continue regular contact until the newcomer and any family members with them are settled.
This communication is essential to the newcomer’s resilience and adaptation. A poorly-sponsored newcomer arrives unprepared, frustrated by misinformation, may incur increased debt, and ultimately suffers needlessly. This has direct mission impact.
The Airman and Family Readiness Center is the focal point for sponsors to locate resources, offering everything from base guides and school data to information about special needs support and financial assistance. However, Heick said it is critical for sponsors to talk to their newcomer first about what they’ll need.
“Sometimes we have people come in asking for sponsor information and I’ve asked them to tell me about their newcomer, and their answer is something like, ‘well, he’s a Tech Sergeant,’” she said. “To me, this is a sponsor who hasn’t asked enough questions.”
Many factors, from career experience to family status, affect the newcomer’s interests and concerns. For this reason, the sponsor the unit assigns should have the same marriage status and career experience.
More information on sponsorship is available through the Airman and Family Readiness Center, at 702-652-3327 (Nellis) or 702-404-0864/0865/0867(Creech), including information on how to contact or request a sponsor. Sponsors can obtain comprehensive training and certification through the eSAT website, http://apps.mhf.dod.mil/esat.