By Mr. Bryan Gatchell (IMCOM)March 10, 2016
ANSBACH, Germany (March 10, 2016) -- It is a Soldier, a Family member, or a civilian that boards a plane in Maryland, flies out in the evening and descends into the clouds to land at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, in the morning following an abbreviated night.
This could be the first time they have moved to another country on another continent, and the newcomer derives their first impression of a strange new post in a foreign land from their sponsor.
U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach held its Total Army Sponsorship Program Rodeo today at the Katterbach Fitness Center to train unit, Family, and civilian sponsors on the best way to familiarize and settle newly arrived community members.
Different subject matter experts -- representing services as diverse as Ramstein Gateway Reception, Army Community Service, Housing, and Tricare -- performed briefings on their subjects to the sponsors at stations. The stations were arranged throughout the main hall of the fitness center in a horseshoe pattern, and the groups of sponsors moved from station to station following each briefing.
Installation Management Command -- Europe created the rodeo for the purpose of providing unit leadership with the tools and knowledge to establish and maintain an effective sponsorship program within their organizations, according to Damon Wilford, director of Human Resources at USAG Ansbach.
"It sets the tone for your entire tour," said Wilford of the arrival and onboarding of new community members. "If you've got a good sponsor -- and that's what we hope to create here -- it makes that whole experience better."
Command Sgt. Maj. Derek Cuvellier, USAG Ansbach command sergeant major, attended the event. Although he sees the program as important for the Army as a whole, it is particularly crucial for overseas tours.
"The transition is so tough, especially to bring a Family over here," said Cuvellier. "Sponsorship is only as good as the sponsor -- how much they care and how much they know. That's why these events are important, to arm our sponsors with the right information to take care of Soldiers and their Families in the garrison."
One of the briefers, Michele Begosh, the U.S. Army Europe program manager for sponsorship, felt the event was directly relevant to the well-being of the community.
"Sponsorship is important because it relates to the overall readiness of the community," said Begosh. "We want to make sure that the Soldiers who are coming in with their Families are prepared when they get here because we are in a very fast-paced world. If the Soldiers are taken care of before they get here -- they get welcomed in the community with open arms -- they can focus on doing their jobs because they know their Family is already settled."
Part of getting Soldiers and their Families settled includes getting a wide range of Soldiers versed in the ins and outs of sponsorship.
"What we try to do here is to bring in some of the junior Soldiers so that they can get the similar information," said Wilford, "so they would be better equipped to sponsor Soldiers and their Family members, to make the onboarding and integration process a lot smoother."
Cpl. Chisolm Trammel and Sgt. Jeremiah Gieseman attended the event. Gieseman had previously served as a sponsor, and Trammel had yet to serve as a sponsor.
"Some of the key questions sponsors need to be asking their sponsorees is whether or not they have Family, whether or not they have pets, if they do have Family whether they have gone through the [Exceptional Family Member Program] process," said Gieseman. "[These questions] will enable the sponsor to get things in place."
"Pets never would have crossed my mind," said Trammel of what he learned at the rodeo.
Trammel also learned that much of what was previously done through paperwork and wait times was now achieved more quickly electronically.
Civilians also attended the event to learn to be better sponsors. Erin Connolly, chief of Internal Review at USAG Ansbach, has both served as a sponsor and been sponsored. As a recent sponsor, she wanted to identify and resolve any gaps in her knowledge in case she has the opportunity to sponsor again.
"We get a more concise and cohesive sponsor experience for both the sponsor and the sponsee," said Connolly. "There is too much difference between one person coming into theater and another person coming into theater. So hopefully this will give everyone the same sheet of music to work by."
The rodeo, which has been performed at other garrisons throughout IMCOM-E, has a set list of what organizations must brief the sponsors. In the USAG Ansbach TASP rodeo, several services that are not represented by the sponsorship rodeo model find representation here, said Wilford. One of those is the Veterinary Clinic.
"So we thought we would bring them in and allow them to give information out so the sponsors can pass that information out," said Wilford. "Soldiers that come in with pets, they'll know what to expect and then they'll be better prepared to take care of whatever they need to take care of."
To learn more about sponsorship, visit the USAG Ansbach Sponsorship page by selecting "Sponsorship at USAG Ansbach" in the "Related Links" section on this page. For more on the Total Army Sponsorship Program, visit "Total Army Sponsorship Program" in the "Related Links" section.
At the event, Wilford spoke about both the purpose of the rodeo, which lines up with the goals of Installation Management Command.
"It's all about taking care of Soldiers and their Families," said Wilford. "That's why we're here."