Seymour Johnson Air Force Base is looking for host families, as a way to connect community members with young servicemen and create a "home-away-from-home" experience.

Col. Christopher Sage, 4th Fighter Wing commander, introduced the idea and is working with the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce's Military Affairs Committee to launch the new initiative, "Adopt an Airman."

Officials estimate that the base welcomes about 70 new airmen a month, which puts the total each year between 650 and 700.

For many, it is their first time away from home, said Master Sgt. Harry Abplanalp, whose responsibilities as crew assistance advisor include teaching the first-term airman's course.

"We usually have 32 to 34 students every other week, between 18 and 22 years old. This is the first time they're outside of a controlled environment," he said. "When they're in basic training, they pretty much have someone telling them when to go to bed, when to wake up, stepping them through the day. Technical school, it's the same thing.

"But when they get here, all of a sudden, it's, 'Hey, you're an adult. Good luck out there.' So some of them have a hard time adjusting."

Finding someone to bond with -- whether it's a maternal/paternal role or a mentorship -- the potential relationships can be most beneficial, to the military as well as local resident.

Maj.Tanya Hansen, a career assistance adviser with 4th Fighter Wing, was already sold on the initiative, recalling her own experience with a similar program while a cadet at the Air Force Academy.

"My sponsor family, I did not see them often but when I did, I would do laundry at their house, I would just lay on the couch," she said. "They would often drive me to the airport when I went home to visit family.

"It's all really dependent on the airman's needs."

Hansen and Abplanalp developed a curriculum to incorporate the initiative into airman's course.

"Obviously, the first thing they need to do is master their job but after that we want them to get out and connect with the community because if they form that bond with the community they're going to have a better relationship, it's going to help their career, help them deal with stress, things of that nature," Abplanalp said.

Staff Sgt. Erin Holmquist, who previously worked with him, had her own version of the "Adopt an Airman" situation when she moved here six years ago.

It happened quite accidentally, she says now.

She had grown up in a military family, so was comfortable with moving and making friends.

In her case, she randomly met someone while on a horseback ride, when the horse kicked her. Witnessing it, the gentleman checked on her and struck up a conversation that led to a relationship that continues today.

"He introduced me to his wife and now his sister's like my sister from another mister, his grandchildren, I'm Aunt Erin, I'm their cool aunt and it's just, I spend every Christmas with them," she said. "We're all going on vacation together this summer and it's just of been like a legit family."

The program is open to military and non-base personnel alike. To become involved, it is as simple as filling out a questionairre that essentially will match people up based on interests and preferences -- such as whether they like sports, dogs, come from a large family, is religion important to them, Abplanalp said.

There is no time commitment involved, officials said, and the only expectation is open communication.

As with any friendship, it is built on common ground and mutual agreement.

Holmquist remembering how overwhelming it was at one point, soon after she moved to Goldsboro.

Her husband was deployed and her baby had a succession of illnesses, all in a month's time. For the young mother, juggling her responsibilities with work was stressful.

But the same couple who had adopted her, adopted her small son, Calvin, and embraced him, too, she said.

"Just having someone to just support you, it's one of those things where, it's a family," she said. "We have a community of people who are so welcoming and they're so amazing. Like, our community is genuinely awesome here and people pull you, maybe it's that southern thing but they just pull you in and they hold onto you.

"It's just been like having a real family."

That sums out the criteria for participating in this program, Abplanalp said.

"I think that the best family is one that's passionate about staying connected to airmen, maybe a little bit of empathy, knowing that it's a stressful time for a young airman," he said. "They might be feeling lonely and doubtful, and just someone who's just willing to kind of open their home and provide some sort of mentorship.

"The commitment isn't a daunting thing -- it's just having someone to talk to, maybe going to a barbecue, going golfing. It can be as connected as both of you want it to be."

For more information on the program, or to obtain a questionnaire, call 919-722-0560 or email