About Our USO Centers

The USO will soon open a new center at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas.  Next year a USO center will open at the Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix.

Our centers around the world offer different versions of the same thing – a safe place to relax while off duty.  We offer free Internet connections, a place to take a nap or watch a movie on TV or read a book.  Troops can even call home from many of our centers.

USO Centers around the world welcome active duty troops and their families every day of the year.

The centers don’t just offer respite for troops.  They also provide a sense of security for parents and loved ones back home.  If they know their military member is at a USO center, they know everything is okay.

On military bases, such as Ft. Riley, Kansas or Ft. Hood, Texas, the USO is a community center for troops.  Families come there for special programs, and troops may spend their off-duty time to email home or to be with friends.  It’s as close to home as you can come … when you’re not home.

Overseas, the centers provide other special services.  Troops in Europe or the Pacific can learn about the culture they’ve just moved into.  Local customs are explained to folks who might never have visited a foreign country before.

Our centers in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and around the Persian Gulf offer a different kind of break.  Troops at our centers near combat areas know they can go to the USO, remove their boots and just relax for a while.  Maybe they’ll watch a football game on TV, or play Guitar Hero with their buddies.  Maybe they’ll take a few minutes to be recorded reading a book to the children in their lives with United Through Reading’s Military Program. The USO Private Telephone Network allows troops to call home for free or access a high-speed connection to the Internet. More than 200,000 free phone calls are made over that satellite-based network.

But, most Americans who see USO centers see them at major airports across the country.  The services are more or less the same.  In Atlanta and Dallas, the normal everyday traffic of troops through those centers is compounded by the daily arrival and departure of military Rest and Recuperation (R&R) flights.

The airport centers are in space provided by the airports.  We don’t pay rent.  So, the centers tend to be on the small side.  That’s why our airport centers are open only to military members and their families.  It’s not ideal – we’d like everyone to see what we offer – but our mission is to serve active duty troops, and their families, and that’s what we do.

The USO operates about 150 centers around the world.  We employ 400 people, most of whom work in the field.  That means at any one time in any USO there is usually one paid staff member, augmented by an army of volunteers who make this organization function.

Occasionally, donors who are veterans or military retirees contact us to tell us they couldn’t get into a USO airport facility because they didn’t have an active military ID card.  We’ve thought about this a great deal, and as much as we’d like to open the doors to all those who have honorably served their nation and risked their lives for our freedom, we just don’t have the resources.  We hope you will understand that we must focus our mission on serving the needs of those who need us most – active duty members of the military and their families.  For 70 years, that’s been our mission.

For more information on this policy, or to provide us with feedback on a specific USO Center experience, please contact your local USO office.

The USO and Pimsleur® Launch OPERATION SPEAK EASY

The USO and Pimsleur® Language Programs, in partnership with The Boston Foundation and Playaway®, are proud to announce the launch of OPERATION SPEAK EASY – an initiative to eliminate language barriers for U.S. troops serving in and being deployed to Afghanistan. Through a donor-advised fund at The Boston Foundation, OPERATION SPEAK EASY was created to assist troops with learning the local languages spoken throughout the region and further day-to-day communications with the Afghani population.

Simon & Schuster‘s Pimsleur is proud to partner with The USO, Playaway, and The Boston Foundation on this project.  By providing these programs to troops, we hope to remove any language barriers that may stand in the way of the vital mission inAfghanistan and show our support for those who serve.” – Robert Riger, Director of Pimsleur Language Programs

Omar Khudari, a Boston-area philanthropist, had a dream of giving U.S. Troops the ability to communicate directly and easily with the civilian population in Afghanistan. As an avid user of Pimsleur language programs, Khudari’s vision led him to fund the project, now known as OPERATION SPEAK EASY.  His generous donation to The Boston Foundation allowed Pimsleur® to develop audio-based language training courses in Pashto and Dari – the key languages spoken in Afghanistan – and make his dream a reality.

Pimsleur’s portable audio programs are easily downloadable for use in the field or on a base. The USO is distributing these courses free of charge to U.S. Troops via digital downloads from the USO website and portable audio players from Playaway.

The choice of multiple formats – downloads and Playaway – allow for a variety of listening options for troops. Where power is an issue, Playaway audio players are preloaded and completely portable with their own power source.

A test case for the project launched in June 2010 with free downloads of the Pimsleur Dari course. This allowed for the distribution of over 4,000 Playaway audio players to U.S. Troops, both those about to be deployed and those already on the ground in Afghanistan.

“There is no better gesture of respect and good will you can make in a foreign land than speaking the local language. I have been hearing for some time about the military’s desire to improve its language training in order to ‘win hearts and minds’ in Afghanistan. It occurred to me that Pimsleur courses in Pashto and Dari would be an obvious solution.  I am very excited to be able to help get these courses to our troops sooner rather than later.” – Omar Khudari, Project Philanthropist, Entrepreneur

To learn more about this partnership visit http://pages.simonandschuster.com/operationspeakeasywithpimsleur/