News: The Total Army Sponsorship Program
Story by Sgt. James Bunn
JOINT BASE LEWIS MCCHORD, Wash. - Arriving here on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. from Fort Carson, Colo., a young specialist and his family find themselves without transportation, without a home and no clue what to do next.
After scouring the classifieds for several hours, the Soldier decides to rent an apartment close to base and buy a cheap car. He somehow manages to find Waller Hall and begin to inprocess just in time. Unfortunately, with no guidance where to go and what to do the Soldier finds out too late that the apartments are in a bad area, his landlord ripped him off and the car is a lemon.
Although this is a fictional story, many Soldiers today know someone or have experienced for themselves a very similar scenario. In 1993, the Army introduced the Total Army Sponsorship Program to help solve problems like this one. Since then the program has adapted to meet the changing needs of today’s Army.
Last March, JBLM joined Fort Stewart, Ga., Fort Hood, Texas, Germany and Korea, as a 90-day pilot location for the new Total Army Sponsorship Program using the Army Career Tracker system.
Using the ACT system, units can automatically track a Soldiers sponsor status. The pilot is set to end later this month and depending on feedback and a decision from the Department of the Army, may be implemented Army wide.
As part of the pilot program, all Soldiers from the ranks of private through colonel must have a sponsor confirmed thorough the ACT system before receiving orders.
JoAnne Clark, chief of the personnel readiness branch here said there are over 1,000 Soldiers set to arrive at JBLM in the next year. Nearly half of them do not have sponsors and almost 100 have not completed a sponsorship request. Clark added that as soon as Soldiers find out they are changing duty stations it’s important to request a sponsor.
“When Soldiers come in to the Army they aren’t bachelors [anymore], they have families,” she said. “The Army is trying to take care of Soldiers and families as they move from one place to another to make it as easy as possible.”
The Total Army Sponsorship Program regulation states that after Soldiers complete a request for a sponsor, units have 10 days to respond, send out a welcome letter and identify the sponsor.
Even though the regulation says 10 days, Clark said if units look out at least 90 days for incoming Soldiers and start sending out welcome letters Soldiers could receive their orders much faster.
Sponsors are the key to helping new Soldiers, civilian employees and families settle quickly in their new units, according to the military one source website. They help build unit cohesion by making the transition to a new location smoother.
“When I got here in July 2012, I didn’t have a sponsor,” said Spc. Kendall Smithson. “I was coming from overseas and thought I would have a sponsor because when I went to Germany, my sponsor did a wonderful job. He introduced me to my commander and first sergeant the first day I was in the unit. It was smooth sailing. I think this pilot program is a wonderful thing, because I know that it will help Soldiers as they inprocess their units.”
Sponsors are usually the first person incoming Soldiers meet and they need to be prepared to answer questions on the unit, installation, available services and the surrounding area.
“When a Soldier gets to a new unit, his sponsor is his first buddy,” said Clark. “Every Soldier, when they arrive here, goes through an online training program so they can become a sponsor. When they go through the online training they obtain a lot of resources they need as a sponsor.”
The online sponsorship training is available through the military one source website. During the training sponsors learn about their roles and responsibilities which include sending a letters to incoming Soldiers to welcome them to the unit, showing them to the housing offices and Army Community Services and introducing them to their leaders.
“This is the first time I’ve been a sponsor and am still figuring it out,” said Spc. William Mosley. “I have already sent an email to a Soldier I’m sponsoring and I’m just waiting for him to reply.”
New changes to the Total Army Sponsorship Program promise to make the transition from different locations easier than ever by ensuring the Soldier know who his Sponsor is.