When a Soldier receives assignment orders for a PCS (Permanent Change of Station), they also receive a “Sponsor” at their new post. This Sponsor answers questions, picks them up at the airport, and eases the transition for the Soldier and Family. The ideal PCS Sponsor takes the incoming Soldier in like a younger sibling. They feel responsible for their fellow Soldier. This responsibility, this camaraderie, this sense of family in the unit reduces the risk for sexual assault misconduct and suicide ideation.
When a Soldier leaves the military, there is no “Sponsor”. The Soldier lands in a community where they most likely have no ties to anyone who has served. The bonds formed with their fellow Soldiers – who have endured the same challenges and have shared so many experiences- are broken by physical distance. The family feels this same challenge as they find themselves trying to break into a new community of people who have been together since pre-school and may not understand the military lifestyle. The Soldier and Family can feel alone. No Sponsor is there to assist them through this move to civilian life.
Enter the ETS Sponsorship Program. The goal of the ETS Sponsorship Program is to provide a Sponsor to every Soldier who is ETSing. The Sponsor, trained and certified by the VA, is assigned based on availability and expansion of the program, during the Soldier’s pre-out-processing transition training.
Initially, when the Soldier is still on active duty, the Sponsor will conduct virtual sessions with the Soldier and provide knowledge about local and national VA programs that may be applicable. The Sponsor will serve as an information conduit and will provide guidance through challenges that the Soldier may face in this new life. More important, the Sponsor will ensure that the Soldier and Family are not alone. Similar to the relationship between the PCS sponsor and Soldier, this relationship between the Sponsor and transitioning Soldier, will enhance camaraderie. After arriving in their new post-military hometown, the Sponsor will meet face-to-face with the Soldier at a local Starbucks and enjoy a meal and free cup of coffee, thanks to Starbucks, or at a location that is mutally convenient.