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Giving service members a Home Away From Home

Linda and Hank Duncan, center, speak with two of their Airmen, A1C Albert (he goes by Thomas) McConnell, left, from the 552nd Training Readiness Squadron, and Amn. Karson Cyr, from the 552nd TRS. The Home Away From Home program currently has 138 active military participants and 61 active host families. For more information, visit www.teamtinkerhomeawayfromhome.org. Air Force photos by Kelly White/Released

Linda and Hank Duncan, center, speak with two of their Airmen, A1C Albert (he goes by Thomas) McConnell, left, from the 552nd Training Readiness Squadron, and Amn. Karson Cyr, from the 552nd TRS. The Home Away From Home program currently has 138 active military participants and 61 active host families. For more information, visit www.teamtinkerhomeawayfromhome.org. Air Force photos by Kelly White/Released

Front left, Amn. First Class Enzo Ocsas and front right, Amn. First Class Kellan Goins, both with the 72nd Operation Support Squadron, maneuver through an obstacle course while holding a raw egg during a Sept. 20 picnic for the Home Away From Home program.  Air Force photo by Kelly White/Released

Front left, Amn. First Class Enzo Ocsas and front right, Amn. First Class Kellan Goins, both with the 72nd Operation Support Squadron, maneuver through an obstacle course while holding a raw egg during a Sept. 20 picnic for the Home Away From Home program. Air Force photo by Kelly White/Released

Maria Baker, a host mother with the Home Away From Home program, poses for a picture at a recent picnic for the program with her “adopted” Airmen, left to right, Amn. Basic Nolan Switanowski, Amn. First Class Braden McGee, Amn. First Class Benjamin Pohl, Amn. First Class Kyle Long and Amn. First Class Jacob Lozano. All Airmen are with the 552nd Air Control Wing. Air force photo by Kelly White/Released

Maria Baker, a host mother with the Home Away From Home program, poses for a picture at a recent picnic for the program with her “adopted” Airmen, left to right, Amn. Basic Nolan Switanowski, Amn. First Class Braden McGee, Amn. First Class Benjamin Pohl, Amn. First Class Kyle Long and Amn. First Class Jacob Lozano. All Airmen are with the 552nd Air Control Wing. Air force photo by Kelly White/Released

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- For service members and their families, moving to a new base is part of life. But no matter how often it's done, it can still be a stressful experience, and settling into life at a new base takes time.

Luckily, new members at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, have Home Away From Home to make that transition easier.

Through the program, community members provide a home away from home for airmen and sailors in their first year at Tinker. Host families serve as mentors, friends and advisors, as well as providing a caring environment where troops can relax and get away from work pressures.

"We serve first-term airmen and sailors just out of basic training, single and living in the dormitories," said Pam  Kloiber [WHAT'S HER OFFICIAL TITLE]. "Once the troop marries or changes duty stations, they become alumni."

According to Kloiber, many of the alumni and families remain active in the program, even after moving on. Airmen and sailors benefit from having positive adult interaction while host families serve as role models and help reinforce positive social values.

Currently, 260 service members have been mentored through the program over the last two years and there are 138 active participants with 65 active host families.

Each host family and service member completes a questionnaire, which helps match interests, allowing for stronger bonds and better support, Kloiber said.

"We are relatively new with HAFH, but we're glad we signed up," said Hank Duncan. Duncan and his wife, Linda, act as a host family for six airmen. "It's really a two-way street, in that we get as much, and perhaps more, out of our involvement with the program. I sort of expected that, as an ex-Air Force man myself, knowing we'd be associating with the cream of the crop. They're a great group of young men and we look forward to our continued association with them and others as time goes on."

Of course, the program was designed with the troops in mind, and it's a hit with service members as well. It's been so successful that six other bases have contacted Kloiber about creating their own program.

"I enjoy it a lot," said Senior Airman Maegan Phillips, an aviation resource manager with the 963rd Airborne Air Control Squadron. "It's like having an extended family. We get to go do things together like going out to dinner, Frontier City, and we even attended an art show."

Phillips said her host family, Mark and Sherri Alexander, is amazing and they have a son who is in the military, which makes it even easier to connect.

"I'd encourage anyone to definitely give the program a try," Phillips said. "It will make you feel less excluded and have a family - someone to joke around with and just hang out when you need it. It has definitely been a lift to my Air Force life."

For more information, or to apply to be a host family, visit www.teamtinkerhomeawayfromhome.org.