Easing the transition: Spouse to Spouse
YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea -- When Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel L. Willing and his wife Marian were given their assignment to U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, their task involved new experiences such as encountering the Korean culture, meeting a new Community and learning about garrison life on the peninsula. To help Mrs. Willing get assimilated into the new Community quickly and efficiently, Lisa Winders, spouse of United States Marine Corps Forces Korea Command Sgt. Maj. Jayme Winders, sponsored Mrs. Willing through the Yongsan Spouse Sponsorship Program, which had been launched by Marilyn Roseborough, the Army Community Service relocation manager.
"There are some things that Mrs. Willing needs to know as a Community leader," said Winders. "I can be the conduit to other leaders around here, so that she doesn't have to go and try to figure these things out by herself."
Winders explained that when Servicemembers and Spouses move to new assignments, there are often cases where they are required to figure out important information and procedures of the Community by themselves. This may be because they do not have anyone around to walk them through this process. Consequently, the process of moving into a new assignment can become long, burdensome and stressful.
The Spouse Sponsorship Program curtails this process by pairing the incoming Spouse with another Spouse who is already accustomed to the Community, allowing the inbound Spouse to focus on assuming the role of Community leader, rather than spend a lot of time getting accustomed to the new setting.
"It shouldn't be about reinventing the wheel, it should be passing the baton," Winders said.
In addition to making the experience more efficient and positive, the Spouse Sponsorship Program also helps inbound Servicemembers and Families have an accurate perspective on what to expect in their new assignment. Willing explained that Winders had contacted her several months prior to her arrival in Korea. This allowed Willing to have a better understanding of the Community she would meet, and know how to properly prepare her Family for life on USAG Yongsan.
"She sent me emails a couple of months before we arrived, and asked a lot of great questions so that she could provide good information for me about Family size, whether I was planning to work, what age our children were, what pets we were bringing," Willing said. "It was very helpful and I think it goes a long way toward eliminating problems before they even happen, because we receive the information beforehand."
One reason that Yongsan's Spouse Sponsorship Program stands out is that it is a Joint Service, meaning that it includes Air Force, Navy, Marine, and Army Spouses. This allows there to be flexibility, rather than inbound Spouses being sponsored only by outbound Spouses.
In cases where inbound Spouses are sponsored by outbound Spouses, it often may be the case that the outbound Spouses cannot properly commit to the Family they are sponsoring. This happens inevitably due to the fact that they are preoccupied with their own Permanent Change of Station, and the preparations needed for their own Family to move to the next assignment. Additionally, Winders explained that there were sometimes cases where Servicemembers were not accompanied by their Spouses. This would mean that there would be no available outbound Spouse to sponsor the inbound Spouse.
On Yongsan Garrison, an inbound Spouse could be sponsored by any of the Spouses in the various other forces including Air Force and Marine. This is precisely how Winders was able to become Willing's sponsor.
"I think it's great to have a buddy when you get here and a Spouse who has your perspective on Military life, and it's a great way to start off a friendship with somebody new that might last the rest of your life," Willing said. "I think it's a brilliant program and I really hope that it's something that they continue and expand Army-wide."