Operation Hardwood: Episode 3

The USO and AFE sent top NCAA basketball coaches and sports personalities on a tour to Kuwait where they coached military basketball teams as part of Operation Hardwood II. University of Maryland coach Gary Williams spent time coaching Kuwaiti kids at a practice session at The Kuwaiti Basketball Club in 2006.

In this week’s installment, host Leeann Tweeden and Maryland head coach Gary Williams take a look back at their time in Kuwait with the USO’s own Operation Hardwood.  Be sure to watch Episode 1 and Episode 2, too!


more about “Operation Hardwood: Episode 3“, posted with vodpod

Bringing USO Goodness to Camp Leatherneck

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan - Sergeant Mark Matice, a utilities NCO with Marine Wing Support Squadron 274, and Lance Cpl. Rory MacEachern (right), a military policeman with Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), perform a bagpipe rendition of 'Amazing Grace' prior to Toby Keith taking the stage here May 5. (Photo by Sgt. Justin Shemanski)

At the hot, dusty base in Afghanistan known as Camp Leatherneck, there wasn’t much to do during Troop’s downtime.  The surrounding Helmand Province is inhospitable territory, and the 60,000 Marines and Soldiers stationed there needed a break from the intensity of their work.  Enter the USO.

We identified the needs for Camp Leatherneck and quickly went into action providing the comforts of home and much needed programs and entertainment.  Although it’s not an official USO Center, we’re providing USO support and goodness at this established Army facility in the form of comfortable furniture, games, TVs, and more.   Plus, Toby Keith even visited on his last USO tour in the Persian Gulf!

To kick off the introduction of the USO’s presence at the camp, we sponsored a run with t-shirts for all participants (shown at right).  Then we threw a huge BBQ for Marines and Soldiers, followed by a ceremony for the official building dedication.  We capped the day’s events with a unique talent show showcasing the diverse skills of the Troops: one act featured a mime, another a bagpipe player.  There were also two comedians, break dancers, an actress, musicians from a Marine Corps Band, and many talented singers.  What a group!

New USO programs and services are now being offered in an existing Army facility at Camp Leatherneck. (USO photo by LTC Tom Rivard)

We’re thrilled to be able to support the men and women stationed at Camp Leatherneck in this innovative way and will continue to look for new ways to bring the USO goodness to COB’s and FOB’s, as well as other locations around the world not currently served by a full-scale USO Center.  We’d like to thank the Army for establishing and managing the facility, and thank all of the Troops who are stationed there.

Earlier this year, National Geographic featured Camp Leatherneck for its “Explorer” television series.  The snippet below offers a brief glimpse into what life is like there.  Hopefully, we’ll continue to make it a little better…

GI Film Fest: Honor in the Valley of Tears

Originally posted by Jeremy Borden for the ON PATROL blog:

The annual GI Film Fest celebrates the “successes and sacrifices of the American military through the medium of film.” One of those films was Honor in the Valley of Tears, which tells the story of the Army’s A-Company during the Vietnam War.

Summary by Writer-Director Eric S. Dow:

The story of A-Company 1/8 4th Infantry Division, US Army during the Vietnam War from 1965 to 1967. In the men’s own words, through the stories they narrate, the film gives us insight into the time these men spent together and the bond they formed that remains unbroken to this day. The 4th Infantry Division is one of the only divisions that trained and retained its troops during the Vietnam War. The men of A-Company trained together for eleven months and served together for one year. Their story begins with basic training at Ft. Lewis Washington in 1965 and continues 40 years later at their last reunion in September 2007. Filming began September 27, 2007 in Houston, Texas during a reunion to honor First Sergeant David H. McNerney, who is the only living member of the 4th Infantry Division to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was celebrated by the men he trained and served with and who’s lives he saved on March 22, 1967. Conceived by executive producer John A. Ponsoll, whose father served with A-Company and had documented his tour of duty with a Kodak slide camera, the film honors the memory of A-Company 1/8 and documents their incredible courage and dedication to one another.

We caught up with the filmmakers and the hero of the film, former First Sergeant David H. McNerney.