By Staff Sgt. Jessica Condit
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Service members at Little Rock Air Force Base, have developed a new program, the Airman Family Sponsor Program, to assist Airmen in adjusting to their new military lifestyle. This program, in the works since July 2012, became a permanent and important step for Airmen who are transitioning from basic military training and technical school to their first duty station.
Seventy-nine Airmen have signed up for the Airman Family Sponsor Program, leaving the worry of where to go and what to do behind. Airmen have the opportunity to build friendships and gather support by meeting their sponsors upon arrival at Little Rock AFB.
While the program has only been active for about two months, the ratio of Airmen to sponsors is steadily increasing. The need for sponsors is pertinent to the success of the program.
“We currently have 71 sponsors and 58 Airmen to match to them,” said Senior Master Sgt. Shannon Wass, First Term Airman’s Center, career assistance advisor. “The biggest concern, right now, is making sure there are enough sponsors to cover the Airmen coming through FTAC. There are 21 waiting to be assigned a sponsor right now and we can have up to 60 new Airmen every month.”
The goal of the program is to ensure Airmen feel comfortable in their new environment and have as little stress as possible adjusting to a different lifestyle.
“The Airman Sponsor Program brings together the social and mental domains of resilience,” said Chief Master Sgt. Margarita Overton, 19th Airlift Wing command chief. “It helps Airmen adjust to a way of life and provides a safe haven or connection with a family.”
Being an Airman sponsor requires being in the position to serve as a positive role model, helping Airmen understand their own role as members of the Air Force, and reinforcing these positive social values that are being instilled through programs such as the First Term Airman’s Center.
Overton expressed that the program is designed to ensure airmen have some place to call home all the time. She explained that through the program, relationships will already be established so Airmen will have families to celebrate holidays and special events with if there are not enough sponsor families available.
For both the sponsor and the new Airman, the rewards are high. Not only does a sponsor help an Airman transition into his or her new Air Force family, the sponsor also has the privilege to see the Airman progress and become a valuableasset to the Air Force.
“It’s fulfilling knowing that you influenced an Airman in the right direction,” said Overton. “It’s a two-way street. You see the challenges Airmen face, help them connect with people, and in the end, know that you helped that Airman along the way.”
To become a volunteer, certain criteria have to be met. The volunteer must have at least six years of time-in-service, at least one enlistment, no negative quality-force indicators, and an 80 or higher on the most recent physical fitness test. The strict criteria ensure that only the best Airmen, whether enlisted members, officers or federal employees, are serving as role models for our newest Airmen.
After submitting your sponsor application, the First Term Airman Center cadre will match sponsors with Airmen who share the same basic characteristics and interests outside of their direct chain of command. The sponsorship lasts for six months, but can be continued with the approval of the sponsor’s supervisor in order to foster a relationship that could potentially last through their entire career.
For more information on the Airman Family Sponsor Program or to volunteer to become a sponsor, contact Senior Master Sgt. Shannon Wass at 501-987-5903.