Fort Hood sponsorship program reinvigorated
October 21, 2011
FORT HOOD, Texas, Oct. 21, 2011 -- At the Copeland Soldier Service Center, a small but dedicated group of civilians and Soldiers is making sure the Fort Hood sponsorship program starts off on the right foot. The revamped sponsorship program at the Great Place is relatively new. The program officially opened Sept. 19.
Tonya Coleman, with the Fort Hood Sponsorship Office, said installations across the U.S. were tasked several months ago by Installation Management Command, or IMCOM, to provide a fully functional incoming Soldier sponsorship program at their posts.
But she added that in a time of fiscal belt-tightening, no additional resources or manpower was allocated to Army posts. Still, the program has the support of Fort Hood's leadership.
"It's an IMCOM initiative," she said, "but it's command-driven, because the command says it is a good idea, and we do want it so we're going to make it happen. When you want something, you start looking at creative ways to make it happen. And I think that's what we've done."
Coleman and Sgt. Maj. Lucinda Ramos, a Soldier assigned to the sponsorship office, started the task of rebuilding the local program by visiting other Army installations to get an idea of what other posts were doing with their sponsorship programs.
Coleman added that she wants to make sure Fort Hood leads the field when it comes to sponsorship.
"If anybody leads the way, it should be us," she said. "We want to show our best practices and we want to set the bar. We're the largest installation and we know what we're looking for."
To educate Soldiers and families about the Great Place, a new sponsorship webpage was set up at www.hood.army.mil/dhr/sponsorship.aspx. But the website is only one piece of the sponsorship puzzle.
Coleman explained that when a Soldier is initially assigned to Fort Hood, their name will be received by the sponsorship office, which will then send the incoming Soldier's name to his or her unit to be assigned a sponsor.
The gaining unit has 10 days to assign a sponsor to the Soldier. At the 10-day mark, a member of the sponsorship office will ensure the incoming Soldier has been assigned a sponsor. That sponsor then has 20 days to contact the incoming Soldier. All that information is tracked by members of the sponsorship office, to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Ideally, the sponsor and the incoming Soldier are in contact before the Soldier has orders, but if not, Coleman said there is a "safety net" in place once orders are received.
All incoming Fort Hood Soldiers will find information on their orders detailing how to contact the sponsorship office to request a sponsor if they have not already been contacted by one.
Coleman added that having a sponsor can have a positive impact to an incoming Soldier and their family members.
"If you have a sponsor, if you're attached to someone it just makes a world of difference," she said. "It's not your babysitter, it's not your taxicab -- it's your resource. Sometimes just knowing you have a phone number or knowing there's a friendly face it makes a difference."
In addition to Coleman and Ramos, three Soldiers work in the sponsorship cell.
Spc. Maciel Cerda, one of the Soldiers, knows just how important his job is because it wasn't available when he arrived.
"I didn't have it when I first came," he said. "I just came straight out of AIT (advanced individual training). If it wasn't for my brother being stationed here, I wouldn't have known anything, so I think it's a great idea."
"Sponsorship is very, very important anywhere in the Army, especially to people who have families. They have no clue what to expect," added Sgt. Julius Cabatic, the sponsorship cell noncommissioned officer-in-charge. "You're giving them a heads up to the new post and giving them an idea of the great place at Fort Hood."
Coleman said all the Soldiers assigned to the newly developed section take great pride in their work and are dedicated to the program. She added that the command team is equally involved.
"Instead of cutting back and taking away from our families the commanding general and the command sergeant major said, 'OK, let's figure out a way to make it work.'"
Coleman and the Soldiers she works with see a bright future ahead for the sponsorship office.
"It's a good program," said Pfc. Jody Gerber, another sponsorship Soldier. "It's a good thing for Fort Hood and for the Soldiers coming in."
"We're basically a type of insurance for the (incoming) Soldiers," Cerda added. "Somebody is out there actually paying attention to their paperwork. It's that peace of mind."
Cabatic said the sponsorship program is an ideal way to introduce new Soldiers to the Great Place.
"It's very rewarding knowing that you've been helping a battle buddy in different ways. You're not helping them in combat, but you're helping them in their life," he said. "It's a great feeling. It's a little bit challenging, but a challenge is always good. We have to set the standard high. It's hard work, but it's very rewarding at the end."