When Jennifer Clark recently moved to U.S. Army Garrison Italy, she was grateful to have a unit sponsor meet her family at the airport.
The spouse of an active-duty Soldier has moved often over the past 17 years, so they know the ropes. They were glad to get a ride to their hotel and a bag of fresh groceries. Then their sponsors took them sightseeing.
“I was grateful to not have to navigate any piece of this, especially after having traveled so far,” Clark said.
Moving is a part of Army life – a stressful, exciting and bittersweet challenge that brings new scenery, new people, new homes and more. Sponsors make the permanent change of station, or PCS, as little easier on Soldiers and their families, the Army has the Total Army Sponsorship Program. Soldiers learn to sponsor incoming personnel.
Knowing the stress often associated with PCS, the Army’s TASP helps with a “people first” approach – and idea that when properly employed, enhances unit readiness, said Giulio Rigodanzo, U.S. Army Garrison Italy’s sponsorship liaison.
“Trained sponsors are the key factor to ensure a successful PCS experience and to increase resiliency and readiness,” Rigodanzo said. “An effective sponsorship program brings awareness to incoming personnel and builds the foundation of immediate trust between newcomers and the gaining organization.”
Recently, Rigodanzo taught a class for sponsors to unit leaders, sharing important steps like making use of the airport liaison for people to navigate the airport in Venice. The horror story, too often told, is how sponsors don’t meet newcomers and they are left stranded. That’s how the airport liaison can come in handy.
A Soldier’s first impression of a new unit starts with sponsorship. Sponsors must take their position seriously, Rigodanzo said.
“You don’t just represent yourself, but the entire organization,” Rigodanzo said. “Being a sponsor is a very rewarding experience which will help future sponsors to pay it forward. It really means people first.”
Finding friends and activities can be intimidating in new places – something that creates a sense of loneliness. Clark’s sponsor offered her family more than just a ride and some food.
“We maintain a friendship now,” Clark said. “We regularly have dinner together, go mountain biking, and even shop together. As far as sponsors go, they have been the best we have ever had.”