The Army’s sponsorship program is a key asset for Soldiers and their Families when transitioning from one location to another. Being involved in the program allows for a smoother transition and creates an atmosphere that makes the new station seem like home a lot quicker, according to several Fort Bragg Soldiers.
Toni Swain-Baskervill, who serves as branch chief, Personnel Reassignments Branch, Military Personnel Division in the Soldier Support Center, also heads the post’s sponsorship program.
Swain-Baskervill, along with Staff Sgt. Andre Miller and Robert Edwards, ensure that Soldiers’ sponsorship needs are met.
“The responsibility of the Soldier is to fill out the sponsorship form, DA Form 5434, properly so that they can obtain a sponsor. Once they continue their levy brief, as part of their levy packet to transfer to wherever they’re going, they fill out the form and we submit it to their gaining installation or unit. Once it is received, that unit will make contact with the Soldier to address any concerns they may have,” Miller explained.
The gaining unit, after contacting the incoming Soldier, will then put them in contact with someone who is usually of equal rank.
Miller said the gaining commander usually takes over the responsibility of ensuring that the incoming Soldier receives a proper sponsor. He added that the process has been quite effective.
“When used properly, it’s very effective,” Miller said. “You’re able to get school lists and other information and it gives you a pretty good idea of what’s going on with the installation, from someone who’s actually at the installation.
There’s only so much information that you can get from websites like Google, but instead, here’s an individual who can tell you how things really are with the unit and the mission.”
Edwards said that it’s very important for Soldiers to enroll into the sponsorship program because it allows for a smoother transition for the Soldier and his Family.
“A new Soldier going to an installation really has no clue about what’s going on, or how things work at that installation. That may make him feel lost among all of the other Soldiers,” Edwards explained. “When you have someone to help you become acclimated and give you an idea of where to go and more importantly, where not to go, including the good areas to live, that matters to a young Soldier.”
Miller pointed out that some challenges Soldiers may run into include not knowing where to move, not knowing the unit’s mission — whether or not the unit is due for deployment, and the type of facilities and services that are available for Families with exceptional Family members.
“It also benefits single Soldiers,” Edwards said. “Single Soldiers are more likely to go to clubs and if you come here and go to a club that is on the list of banned establishments, you could get yourself in trouble. Having a sponsor to inform you of those places can keep that from happening.”
Swain-Baskervill told the story of a young officer who arrived at Fort Bragg and was severely assaulted shortly after arriving in the Fayetteville area, simply because he checked into a hotel that was on the post’s list of banned establishments.
She said the sponsorship program could minimize these types of incidents when used properly.
Spc. Juan Salas, who’s assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 27th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, recently arrived at Fort Bragg. He said his sponsor was very helpful in making his move to the post a success.
“My sponsor actually told me a lot before I came here. It was kind of hard because we transitioned to the enterprise email network and mine was acting up. When I first got here, he showed me around post and how to get everywhere, including the PXs, commissaries, good places and the places to stay away from,” said Salas, who recently transferred from Korea.
He said the only thing that really needs to be improved is the email process.
“The post could ensure that their email and that of the incoming Soldier are compatible. It would be great to have more than one way of communicating. That’s something that could be improved,” he said.
For Sgt. 1st Class Michael Zaharevich, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, the sponsorship program was a welcome service when he transitioned to Fort Bragg from Belgium.
“I was a little concerned because it’s been 10 years since I’ve been back to the States. I started at Fort Bragg, so I knew a little, but there was still uncertainty, since I now had my Family with me,” he explained.
“About 90 days out, I got my email notification from my sponsor and we chatted back and forth. I had a few questions and he was able to answer them for me.
Zaharevich said most of his questions involved the services, schools and housing that was available for his Family and he was able to find the information from the Internet and his sponsor.
“It made it a smooth transition to have that information ahead of time, as opposed to just showing up and being completely lost. If I didn’t have a sponsor, it would be so much more difficult because you end up doing all of that research by yourself,” he added.
He said that knowing someone cares enough to help you transition to your new location, provides a great first impression of the unit.