By Kim Wheeler, Fort Jackson LeaderDecember 20, 2012
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Whether it is a military family's first or fifth move, relocating to a new place can be challenging. Fort Jackson's Sponsor-a-Spouse program aims to ease that process by providing information and resources that address each participating family's unique needs and questions.
Developed to enhance the Army Sponsorship Program and the post's family readiness groups, Sponsor-a-Spouse connects incoming spouses with those who already live on Fort Jackson, Shaw Air Force Base, or in the surrounding area.
The program focuses on welcoming incoming spouses, introducing them to the FRG, and setting the tone for a smooth transition, said Elizabeth Maher, Army Community Services outreach program manager.
When a family receives orders, it has the option to sign up for the pioneer program, which Maher said is currently only available to Fort Jackson and Army units located on Shaw AFB. The spouse is then connected with a certified spouse sponsor who has received formal training through the FRG.
"The volunteers are encouraged to contact the incoming family (members) before they arrive at Fort Jackson, to anticipate the needs of the family, provide information, be available for questions, and most importantly, welcome the new family to the unit and FRG," Maher said. "This simple act can set the stage for a positive experience at Fort Jackson."
Maher said a good example of the program's potential impact is the FRG for Third Army/ARCENT, Headquarters/Special Troops Battalion, located on Shaw AFB.
The unit has offered the program for less than a year and has already sponsored more than 60 families, according to the unit's FRG leader Christiane Turlington. This, in turn, has contributed to increased participation in the FRG and improvement in the unit's morale. Turlington said the program's success has gone beyond providing information and boosting morale to fostering friendships and a more seamless transition into the community.
"There are many spouses who have become close friends through this program," Turlington said, adding that many of their sponsors have taken extra steps to welcome new spouses, like taking them to lunch or meeting to go shopping. One sponsor even used videotelephony services to help an incoming spouse select a home to rent.
"Spouse sponsorship really alleviates the fear of the unknown," she said. "More people are saying they want to use this program."
Maher said that response illustrates how instrumental Sponsor-a-Spouse can be.
"This is an additional tool available to commanders to enhance their sponsorship programs," she said. "It builds relationships within the unit, establishes social connections, and increases participation in FRG groups -- all of which lead to enhanced well-being, higher quality of life and stronger resiliency."
Maher said Sponsor-a-Spouse welcomes new volunteers and regularly conducts sponsorship training. To become a certified sponsor, contact your FRG to learn when the next training will take place.