When I was assigned to Ramstein Air Base, Germany. I had never lived in Europe and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I did know I needed help. That’s where my sponsor came to my rescue. When you receive your assignment you should have already received a sponsor. I had already contacted the office I was coming to and they already had me in contact with my sponsor, but what if you don’t have sponsor information?
How do you find a sponsor?
Your gaining squadron should already know this so the first call would be to your new squadron. If your new squadron doesn’t have the information, you can ask your gaining office as they’ll be working with you. Our office was more like a family and we took care of our family. If you have a larger office without that closeness, you might end up having to contact the Airman & Family Readiness Center (DSN 314-480-5100, Commercial +49 6371-47-5900) or send an email to 86MSS.DPF@ramstein.af.mil. However you find your sponsor, find him or her! You’ll have many questions answered and they can help you arrange your house hunting trip!
Why would I take a house hunting trip?
I took one each time I moved to Germany and I never regretted it. It made the move very smooth. I came about six weeks before our report no later than date. Most landlords advertise their homes for rent about 30 days before they want you to move in. Six weeks gives you time to find a home and get some things setup in advance like utilities, internet and a car!
I can do all of that?
Yes. It’s not hard. I studied for the driver’s exam before I arrived and took that exam and passed! My driver’s license all set. The next stop was the phone company so I could buy a cell phone. I needed to start calling landlords soon! I soon had a cell phone, or “handy”, and was ready to find a house!
My sponsor drove me to housing and we began our search
We scoured the housing listings for a home and called many potential landlords and made appointments when we had something promising. My sponsor drove us all over the place and he was very helpful. Some of the landlords didn’t speak much English but my sponsor understood enough German to communicate. After a few days, we found a home and I signed a housing contract. I had an address! On to the utility companies!
My sponsor drove us to all of the utility companies
Since I had an address and a signed housing contract, I could arrange water, electricity, gas and telephone/internet. We were set to arrive on the 15th of Feb and also move in on the 15th of Feb. But our house wouldn’t have any furniture in it! What would we do? Eat on the floor?
My sponsor had another trick up his sleeve
The military realizes that it takes 45 days or longer for your household goods to arrive via ship. They also realize you might not want to have to buy a 220 volt washing machine, dryer and refrigerator. The Furnishing Management Office (FMO) was created to provide just these things. The washer, dryers and refrigerators are on loan to you during your entire assignment. Other furniture is available as a loaner until your main household goods shipment arrives.
We arranged for an FMO delivery of our loaner furniture (affectionately called “Flintstone furniture”) on the 15th of Feb. Since FMO only provides so much, we mailed several large boxes of things we would need right away: dishes, sheets, plates, towels, etc. Those were sent via the US Post Office about two weeks before our arrival date as mail takes about seven days to travel first class.
Sending big boxes with first class mail?
We know first class mail isn’t the cheapest way to go, but you can file for that expense with your travel voucher to be reimbursed. Overall the boxes didn’t cost that much to send and we really wanted those items right away. So we pretty much had our entire move scripted.
The script went off just as planned
We left the United States on the 14th of Feb on an over night flight. My sponsor and another guy in our office met us at the airport the next morning with two vans: one van for the people and one van for the luggage. My sponsor had met our new landlords the day before and picked up the key to our house. So we drove from the airport directly to our new house. The house was empty of course. The dogs were happy to be out of their travel cages.
About 30 minutes after we arrived, the FMO delivery truck arrived with our Flintstone furniture. By 11:00 AM we had our loaner furniture in place. My sponsor drove me to the post office in his van and we picked up the boxes I had sent to my APO box that I had setup on my house hunting trip. They were ready to be picked up! We drove a parking lot we used for our office and another guy in our squadron had an extra car he loaned us until we could get our own car. My sponsor and I drove back to the new house with the boxes and loaner car.
We made it!
We were living in Germany now in a house, with furniture, utilities and the phone installer came the next day. The children started school the next day. Another thing I had arranged on my house hunting trip was the children’s bus passes and enrolled them in school! I think the children would have preferred a few days off but it was great for them to starting meeting new friends right away. What a smooth move!
A sponsor can help you so much you really should use him or her. Taking a house hunting trip about six weeks in advance really can get you setup for smooth move. You might have a few bumps in your moving process but your sponsor will be there to help you and support you.