By Wendy Brown, USAG WiesbadenDecember 18, 2012
WIESBADEN, Germany (Dec. 18, 2012) -- Sandy Timbrook was one of the first participants in the Army Community Service Spouse Sponsorship program to receive a newcomer to help, and she eagerly awaited her arrival.
She had already emailed her information on taking German classes through ACS or the USO -- her top piece of advice for newcomers -- and wanted to help her further when she arrived the week of Dec. 10.
"It just would have made life so much easier," Timbrook said of the possibility of having a spouse sponsor when she arrived in Wiesbaden in June.
While all permanent-change-of-station moves involve a degree of stress, moving to a new country brings an added level of challenge that spouses can help one another with, said Jodie DeLeon, Wiesbaden ACS relocation technician and head of the Spouse Sponsorship program.
Timbrook said that although Soldiers have sponsors, they are often busy during moves and might not be readily available to answer questions, so the idea of having spouse sponsors is a natural one. Also, sometimes Soldier sponsors do not answer requests for contact, DeLeon pointed out.
The Spouse Sponsorship program connects spouses with similar interests so new spouses feel welcome and are well equipped to make a smooth transition to Wiesbaden, DeLeon said.
The program has trained 12 spouses so far, and is always looking for more, DeLeon said.
DeLeon, who spearheaded the program, said her desire to help other spouses was partially due to her first experience coming to Germany after her husband's sponsor did not respond to attempts to contact him.
"It was very rough for me the first time coming here and trying to figure out what I was supposed to do and where I was supposed to be," DeLeon said. "Coming from personal experience, I know the importance of having a sponsor."
Sarah Ronspiez, who attended a training session Dec. 6, also said she believes her experience coming to Germany would have been a lot better had she had a spouse sponsor.
"We didn't have a sponsor and it would have been a lot easier, so maybe I can be of help," she said.
Newcomers who want a spouse sponsor will receive one about a month before they are expected to arrive in Wiesbaden, DeLeon said.
That way, the sponsor can begin answering questions and sharing information via email, DeLeon said.
Then, the sponsor is expected to meet the newcomer within the first 24 hours of arriving and give him or her a bag that includes a Find-It Guide, a job hunting guide, a pamphlet that shows flights out of the Frankfurt-Hahn Airport, the ACS welcome packet, the shuttle bus schedule and maps of the U.S. Army installations in Wiesbaden.
The sponsor is expected to stay in contact with the newcomer for a few weeks, but there is no set time limit, DeLeon said.
Sponsorship does not have to mean a lot of hours, DeLeon said, and sponsors are not expected to drive newcomers around until their vehicle arrives. That is one reason the information for newcomers includes a bus schedule.
The idea is to give newcomers the tools they need to be independent, DeLeon said.
For more information on becoming a Spouse Sponsor or to sign up for training call civ (0611) 408-0254 or visit Army Community Service in Hainerberg Housing.
Upcoming training sessions will take place from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., Jan. 14, Feb. 4 and March 4 in the ACS Conference Room.
Also, Spouses' Chats will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., in the ACS Conference Room on several dates. The chats each have a focus: "Keeping Your New Year's Resolution," Jan. 2; local shopping, Jan. 16; Fasching, Jan. 30; Valentine's Day ideas, Feb. 6; local tourist sites, Feb. 20; "Traveling on a Dime," March 6; and "Navigating Employment Options," March 20.