First impressions: Sponsors impact newcomers for life

First impressions: Sponsors impact newcomers for life

First impressions: Sponsors impact newcomers for life

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- What a difference 13 years makes.

I arrived at Aviano Air Base as a brand new second lieutenant in November 2001 and left kicking and screaming three years later. The 31st Maintenance Squadron was my first Air Force assignment and I cannot truly express how happy and proud I am to return to the same squadron 13 years later and now command it.

I’m happy to say the wine and food are still excellent. The Dolomites still stand as the greatest cure for a bad day. Traveling around Europe is just as easy, if not easier, than before. The Cincinnati Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since ‘91. Aviano AB is still one of the most inspected and exercised bases in the Air Force. Most important to me, the 31st MXS continues to provide world-class support to the 31st Maintenance Group.

Though a lot stayed the same, there were many improvements.

The housing office in now on base, instead of in the Aviano “Gray Mall.” The vehicle inspection area is now on base and no longer in the Aviano industrial area. Vehicle registration appointments were scheduled one to two months out. There’s now a home fuels office on base, instead of going to the companies in Pordenone to set up service.

Whether registering a vehicle or turning on your gas at your new home, life has become a lot easier. We have better opportunities to talk with our hosts through translation and language apps—no more flipping through a phrase book to try and piece together a sentence. The power of communication is at your fingertips.

Sponsorship is still extremely important and continues to improve.

Moving yourself and family to a foreign country for the first time can be daunting. The difference made by a great sponsor cannot be stressed enough. My sponsor from 2001 is still one of my closest friends.

Having a sponsor contact you with pre-arrival information or give you a ride to find a house can make the difference from loving the assignment to dreading to get up and deal with the next hurdle.

As a sponsor, be there for the new member from day one. Start their assignment on the right foot. It’s better to be too involved than not involved at all. You never know, you may just find a best friend from the experience.

We all work hard day-in and day-out to provide a warfighter readiness posture for U.S. European Command and our NATO partners. As we live through inspection after exercise after TDY after deployment, setting new team members up for success remains paramount. It allows for a better assignment experience. Embrace the challenge of sponsorship and what it can do for you and your career.

As for my experience with my sponsor: To Mikey, Sia, DBAL, JimRob, Pyro, Pier, et al, it’s about time to regroup in Italy and share one more glass of vino together. Maybe the Bengals can even win a playoff game.