Getting ready to PCS? Getting connected with the sponsorship program offers an instant connection at your new duty station.
“Let me add you to the group.” I have a love/hate relationship with social media groups. OK, not hate, but we’ll settle for minor to significant disdain.
The truth is, most of us do appreciate that we can get a lot of our military life questions answered, at midnight, from our PJs. And while social media might have an answer for anything, face-to-face interactions still matter.
As anyone who’s been through it knows, an OCONUS assignment can be taxing. It tests everything you know about strength, tenacity, and grit. In 2015 our PCS took us to Germany. We joined a unit that had the most incredible spouse sponsorship program. I’d never seen anything like it before or since.
Check out Military OneSource’s updated eSponsorship Application and Training
As I later joined this group of dedicated volunteers, it was clear this program created a lifeline. This “welcome committee” spent an hour a week with new families, answering the same dozen questions. Their equal commitment to each family that joined our little corner of the world renewed my belief that connections do matter.
We met in person because we knew that conversation brings up more questions — and fosters connection. Could we have answered a new spouse’s questions over email or from a social media group? Definitely. But we wanted new families to have a handful of faces they’d later recognize at the food court or the commissary.
We weren’t chauffeurs or babysitters, but we were available to help others adjust to their new community from the start. We made it clear we weren’t from their family readiness group, but were members of the larger unit who wanted others to feel included.
And we weren’t the only ones putting in this level of effort. Last year, at the annual AWAG (formerly American Working Around the Globe) Conference, I led a discussion with military-connected attendees on the value of spouse sponsorship in OCONUS communities. I’d long believed that the reason sponsorship mattered was because relationships mattered, even in the age of social media. I was utterly impressed by what military spouses were doing around the globe to wrap their arms around their newest residents.
Now, after seven moves, I’ve never received a welcome even remotely similar from my stateside Army family. Europe just seemed to do sponsorship better. Or maybe that unit was special. Regardless, why isn’t spouse sponsorship something in which every unit invests?
Here’s the thing, with every move we’re all doing the same things — identifying the people and places we need to save in our GPS. We all need a hairdresser, a mechanic, a veterinarian or a pediatrician. We are all starting over with new emergency contacts we barely know. Unless you’re returning to a known location, there is so much to learn. That’s part of the adventure — and part of the hardship.
Whether you are a PCS virgin or an experienced military spouse that excels at both research and organization, we could all use a hand.
If your unit isn’t ready for this level of effort, what can you do to build connections?
- Reach out (in person) to offer yourself as a new neighbor’s local emergency contact before the first box is even delivered,
- Message a spouse (joining your unit) who asked a question about the local area. Provide contact information and encourage questions,
- Introduce a new spouse to your favorite coffee shop in town, and
- Reach back for a “second touch” to see how a new family is doing and answer new questions.
It’s easy to assume that because this isn’t someone’s first rodeo, they don’t need our support. Or to believe that if a newly-arrived spouse needs help, they will ask. Often, neither is true. Will everyone want to hear what you have to offer? Nope. And that’s OK. To the rest, we can welcome them. In the end, this level of community support can make the military lifestyle experience a positive one.Read comments