PODCAST: Program offers Tinker troops a home away from home

  • Published
  • By April McDonald
  • 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

What began out of a tragedy has turned into a triumph for the young military members stationed at Tinker Air Force Base.

Pam Kloiber, executive director and co-founder of the Team Tinker Home Away From Home program, recently sat down with Tinker Talks to discuss the program that pairs young service members with civilian host families to help alleviate the anxiety of being alone and far from home, often for the first time.

On an icy Christmas Eve in 2011, two Airmen from the 552nd Air Control Wing were killed in an automobile accident in Oklahoma City. After a conversation with then-552nd ACW Commander Col. Greg Guillot, Kloiber had her marching orders and set out to create a program modeled after a similar one at the Air Force Academy.

“Actually, all military academies have what they call a ‘sponsorship program,’” Kloiber said. “But, they are mandatorily paired with a host family when they are in school. He didn’t want it to be mandatory, he wanted it to be a voluntary effort on the Airman’s part, if they felt like they needed an extension of their Air Force family.”

Over the last 10 years, more than 1,000 first term Airmen and Sailors have taken Kloiber up on her offer and actively participated in the program.

Service members can become part of HAFH through several different avenues, Kloiber said. In addition to being linked with a host family, service members can attend a monthly life skills class through the “Empowerment, Enhancement and Education” initiative.

Senior Airman Will Coriano-Cotto, 552nd Operations Support Squadron, has been in the program for two-and-a-half years and says he’s grateful he was willing to give it a chance.

“I know a lot of Airmen are very hesitant just because the program seems out of the norm from what we hear,” he said. “But I’m extremely glad I took that step.”

Airman 1st Class Alize Menedez of the 552nd Training Squadron agreed.

“I’ve only been in the program for four months, but those four months are the most growing months my one-year Air Force career,” she said.

Menedez said she joined the program because she was having a difficult time adjusting to life away from home and in the Air Force.

“I wouldn’t trade anything about it,” she said. “It truly is a home away from home.”

Airmen looking for something to do over the holidays are welcome to reach out to Kloiber through the channels listed below. No commitment to join the program is necessary.

“We have many families who would love to welcome you in just for the Thanksgiving and Christmas single day, that’s all,” Kloiber said. “They will have a bunch of Airmen at their table already, so you won’t feel awkward.”

For more information on the program, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TeamTinkerHomeAwayFromHome/ or their website at www.teamtinkerhomeawayfromhome.org. Airmen interested in the program can reach out to the career assistance advisors at the First Term Airman Center at 405-736-4959 or tinker.ftac@us.af.mil.