BARKSDALE AFB, LA (KSLA) - Imagine being away from home for the first time, trying to adjust to military life and in a city you know nothing about.
That's what it's like for hundreds of first-term airmen stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base.
Many of them stay on base because they don't know where to go or what to do when they leave.
That's where Roots for Boots comes in. The program is designed to help bridge the gap between the airmen and the local community.
"I was there once. I know how it feels to be at a base that you're not familiar with anybody, and you feel a little bit secluded," Sammy Halphen said.
"You stay in the barracks and you go to your job; you go back to your barracks, go back to your job."
That is why Halphen didn't hesitate to head the program when it was presented to Shreveport-Bossier's Military Affairs Council.
"This program is for that first-term airman who has that assignment away from home," Halphen explained. "It could be 1,000 miles away from home. And that's away from family and friends and the comforts of home."
Halphen and his wife, Sarah, match airmen with host families and establish the initial meet and greet.
Where the connection goes from there is up to the airmen and families.
"Some of it may be as little as just texting" Halphen said.
"And some of it will get to the point to where they're part of the family, and they actually go on trips with the families. Even when they move away from the base, they say in touch with them," he continued.
"It's rooting these airmen into the community," Sarah Halphen said. "So while they're so far away from their family, they're not scared to go outside the walls of Barksdale and learn our culture here and become acquainted with our community that's so appreciative of everybody being here."
"They have that connection to start getting outside of the base and get into the community and find things to do besides just sitting in their dorm room," said 2d Bomb Wing CMSgt Teresa Clapper. "Many of these host families have never even been on the base, so our airmen get to tell their story and that's pretty exciting. They're really proud of what they do. Our airmen work really hard, we have an amazing mission that they perform, so for them to be able to tell that to the community it kind of bridges a little bit of that gap between us and the community as well."
If you would like to sign up to be a host family, email Sammy Halphen at firstname.lastname@example.org.