First Impressions are Important
There is nothing more important than first impressions. We all know what it’s like to get ready for our first job interview. You have to change your shirt 10 times, double check you have all your paperwork and just as you go into the interview room, you wipe your sweaty palms on your pants so you don’t gross out your new boss when shaking hands. It’s important to leave people with a good first impression because it ensures a healthy and happy relationship in the future. Even if the relationship doesn’t work out, at least there was a good foundation to start with.
So who is Camp Humphreys in our boss to interviewee scene when a new soldier or family moves to the installation? Are they the nervous kid wiping their palms or is Humphreys the boss who decides this new employees future? Believe it or not, Humphreys is the sweaty kid. That’s right, Camp Humphreys should be the one who needs to make a good first impression with their new soldiers and their families because happy troops and happy families creates a productive and combat ready military installation. I didn’t read that line off of a cereal box, it’s simply straight facts.
What do Military Installations do to ensure a good first impression for Newcomers?
The first impression a soldier and family gets of their soon to be home happens months before they even pack their bags. A service member or civilian will receive an email or phone call from their assigned sponsor at the gaining unit and so begins the sponsorship process.
What is a Sponsor?
As part of the Total Army Sponsorship Program soldiers and civilians from all walks of life are assigned to act as a point of contact and liaison for newcomers to their installations, CONUS or OCONUS. Sponsors are often in the same unit as the service member will have a similar rank, family size and job assignment. The idea is that a sponsor should know all the answers to a newcomers questions if they have had to experience a similar move.
What is expected of a Sponsor?
I took the Sponsorship training course over at MyArmyOneSource.com and the one for family members was really informative. Like many eCourses, the slideshow lagged terribly but if you are patient, and window out to research other things while waiting for the next slide to load, you can get a decent amount of information from it. You do not need a CAC card to take the courses. When the popup window asks for a certification, click cancel and continue to login.
All of the following tasks and information for sponsors, including installation addresses and detailed steps of execution, can be found in the Total Army Sponsorship Army Regulation 600-8-8. It’s an easy read.
Service members or civilian employee receive a sponsor by filling out DA Form 5434 and submitting it to their S1. The gaining battalion will assign a sponsor within 10 days of receiving the form and the sponsor will send newcomers a welcome email and/or call the newcomers within 5 days.
- Sponsors are chosen based upon their rank, marital status and duty assignment as it relates to the incoming soldier and family. This means, if you are a warrant pilot with a husband, 2 kids and a dog, expect to get a sponsor who also has a family and is an officer pilot.
- Sponsors have checklists and needs assessments forms to assist them in understanding your needs for the move. They will provide contact information for schools, daycare, hospitals and other requested facilities.
- Sponsors are provided with links to websites that they will forward on to incoming service members and civilians to better assist them with the move and to help them learn more about their new home.
- A sponsor will assist with lodging reservations and setting up a mailbox before the newcomers arrival.
- Sponsors will greet service members and their families upon arrival. They will provide additional transportation if needed.
- Sponsors are given the time they need by their command to ensure the soldier/civilian and their family are able to house hunt, in-process and settle in to the new installation.
How well does Sponsorship work at Camp Humphreys?
I look at the sponsorship program from the eyes of a military dependent. When families arrive in Korea, they will be lugging baggage luggage, car seats, dog crates and stuffed teddy bears through a new post and a foreign country. I’ve never really noticed the Army sponsorship program when moving within the United States and I was ok with that. Moving is what it is, you pack up and arrive at a new destination where you can pretty much take care of everything on your own. But in a country where you don’t know the language, customs or expectations, a sponsor will make or break your first impression about Humphreys and living in Korea as a whole.
My sponsors and FRG did a great job of getting us settled into Humphreys but in reality there was no way for anyone to know all the jumps and hurdles we had to go through from a slide show on Army One Source. Moving to Camp Humphreys is a unique experience, there are too many new variables when it comes to moving here that veterans of the peninsula have barely sorted out themselves. And while Humphreys prepares for the troop transition everyone is extremely busy, possibly too busy to give you the best sponsorship that they can.
That sounds like a poor excuse for not being a great sponsor, everyone in the entire Army is busy, right? But imagine Humphreys as a regular garrison with a full schedule of regular garrison trainings. Now add in an active airfield with pilots who need to keep up their hours while leading units, NCO’s mentoring and caring for soldiers while juggling multiple battalion/brigade positions, linguists who need to keep up their language, active missions that must be manned no matter what, and constant readiness training because Humphreys is technically located in a war zone during a cease fire. Many newcomers will not even meet the sponsor who initiated contact because soldiers are in and out of country so often for TDY, morale leave or on a flight. Others from the gaining unit will do their best to fill the void.
To make matters worse, each family is going to experience Humphreys differently in their first month. Did you get paired up with a sponsor who has a Korean national for a wife? I bet their move to Humphreys was a lot easier than yours will be and they may not recognize the difficulties you are going through. Does your sponsor have a family member in EFMP? If not, they may not be the best fit to help you find local specialists while the Humphreys hospital is under construction. Your sponsor doesn’t have a car? Then get ready for those cab fares or long shuttle bus rides.
Humphreys is a busy place and moving here is a unique experience for everyone. Here is my list of what you should reasonably expect from a sponsor or FRG. There are plenty of things you can take care of on your own but there are some things you just need help with.
What should I expect of my sponsor when moving to Camp Humphreys?
Your sponsor needs to contact you at least 30 days before your arrival to Camp Humphreys. As the movers start coming to get your House Hold Goods and you ship off the car, you are going to start freaking out and any connection you can get to your new home will help calm your nerves.
- Welcome Letter – It’s a wonderful peace of mind to finally know what unit you and your family are heading to so that you can make plans. With the transition of units to Humphreys this year, many soldiers have no idea if they are coming straight to Humphreys, or if they are going to another location on the peninsula but will be moving down with their unit in the near future. The welcome letter truly does what the name implies, it gives the service member a sense that they belong to their new installation and gives them something to look forward to.
- APO Mailbox – I asked this at my mail room and a sponsor can open up an APO mailbox for newcomers 30 days before a newcomer’s report date. It is critical that newcomers have an address to start forwarding mail to because rent deposits and refunds from utilities are burden on finances while PCSing. If the newcomer does not begin in-processing within 15 days of their arrival date, the APO mailbox may be suspended and any mail returned to sender. Make sure the sponsor does not start an APO mailbox too early.
- Lodging contact information – A sponsor should not make lodging reservations on behalf of the newcomer but but they should be able to give out the lodging contact information. All newcomers need to make reservations as soon as possible, especially if they have pets or children. Rooms fill up fast. Here is the current link to the Humphreys Lodging Website as of June, 2017.
Arrival and Post Arrival
- Greet and Welcome – Camp Humphreys soldiers and families will be dropped off at the Community Activity Center across from Lodging to begin in-processing and to be welcomed by their unit. The sponsor and possibly a member of the family readiness group NEEDs to be there to welcome the new members of their unit to Humphreys. I say need because there is nothing more crushing than to step off that bus and have no idea what to do or where to go. Families will be carrying a lot of luggage and they need a familiar connection to the military or civilian community here to know that they are not alone on foreign soil. If the sponsor is unavailable, the unit will assign a replacement.
- Transportation – This is the trickiest part of Humphreys. The base is big and it is cut in half by a runway that makes it take longer to get around. Your sponsor should at the very least secure you transportation to the following locations with their own PoV or the TMP.
- Unit or place of work- The sponsor needs to ensure the service member or civilian employee is driven to their place of work for the first time. During the drive, the sponsor can point out important locations on post. The sponsor will introduce the newcomer to the command team and help them prepare for work. This is important for camaraderie and establishing rules and expectations.
- Housing Office and One Stop – The sponsor should get the newcomers to the housing office as soon as possible so that they can begin house hunting off-post in case of non-availability. The next most important location is to begin in-processing the family at One Stop and get them ration cards and into DEERS.
- Realtor’s Office – This is not really necessary since most realtors will pay a taxi to come pick newcomers up at lodging. But if a family finds they need help, they shouldn’t hesitate to ask their sponsor how best to get to their realtor’s office.
- Moving into New Home – Again, this depends on the situation but the sponsor should help newcomers move all of their luggage to their new home. This can be done through a TMP or by helping them rent a small moving truck. Their new realtor may be better able to assist them but the sponsor should make sure they are getting settled in.
- Pyeongtaek DMV – The DMV is NOT OUTSIDE CAMP HUMPHREYS. Why caps, Sig? My family and I were told that the DMV was in Pyeongtaek which is right outside the main gate. All of that was sort of true. Camp Humphreys is in the city of Pyeongtaek which is also the size of the state of Maryland. So the DMV is, in reality, a twenty minute drive from the main gate. I am still a little bitter about the $40 cab fare. I don’t blame anyone for not being able to explain where the DMV was, many of them didn’t have a car and gave us the best information they had. But I don’t want anyone else to ever have to pay for a cab to the DMV. Ask your sponsor how to get to the DMV and hopefully someone in your new unit or from the FRG can give you a ride.
Help, My Sponsor won’t write back to us!
It happens, a newcomer receives their welcome letter and hears nothing else from their sponsor. It is distressing to send your stuff out to an unknown country, to step on a plane for 20 hours and not know what to expect. A sponsor, or any other connection to Humphreys before arrival, can really change how well families, soldiers and civilians are able settle into Humphreys and Korea. No one wants to hear another bad sponsor story. So what can newcomers do if they can’t get in contact with their sponsor?
- Request a new sponsor – Contact your unit and find out what happened to your sponsor and if a new one is an option. It’s possible there was a simple miscommunication and the unit can get you and your sponsor back on track.
- Contact the FRG – The FRG leaders at Humphreys are hard working women who work tirelessly to care for families at Humphreys. I’ve seen their huge planners with calendars full of events and meetings to improve life here at Humphreys and they take their work seriously. If you are having trouble getting the answers you need or if you just want a few questions answered, your FRG will be there for you. Most Humphreys’ FRG’s have Facebook pages.
- Join the Camp Humphreys’ Wives/ Spouses Page on Facebook- This group is not limited to military spouses. There is a wide range of people from all over the peninsula that can give you the advice and reassurance you need to complete your move to Humphreys. There are files and threads full of information to get you started and many FRG leaders are in the group to help.
- As a spouse, find your own unofficial sponsor – One thing I love about the Humphreys’ Spouses Page is how quickly everyone will try to help a newcomer to the area. The page is like a great big sponsor to give you a warm welcome to the Korean peninsula. If you are in need of a single point of contact, don’t hesitate to start asking questions and make an online friend. If you aren’t moving to Humphreys, find your Spouses Facebook page and see if someone can help you.
I want to give back to everyone who helped me move here, what can I do?
If you were overjoyed by the warm welcome you received at Camp Humphreys then give back to the community by offering to welcome one or two families to your unit or volunteer for one or two events with your FRG. Many FRG’s give welcome baskets or home cooked meals to new families but offering advice and being a physical presence for a new family on their first day is a great way to give back.
I am also seeing a trend of unofficial sponsors through social media. Many people come into the Humphreys Spouses page asking the same questions over and over again. It can get tiring to see so many desperate people asking basic questions but consider picking one of them up and following them through their adventure and offering advice. Most people who ask questions in the Facebook group are legitamely afraid and overwhelmed by the move and all the information available. Often, they are looking for a connection to their new home and they need a friendly face on the other side of the keyboard more than the information being put out.