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Command sponsorship is a benefit granted to the dependents of US military personnel serving overseas. It is usually given to allow dependents of military personnel to accompany them during their stay abroad. Soldiers typically apply for command sponsorship to be able to have their families with them on certain overseas assignments.
Under a command sponsorship, the government shoulders the travel expenses of the dependents by either paying or reimbursing the cost of airfare. There are two types of sponsored travel: concurrent and deferred. In concurrent travel, dependents travel with the individual who is a member of the military to the overseas location. Travel is deferred if the dependents travel alone to the international base. The latter is typically the case because most sponsorships are approved when the member of the military is already stationed in an overseas command.
Command sponsorship mainly provides an incentive for soldiers to serve abroad, as they can complete at least some of their tour near their family members. Often, personnel with sponsored dependents elect to have a longer tour of duty because the extra benefits can offset the initial cost of moving overseas. The dependents are exposed to a new culture, which some families find particularly enticing, and dependent children are typically eligible for basic and college education.
There are additional allowances and other benefits commonly included in a sponsorship program. These include an overseas housing allowance (OHA), a temporary lodging allowance (TLA) and an increased cost of living allowance (COLA). Moreover, dependents may be eligible for on-base employment, shipment of household goods, environmental and morale leave (EML), and the use of command facilities.
The process of acquiring a command sponsorship varies according to the overseas command. In most cases, it is the soldier who starts the application by requesting a sponsorship at his or her unit personnel office. Some locations also require a minimum rank or tour duration before soldiers can apply. For example, in 2011, a Japan naval command sponsorship normally requires at least a rank of E4, although an E3 may apply under certain circumstances. An army command sponsorship in Germany generally requires a minimum 36-month tour.
An officer normally assists the person filing a sponsorship packet. The packet should contain pertinent documents such as the request document, enlisted record brief (ERB), marriage and birth certificates of the dependents, proof of custody, and the exceptional family member program (EFMP) screenings. Dependents may also be required to have a defense enrollment eligibility reporting system (DEERS) and TRICARE registration before being considered. The completion of paperwork, EFMP screenings, and sponsorship approval can take from several weeks to more than six months.