VICENZA -- U.S. Army Garrison Italy held its first Total Army Sponsorship Program Rodeo Feb. 25 at the gym on Caserma Del Din here.
TASP Rodeo, an Installation Management Command-Europe initiative, is designed to help Soldiers, civilians and family members learn more about sponsorship resources from their garrison agencies.
Approximately 600 participants visited more than a dozen service providers from across the installation and received a 15-minute presentation at each station.
"The purpose of this event was to train Soldiers, civilians and family members on how to be a great sponsor," said Melissa Wakefield, who coordinated the event along with Shaniequa Giacomucci, USAG Italy Directorate of Human Resources, and 173rd Airborne Brigade sponsorship representatives.
Wakefield added that the event provided an opportunity to show the community how important sponsorship is to the USAG Italy command team, and all other command teams and their Soldiers.
"I have always felt strongly about sponsorship, the importance of making sure this program works. [For example], we want to ensure that we take care of that new female single Soldier when she comes to her first duty station, thousands of miles away from home for the first time. We want to make sure that not only does she have a place to live, but that we provide great mentors so that she enjoys her time in Italy."
Wakefield also highlighted the importance of taking care of families whose spouses will deploy, and setting up their family to enjoy time in Italy even during that deployment.
"This simple concept called sponsorship is huge when it comes to the overall happiness and readiness of Soldiers, civilians and family members. It starts out with a simple welcome to Italy and 'here is how I am going to take care of you while you are here,'" she continued.
Providing information were 14 primary agencies such as DHR, Civilian Personnel Advisory Center, Army Community Service, Vehicle Registration, Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers, Housing, Medical Command, Army Substance Abuse Prevention, Finance, Child and Youth Services, Youth Sponsorship and Spouse Sponsorship representation. Participants also had the chance to see some outside agencies including the Sexual Harassment and Response Program team, Arts and Crafts, and Outdoor Recreation.
"This outcome of support reiterates that we care about all our new incoming personnel and we want to find a way to keep improving on a concept [sponsorship] that has been around the military for a long time. Overall, the agencies were grateful to get out information to personnel to let them know that we have some great services within our community," said Wakefield.
One of the SHARP team representatives at the event was Victim Advocate Michelle Demarais.
"We always try to have an opportunity to interact, and TASP Rodeo helps because we can show what we can do for the Soldiers and their families, and we can give all the information," she said after handing out some material.
One participant, 1st Lt. Michael Miranda of Headquarters and Headquarters, 54th Brigade Engineer Battalion, arrived in Vicenza a few months ago.
"When I was first coming here I didn't understand what the sponsor needed to do," he said.
"I think this program is very beneficial for a better understanding to be a sponsor. I really appreciate how they tried very hard to have people get as much information as they can while PCSing, because getting to a new installation is the hardest part," he added.
Miranda thought some agencies were very helpful.
"I am glad that Outdoor Recreation representatives were here because they are amazing. The trips they plan are easy to do, they are inexpensive and, while traveling, a lot of people speak English, so it makes it more comfortable--especially (when) going to locations in different countries," he said.
Other Army garrisons will plan sponsorship rodeos throughout Europe on an annual basis, said Wakefield.
"Of all the garrisons within the European footprint, we have had the biggest participation thus far. I know that there are still some garrisons that will conduct their rodeos within the next month, but I predict we will have the biggest participation," she said.