JULY 21, 2020 – In the past few years, U.S. Army Garrison Italy held Total Army Sponsorship Program training and events designed to help soldiers become better sponsors to newly arriving soldiers, civilians, contractors and their families by learning more about sponsorship resources from their respective garrison agencies. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated changes in format and location, the program’s purpose remains the same.
The program, available to active duty Army, Army National Guard, Army Reserve, and civilian employees, focuses on the sponsor, who is key to integrating newcomers as quickly as possible while making a good first impression.
A permanent-change-of-station move to Italy is a unique experience that requires the assistance of well-trained sponsors to set the standard for future personnel to come, said Giulio Rigodanzo, USAG Italy installation sponsorship liaison.
“During the weekly training we can have up to 15 trainees in attendance per iteration to ensure social distancing, where each of them needs to bring his own personal protective equipment,” he said. In this uncertain period of COVID-19 travel restrictions, the training is constantly evolving to ensure the sponsor is a key player to assist the individual arriving here, he added.
“We cover step by step what a sponsor is supposed to do to ease the transition of a newly arrived community member,” he said.
While active duty soldiers and Army civilians take the TASP training online prior to attending face-to-face training, contractors and family members can attend it without taking the online portion first. “We just ask each unit to send us an attendees roster to ensure we don’t go over the allowed maximum capacity of participants per session due to COVID-19,” Rigodanzo said.
The program, which will be offered until the end of September, is meant to be taken once.
“The final objective is to train and equip future sponsors with all the necessary information,” Rigodanzo said. “My favorite quote about the program is: ‘Pay it forward,’ which is what we are trying to achieve — a fair and smooth transition from [the United States to an overseas duty station] for all our new community members.”
Participants in the July 8 class on the Caserma Ederle military complex in Vicenza, Italy, expressed positive feedback about what they learned.
“I believe the program is helpful to future sponsors because it gives them all the information needed before the soldiers come to the base,” said Army Sgt. Domoniq Clowers, with the 386th Movement Control Transportation Detachment, who was training to be a sponsor for the first time.
“I enjoyed the welcome packet and believe it will be helpful to all the future soldiers to come,” Clowers said.
Army Staff Sgt. Preston L. Jackson from U.S Army Africa agreed with his classmate.
“The training helped me understand why we need to have sponsors and learn the different aspects of being one for a future soldier or family,” he said. “With COVID-19 going on, it can be stressful for families; and during today’s training, we learned what we need to do to help others with the process.”
Jackson added that he believes TASP is one of the greatest programs the Army has invented for soldiers, families and civilians.
“Without this program, people would be lost at their duty station,” he said, noting that he was contacted months before moving to Italy to let him know about the program and what to do to get ready for arrival.
“My sponsor reached out and told me about the different scenarios that can happen when arriving, including getting a passport, talking about barracks availability and shipping a car,” he said. “[His sponsor] stayed in touch with me throughout the whole PCS. He even picked me up from the airport. If it wasn’t for this program, I would be lost.”
(Laura Kreider is assigned to U.S. Army Garrison Italy.)
BY LAURA KREIDER