When we think of a Sponsor we tend to think of it in an active duty to active duty sense. The truth is though; unofficial, informal spouse sponsorship is just as necessary and beneficial when relocating to a new duty station, if not more. Some bases have an actual spouse sponsorship program that you can sign up for to be a sponsor. However, most of the time it’s an informal process, there’s no official “assignment”. Usually this is something you take upon yourself to reach out to another spouse you hear is coming to the command.
Let’s be real, how many of our active duty members are doing the PCS grind? Who enrolled the kids in school or the CDC? Who made sure medical records and Tricare check-in were complete? Who handled any of the pet preparations? I’m willing to bet most of you spouses reading this are saying, “me”, “oh I did that too”,“yup, that was also me”. SO many of the intricacies that come along with a PCS fall upon the spouse while our active duty other half is busy acclimating and getting up to speed at their new command.
I’ve had the opportunity to not only go through an overseas PCS but I also am the Sponsorship Coordinator on our base. I’ve heard the sponsorship horror stories and unfortunately they tend to outweigh the success ones. So often I hear people complain about having bad sponsors, but then they don’t provide a good experience to someone when it’s their turn to be one.
That can all change though! As spouses, more often then not, we know much more about the resources and opportunities in our location than our active duty member does. As a spouse sponsor you have the opportunity to really make a positive impact on a family going through the PCS whirlwind. What I’ve learned is there is a good way and bad way to do it. Below are my top suggestions for making sure you are the best kind of sponsor.
- Be Proactive
Do you remember making a PCS and thinking, “I don’t even know what we need?” That’s normal! The truth is, you don’t know what you don’t know! That’s why a sponsor should be proactive. Think about the things you wouldn’t have even thought about before transferring to a location but are so much apart of your life now. Being a good sponsor isn’t just being a customer service rep and responding to questions, it’s anticipating them!
- Be Genuine
Don’t sponsor someone because your husband asked you to. Don’t sponsor someone just because they or their spouse is high ranking. If you don’t genuinely care to provide someone with good, necessary information over the long haul, DON’T DO IT! Being a sponsor is not for your personal glory, it’s to ensure someone else’s transition to a new location can be as smooth as possible.
- Be Knowledgeable
This is pretty self-explanatory, right? How can you give good information, if you don’t know anything about the area? Remember, things like housing, personal property, or school registration policies may have changed from when you first arrived, so be prepared with the CURRENT information. You do not have to be an expert though, that’s what the specific departments are for. You just need to know what direction you need to point them in to find the right answers. If you don’t know the correct place, always send them to your Family Center who will point them in the right direction.
- Be Available
Going on vacation? Know you’re going to be extra busy for a few weeks? LET THEM KNOW. Do not just ghost out on them. This may be an unofficial gig that you volunteered for but it still sets the tone for the incoming persons perception of you, the area, and the command. You’re a person with a busy life; it’s okay to not be at their beckon call, but always try to remember what it’s like to have a million questions and waiting on a response.
- Tailor It
Sponsorship is not meant to be a cookie cutter experience, so don’t treat it as such. I suggest sending a questionnaire at first that gives you the basics like names, ages, pets, and any exceptional needs. We all know there’s already enough paperwork that goes along with PCS’ing so why send 10 pages of pet information when they don’t even have one?
- Be Positive
This may be the biggest one. Don’t like where you live? Doesn’t matter. Hate the command? I don’t care. We have all been at locations where some people loved it, and others hated it. As a sponsor, it is your responsibility to provide solid information. Let them determine for themselves if they love or hate it there.
Let’s take a minute to talk about where this trickle effect can lead. When you spread that negativity before someone even arrives you are deflating him or her before they have had the time to make that decision for themselves. If a person arrives already dreading it because of your words, their active duty spouse is likely to hear a lot about it. When the family is unhappy, the active duty member tends to be unhappy. Already coming in deflated typically means someone will not work to his or her best ability. Not working to their best ability ultimately hurts the command, and then the community. Do not underestimate the impact your positive or negative words can have in the short and long term.
Anyone who knows me, knows how much I believe in the power of one. One person is capable of making a real difference for another family. You are capable of making a real difference for them. Spouse sponsorship provides people an automatic connection and friendship even before arrival. Imagine how much easier your transition would be if someone did that for you. Now you can do that for someone else.
**K also writes for POMP USA, a start up company promoting businesses owned by service members, veterans, and their spouses.