FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Nov. 30, 2012) -- To ensure that newcomers to Fort Drum and the North Country are guided along in their transition, senior leaders here have launched a new program that places a renewed emphasis on the old Army practice of "sponsoring."

Organizers say the two-week Unit Sponsorship Coordinator Program, which graduated its first sponsorship coordinators on Nov. 16, "plows new ground" in the Army's overall Total Army Sponsorship Program or TASP, by ensuring sponsorship is implemented at the brigade level.

To mark the graduation, top officials from the U.S. Army's Installation Management Command visited Fort Drum and presented a dozen Soldiers with their certificates of training.

"You've been selected as top-notch noncommissioned officers to help us fix a program that is extremely important to our Army and the health of our force (and) to the readiness and resilience of our families," said Command Sgt. Maj. Earl L. Rice, IMCOM senior enlisted adviser. "That's why your chain of command selected you."

Rice, who called the new program "groundbreaking," was accompanied to the event at Clark Hall by Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin D. Sharkey, IMCOM Atlantic Region command sergeant major, and Fort Drum Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Mark H. Oldroyd, all of whom addressed Soldiers about the importance of sponsorship.

"You guys don't realize it but the Army's eyes are on you," Oldroyd said.

Division headquarters and all five brigades at Fort Drum will each have a primary and an alternate sponsorship coordinator to help incoming Soldiers navigate the challenges of reporting to a new duty station.

The sponsorship coordinator is considered the commander's subject-matter expert. The position requires the rank of staff sergeant or above.

Soldiers in any rank are encouraged to become sponsors in the TASP program. At Fort Drum, potential sponsors first complete electronic Sponsorship Application and Training (eSAT) and then attend training at Army Community Service.

Soldiers from private through colonel are now required to receive a sponsor without requesting one, according to Scarlett Sharkey, manager of the Relocation Readiness Program at ACS.
"For the sponsorship program to work, the commander, the sponsor and the one being sponsored must actively participate," she noted.

Jim Swords, Military Personnel Division chief and Unit Sponsorship Coordinator Program instructor, noted that the new program will not only help Soldiers coming to the North Country but also those leaving for another duty station.

"Sponsorship coordinators are there to assist the commander to ensure that all inbound Soldiers receive a sponsor before arriving at Fort Drum and that Soldiers getting ready to leave Fort Drum are able to (obtain) a sponsor at their next (command)," Swords said.

Earlier this year, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III emphasized the importance of sponsorship.

"Military moves can be challenging for Soldiers, families and civilians," Chandler said. "It takes an effective sponsor who is committed to welcoming and integrating newcomers into the com- munity.

"Through the Total Army Sponsorship Program, the Army reinforces this commitment of taking care of its own," he added.

With top Army leaders focused on sponsorship, Rice said unit readiness will increase, as "evil-doers" attempting to "get inside of our formations" are eliminated.

"Our senior leaders know and understand the importance of sponsorship in saying, 'We're going to get it right; we've been paying lip service to this for too long,'" he said.

"We (have) an awesome Army," Rice added. "We (have) awesome communities. But we do have some bad guys out there who are always trying to take us out."

IMCOM's senior enlisted leader said stress, relational issues and financial difficulties, especially during a transition, can leave people vulnerable to dishonest players and making unwise decisions.

Sponsoring transitioning Soldiers for the first couple of months helps put their feet on solid ground, he explained.

"You've been trained to know what right looks like," Rice said. "With one program, if we get it right and we connect the dots, we can have a huge impact.

"Thank you for helping us to shape and protect our Army," he concluded.