City officials and several military organizations have teamed up to make young airmen from Langley Air Force Base feel at home in Hampton.
The "Adopt an Airman" program will pair young airmen with civilian families, who will act as mentors and provide a home-away-from-home of sorts. Hampton's Military Affairs Committee and Langley Civic Leaders Association just began the application process for host families, and hope to have a pool of five to 10 families by Oct. 30, giving them enough time to be paired before the holidays.
A similar program is used to house collegiate baseball players over the summer while they play with Peninsula Pilots. Unlike those players, airmen will not live with host families.
These airmen live in the dormitories on base and, like most college-aged young adults, this might be their first time away from home. Families are encouraged to host them at dinners or game nights. The idea is to get them off base and into the community, said Bruce Sturk, Hampton federal facilities manager.
"They work on the base, they eat on the base and they live on the base," Sturk said of the airmen. "They might not make it out of the fence in their first year."
Both the families and airmen will fill out questionnaires, which will be used to match them based on interests, Sturk said. It could be anything from sports or other activities to occupation or religion that they have in common.
Sturk said the relationship can last as long as both parties agree.
"It could be one night out to dinner," he said, "or last through their time at Langley or last a lifetime. It's dependent upon the airmen and the family, and what kind of relationship they do establish."
But Sturk said the program aims build long-lasting relationships.
The city has prepared guides for both the airmen and families with tips about the program. Airmen are encouraged to be proactive members of the families by cleaning up after themselves and initiating visits, while the hosts are given some insight into what is expected of an airman day to day.
"Ultimately, the freedom to make a sandwich, drink a soda, sleep, watch TV, or just 'hang out,' combined with your willingness to listen and your concern for them as individuals are the most precious gifts airmen can receive," the family guide said.
A few ground rules have been laid out as well: serving alcohol is not encouraged even if the airman is 21 or older, and airmen are not to ask for use of the family car or for cash.
The program officially launches on Nov. 16 with a reception to be held at Langley to introduce the airmen to their host families.
To apply to host an airman, visit hampton.gov/mac/adopt or www.langleycivicleaders.org, or contact Bruce Sturk at 757-727-6102 or firstname.lastname@example.org.