Reporting into a new unit on the first day can be stressful. This is especially true for junior enlisted members who are still learning about military protocols and daily activities on the base. Preparation is one of the best strategies to help servicemembers successfully transition on day one.
Over the course of my 22-year career in the military, I reported to many new units and bases. Like many other servicemembers, I found the first day to be challenging if I was unsure where to report, when my liberty expired, or which uniform I should wear reporting in.
To overcome these challenges, one of the first effective strategies I found is to communicate with the unit sponsor if one has been appointed. Often, a base welcome letter before the servicemember reports will list the contact information for an assigned sponsor. That is typically someone with a similar rank or maybe an immediate supervisor. Once the sponsor is known, it is important for servicemembers to develop a list of questions prior to contacting the sponsor.
Taking the time to write out a list of questions regarding the new unit can make a good first impression on the sponsor because it displays the new member’s initiative in successfully transferring to the new unit. It also shows the sponsor that he or she is pursuing success in their new unit through preparedness.
When a sponsor is not assigned, I have found it best to contact the unit before my reporting date and speak with the executive officer. I would ask who I should contact regarding questions I had. In my case, the executive officer typically answered my questions or directed me to either the person I was replacing or someone with a similar role in the unit.
Some of the common questions I would ask included:
- What uniform should I wear when I report into the unit?
- What paperwork should I hand carry in addition to my orders?
- Should I plan to change to the uniform of the day following my check-in?
- What is the expected time I should report in?
Another strategy I found helpful was to arrive on base the day before I was due to report. I would use the day to walk around and familiarize myself with the location of my unit and other resources or offices, such as the education services office. By learning to navigate the base prior to reporting, I took the stress out of wondering where to park or where the office was that I would be reporting to the next day.
Getting a good night’s rest prior to the first day, having a fully prepared uniform laid out, and having measured my travel time to the base in the morning were also helpful strategies.
Knowing that I would be meeting the command and my new co-workers for the first time and that first impressions are important, I would also plan what I would say when I reported into the unit. Typically, I would mentally prepare for what I was going to say regarding my professional background, my interest and commitment to contributing to my new unit. I would also plan out questions I wanted to ask the command and my supervisors regarding their expectations of me.
The first day of transferring into a new unit will become less stressful over time. These strategies, along with good eye contact with everyone you meet on base, can help all servicemembers develop a good start in their new unit.