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March 08, 2013


Sponsorship program makes transitioning easier, supports morale

Story & photos by Geneve N. Mankel, Public Affairs Staff

Soldiers, civilians and Family members who relocate to Fort McCoy don’t have to face the challenge of a new environment alone.

The Total Army Sponsorship Program at Fort McCoy helps newcomers successfully transition into life at the installation.
PHOTO: Ann Wermer, Army Community Service Relocation Readiness Program manager, shares Sponsorship Program materials during Sponsorship training. Photo by Geneve N. Mankel
Ann Wermer, Army Community Service Relocation Readiness Program manager, shares Sponsorship Program materials with Sgt. 1st Class John Bartlett during a Sponsorship Program training session. Bartlett attended the training to become a sponsor for Regional Training Site-Maintenance.-

“The program helps improve unit and organization readiness by getting Soldiers, civilian employees, and their Families quickly settled into their new communities,” said Ann Wermer, Army Community Service (ACS) Relocation Readiness Program manager. “Properly performed, sponsorship can have a positive impact on morale and retention.”

Wermer said the Sponsorship Program is a commander’s program, and its success is determined by the commander’s implementation and continued assessment of the program.

An example of a successful Sponsorship Program at Fort McCoy is that at the 181st Infantry Brigade, Wermer said.
Sgt. 1st Class Karen Stokes, the Brigade Sponsorship coordinator for the 181st Infantry Brigade, said sponsorship is important because it is the first impression new Soldiers get of their new unit and of the installation.

In most cases the 181st Brigade Sponsorship coordinator is the first person a new Soldier with the 181st will communicate with, she said.

Stokes said as soon as a Soldier is assigned to the 181st a welcome letter is sent to the individual with information about Fort McCoy and the surrounding communities, a sponsorship form and her contact information.

“A lot of Soldiers are surprised to get a welcome letter with so much information,” Stokes said. “Usually the only thing a Soldier receives when arriving at a new duty station is their orders.”

After Soldiers respond with information, Stokes informs Wermer, who will also send a welcome CD to them.

The 181st also recently completed a unit welcome DVD and will begin sending that product to its new Soldiers.

Sgt. 1st Class Richard Wentz, a new observer controller trainer with the 3rd, 340th Infantry Battalion of the 181st, said he began receiving correspondence from the 181st just days after he was assigned to the unit.

“The 340th and the brigade did a great job e-mailing me and sending information,” Wentz said. “When I arrived they did a really good job at getting me where I needed to go.”

Upon arrival at the installation the new Soldier will meet with Stokes for further information and instructions, and will be introduced to their sponsor from the gaining 181st battalion.

Stokes said when she was a newcomer to the 181st and Fort McCoy, she did not have a positive experience with her sponsor and decided to volunteer to take over the 181st’s Sponsorship Program.

“I want to have a positive impact on the Soldiers coming to the unit,” she said. “I’m energized about the Sponsorship Program because what I say will have an impact on their (newcomer) attitude about coming here. The initial impression someone receives is going to last.”

Stokes said she emphasizes to newcomers the benefits of being stationed at Fort McCoy as well as some challenges they might face, such as the weather.

“I want to prepare them so they have an idea of what to expect,” she said.

As a Sponsorship coordinator, Stokes said it’s important to give newcomers as much information as possible and speak to the advantages of coming to Fort McCoy.

“I tell them about the personable attitudes, great customer service, and professionalism of the people who work here and about the great care provided to Soldiers,” Stokes said.

Ultimately the Sponsorship Program is about morale and retention, Wermer said. It’s important that only personnel who can represent the gaining unit or activity in a positive manner be sponsors, she said.

“I can tell the Army has a renewed focus on sponsorship,” Wentz said. “It’s doing a good job making moving more comfortable.”

Military personnel, Department of Defense civilians, and spouses are eligible to become sponsors, Wermer said. Spouse sponsors help with transitioning new spouses to the installation and focus on concerns related to being a Family member.
It is the responsibility of unit commanders to ensure that a trained pool of sponsors exists to respond to the needs of both programmed and unprogrammed arrivals, Wermer said.

Personnel interested in becoming a sponsor should go through their unit or organization chain of command. They also should complete the online eSponsorship Application & Training, available at the website http://apps.militaryonesource.mil/esat.
Spouses interested in becoming sponsors can go to the www.militaryinstallations.dod.mil website and click on the Learn More About the Program link under Are You a Sponsor?

Sponsorship training for unit leadership, sponsorship coordinators, and individual sponsors, is offered quarterly at the ACS Center, building 2111, Wermer said.

The next Sponsorship training session is April 30 from 10-11 a.m. Register by calling 608-388-3505 no later than April 23.

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