FORT LEE, Va. (June 10, 2010) – A first impression speaks volumes – a great sponsor can give Soldiers and their Families a sense of belonging and security when they arrive at their new homes on Fort Lee.

As Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the Installation Management Command, is making sponsorship his primary focus during June, Fort Lee Soldiers should ensure they are doing all they can to properly welcome their unit’s new troops and Families.

“Sometimes our personnel and Family members have an exceptional sponsor − someone who truly makes them feel welcome and gets them off to an excellent start − but that is not always the case,” said Lynch. “There may be sponsors who are not well-equipped or motivated to provide the needed assistance or, even worse, no sponsorship at all.”

The Army Community Service Relocation Readiness Program offers sponsorship training monthly, and they can provide all the information incoming Soldiers need. It’s important for units to have their members trained before they are needed, said Linda Harvey, RRP manager.

“I’d like the sponsor to be trained – a lot of times a unit will get a call that a Soldier is coming in and they are reacting to the Soldier coming versus being trained and knowing what to do and who to contact,” said Harvey. “If they would just contact us, we would provide all the necessary materials and information for the Soldier. That would alleviate some of the stress for the sponsor.”

Keeping in contact with incoming Soldiers as well as knowing the information to pass along is very important for sponsors, said Lynch.

“We must make sure sponsors are well-equipped for their important role,” he said. “Sponsors must understand their role and have the necessary information and resources to fulfill it. Even more so, sponsors must be willing to reach out and make human contact, especially with new Soldiers, first-time Civilian employees, and Family members who are unfamiliar with the Army way of life.”

The training the potential sponsors receive is instrumental in ensuring the success of a new Soldier and their Family acclimating themselves to the installation. It helps them avoid out-of-pocket expenses because their sponsor can direct them to the correct agency to meet their needs, said Harvey.

“It’s very important (for sponsors to spend time with the new Soldiers). When Soldiers arrive to Fort Lee or any installation without a sponsor, they may have to pay out-of-pocket to meet expenses they may not have the money for – so they are incurring unnecessary expenses,” she said. “It’s because they don’t know about a lending closet, or they don’t know where the vet clinic or housing office is located.”

There’s a new tool available for a unit to train sponsors on the Military Homefront Web site called eSponsorship. The training takes 10 minutes and prepares Soldiers to be sponsors, said Harvey. The training can be found at apps.mhf.dod.mil/esat. Right now, there are more than 54 Soldiers on Fort Lee who have taken this training, which has been opened since May.

Harvey said she’s often heard that sponsorship is broken, but that’s not the case.

“It’s not that sponsorship is broken; it’s just not enforced,” she said. “Officers take care of officers and senior enlisted take care of senior enlisted. (Information) is just not filtering down to the junior enlisted. I think once commanders start realizing how stressful it is for a Soldier and the Family to relocate without knowing anything about the community; they will enforce the sponsorship program to a greater degree.”

Commander involvement in the program is essential for its success, said Lynch.

“Above all, I want to ensure that commanders are invested in the success of the Sponsorship Program within their community,” said Lynch. “The Total Army Sponsorship Program is a commander’s program. Its success is contingent upon the commander’s involvement and support.

“It is leadership’s responsibility to send the message that sponsorship is something important to do and to do it right,” he continued. “At the most basic level, that means having an adequate pool of sponsors to meet the needs of the community and supporting those sponsors with reasonable time and resources to do a good job.”