Tinker community partners honored for decades of dedication to young service members

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

For some 30 years, Mike and Pam Kloiber have served the Airmen and Sailors of Team Tinker.

On April 9, 2021, Tinker gave back by honoring the couple with a plaque at the First Term Airman Center. In addition, the center’s two classrooms are now named after them.

“This marks, in my 21 months of command at Tinker Air Force Base, the most personally gratifying moment of my command,” said Col. Paul Filcek, 72nd Air Base Wing commander, before the unveiling.

“I am overwhelmed. I am absolutely amazed. I’m humbled,” Mrs. Kloiber said. “I can’t think of sufficient words to tell you how appreciative I am of what you’ve done.”

Mrs. Kloiber is the co-founder and executive director of Team Tinker’s Home Away From Home host family program. The goal of the program is to pair young service members with civilian host families to help alleviate the anxiety of being alone and far from home, often for the first time.

Air Force Sustainment Center Commander Lt. Gen. Gene Kirkland said the investment the Kloibers have made in the program is worthwhile.

“Together you are making a difference now to a young person’s start to their Navy or Air Force career, but later as a citizen in our communities and our country, and even further down the road as spouses and parents,” he said.

The program began out of a tragedy in 2012. Three Airmen from the 552nd Air Control Wing had been in a car accident, with two of them dying. Soon after, Mrs. Kloiber saw then-552nd ACW Commander Col. Greg Guillot at an event and the two of them began discussing the accident. The colonel proposed the idea for a “home away from home” program and Mrs. Kloiber took over from there.

Col. Alain Poisson, 552nd ACW commander, said it’s a “big ask for somebody to step up and do something big” like the Home Away From Home program.

“I’m not sure she knew how big it was going to be, but she gladly jumped in,” he said. “It’s been awesome to see it grow from the beginning.”

Almost 10 years later, more than 1,000 Airmen and Sailors have participated in Tinker’s program. There are currently 163 active members and 71 host families. Home Away From Home programs have also been started at 18 other Air Force and Army bases.

“That’s a testament to the benefits of the program, not only to our Airmen but also to the families who reach out and support them,” Poisson said.

Among the past participants is Senior Airman Tristan Decker with the 72nd Security Forces Squadron. He joined the Home Away From Home program in 2018 and was paired with the Kloibers.

“I wasn’t just an Airman in the program, but as Pam says, I was one of their kids,” he said. “Because of that, I saw them as more than just mentors. I saw them as parents.”

He said Pam got after him as a parent would, too, because he doubted himself on many occasions.

“She reminded me many times over to keep pushing myself and great things would come,” Decker said. “So without this program, without Mike and Pam, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”

Poisson said no one has bigger hearts than the Kloibers.

“Whether opening up your home, teaching young men and women how to adult or just having fun with us, we know you care and we love you for it,” he said.

CAPT. Cedrick Jessup, Strategic Communications Wing ONE commodore, agreed.

“The Navy here is better because of you. Thank you,” he said. “You have no idea what [this program] has meant to so many lives.”

Kirkland said for three decades the Kloibers have donated “their extra time, their treasure, their worry for our Airmen and Sailors and done things seen and unseen by the bushel-load for our families.”

“Even as wonderful as this unveiling will be, it is only a down payment on what you’ve earned,” he said.