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.

36 thoughts on “About Our USO Centers

  1. “…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.”

    Yes- and if your worker at the Fayetteville airport (where I served with the 82d airborne, in combat no less) hadn’t pointed that out when I didn’t ask him to, then I would still donate to the USO. It’s not enough to feel snubbed by the government for those of us combat veterans that didn’t retire, but to basically poll all the people in the concorse and invite in the ten year E-6s or twenty year retirees that never spent a day on foreign soil without so much as an apology makes me sad for the organization. You’ve truly turned a blind eye to the values you supposedly stand for- except for money. Since money and resources are what *really* counts for the USO, I’ll take mine elsewhere- and advise my combat veteran non-retiree brothers and sisters to do the same.

    • I’m sleeping infront of the SFO USO because I haven’t recieved my retirement card yet. The ARBA has been on it for over a year. I guess it beats sleeping on the roof of a police station with ANP. Good times.

  2. @Cody L McFarland
    I too had the same experience at Fort Drum in New York..we were not permitted because we are retirees and it was only open to active duty and their family members. I thought this was the most absurd thing I have ever heard. I do agree with you that all its really about is the money they get. If you have served your time of 20 yrs or so..it means nothing in the eyes of the USO. I think it should be open to all military weather past or present, retired or active. This really upset me and struck a nerve. I too will take my money else were and will advise my friend as well. Enough said.

  3. I have always appreciated USO.
    However, I never understood this separation between retired vets and ETS vets. It seems the logical requirement should be honorable discharge. Although a combat vet, I also couldn’t enjoy the privilege after discharge. I will leave it at that. Maybe there’s something else I don’t understand.
    Good job USO overall though. Very grateful

  4. I think it is sad reading the comments about the USO not caring about the retired military. There are LIMITED resourses – limited space in airports. While the retired military men/women were active duty the USO was there for them – let the soldiers of today have the same benefits. If it was opened up to everyone then they would be stretched so thin that our current soldiers and their families would not have any benefits. Does that seam fair? No it does not! I am the wife of an Army retiree and have a son that is active duty Army…. It is their turn now! Not supporting the USO because you don’t get anything from it now is absurd and just plain greedy and I realloy hope that is not how the majority feels and if you do then all I can say is just Shame on you! Reading these posts have just made me want to do MORE to support the USO as everyone who has seen ANY benefit should – imagine if everyone sent in just $1+ – the things the USO could do to support our troops today…

  5. It really stinks that you turn away vetrens / retirees. Turned away at McCarran, Las Vegas. 1:00 AM on 13 Feb 2013, and no one in the facility except the two volunteers! The biggest slap in the face for serving in the Army came from the USO!

  6. It would seem to me a little common sense is in order. If a military retiree (with ID) is at a facility and there is clearly room available e.g. no one or little usage, then why can’t they permitted to use the facility. If the place starts filling up with active duty, then quietly vacate the premises. Such was the case when we had to spend 4 days awaiting a flight to Germany from McGuire and Dover. Simply instruct whoever is in charge to hand the retiree a simple guide line that facilities are space-A and they should leave when place fills up or they may be asked to leave.

    Is that so hard?

    We (retirees) are accustomed to Space-A requirements and with a simple policy both groups accommodated.

    • I have to agree! My husband and I never got to travel together and never was able to use the USO center until recently after he decided 8 years and two deployments was enough. Thankfully the volunteer at the door let us in bc they had more then enough space. We even offered to leave quitely if they started to get busy all we wanted was a place for my husband to sleep since he is still suffering from physical issues caused by his service.

  7. I am a twenty-two year retiree (honorable) and my wife (eight years active duty) have utilized the USO lounges at San Francisco International and St. Louis’ Lambert Field frequently without any problems nor were we ever asked to leave when the facility was nearing capacity. Even my daughter has visited the USO lounges using her dependent card without any restrictions but what got me upset was my son was denied access (U.S. Marine. Two tours in Afghanistan. Infantry. Honorably discharged) at the SeaTac Airport by the volunteer behind the counter who said my son’s DAV id card was not proof enough – that my son needed to provide him paperwork referring to his PTSD diagnose.

    What a bunch of crock!

    This incident isn’t going to stop me or my family from utilizing the lounges that we deserved/merited but knowing there are ignorant personnel behind counters who simply can’t have a heart.

  8. My wife and i have also been denied entry at the Chicago, Il. Navy Pier location. I’m an OIF , service connected disabled veteran and have severe arthritis and was simply looking for a place to sit and rest for maybe TEN MINUTES as it was also the middle of summer and very hot. There was only ONE person in the whole center besides the staff member (a civilian btw) and the other was literally a buck private probably just out of basic. So i don’t want to hear that there are “limited resources” !!! We would have understood MAYBE if the place was packed. Maybe that’s the the problem, that the staff was a civilian, because a veteran would NEVER deny a fellow veteran aid if needed, PERIOD ! So basically the USO is saying that a buck private just out of boot camp (with all due respect for them) can have a seat and rest, but NOT a disabled veteran with years of service who BECAME disabled as a result of said service.

  9. Want’s really said is that many of the volunteers at these USO centers are vets themselves. The USO is also losing quick donations from another group of people–military vets. We already get the stiff shoulder from our government but when they need something to cut–the go after retiree benefits. This USO thing is no skin off my back.

  10. I am so tired or the all or nothing mentality that organizations seem to have now a days. For years most USOs supported the active military, Guard, Reserve, retirees and dependents. Now it is strictly Active Duty only which is a shame. My son last week stopped by the USO and asked if he could just use their microwave to heat up a bottle for his baby. He was told NO. He is currently a member of the Tennessee National Guard and had previously served in the 101st with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning the CIB. The 2 letter word NO for such a simple task has now not only affected his attittude but that of his his wife and many others as word gets out. I’m a retired disabled vet, my husband is a vet, my younger son is currently serving with the 82nd Airborne and all of us as now disillusioned with the USO. The USO was not crowded at all and letting him use the microwave for 1 minute would not have disrupted anything. We are all very dissapointed. The USO should change it’s bylaws to service Active duty first then Guard, Reserve, Retirees and dependents. We retirees appreciate the active troops and would gladly leave the USO so that active soldiers can be supported. But to be outright refused and treated the way my son was/ is shameful.

    Thank you,

    Sarah Stevick, Retired CPT, USA

    • Good afternoon Sarah-
      We are very sorry to hear about your son’s experience.
      Can you tell us what center your son was trying to visit along with the date and the time the interaction happened so we can look into it?

      • Hey USO, who underwrites your policy and guidelines? Why can’t all non-profit USO’s operate in the same manner?

        I agree with several veterans concerns here in this blog and I ask if there would be changes forthcoming.

        My opinion is to have all USO’s operated the same way.

    • Yes, it’s a shame vets are treated like that. My son experienced a similar incident and I emailed the USO asking for answers which they graciously answered and to our satisfaction.

      We (family) have used Lambert Field (St. Louis) and San Francisco International without incident knowing that if the facility would become crowded, we would be asked to leave, which we accepted.

      I apologize that you and your family had been denied but I hope you do utilize other USO’s because though I think they are governed by one entity, I believe they do not practice the same way.

      Much respect.

      • Thank you for your post – appreciate it. I am waiting on the USO reply so we shall see what their explantion is. For many years I flew out of St. Louis (active duty) and visited the USO there and in other airports without incident. It was nice seeing soldiers, retirees and the like all interact – there is a brotherhood/sisterhood amoung soldiers regardless of age.

      • The center was Charlotte NC international airport on Monday, March 17th at approximately 3 PM.

  11. As a 31 year retired, disabled Vet, I had no idea that only Active Duty personnel are allowed to use the USO. I have also donated to the USO for many years. What a slap in the face for those if us who served most of our lives and were honorably discharged/retired.

  12. I am a 100% disabled combat veteran and I was denied entrance to the USO in Dallas Texas. I am very upset about that because I am a Texas resident and I served my country. Why are veterans not allowed? Especially disabled veterans who just want somewhere to rest. No respect if you ask me. I guess the “USO” could really care less. Thank you for nothing.

    • Hi Robert. We’re really sorry to hear your situation, and our Operations team has been notified. Also, thank you for your years of service to our military and your sacrifice. … As you know, our centers are provided for the comfort and convenience of all active, Guard and Reserve personnel and their family members. We must prioritize the limited space and resources at our centers to support these primary constituents, as some of our centers are at maximum capacity every day and/or have specific activities planned in advance. In doing that, our USO center staff has the discretion to admit military retirees to the centers on a space-available basis depending on operational requirements.

  13. I have always been under the impression that USO facilities were for deploying/returning active duty military members. When i was active duty i utilized USO facilities a few times and I was very happy with the treatment I received from the staff. The USO is not for Veterans or retirees. It is in place for active duty troops in transit to and from warzones. Thats the mission focus of the USO and i applaud them for it.

    • Technically, the mission statement of the USO is as follows: “Our Mission Statement: The USO lifts the spirits of America’s troops and their families.” (USO.org, 2014). So to say it is only for transit to and from warzones is technically inaccurate, although that is a wonderful aspect of their services. As a military member who has been to many USO facilities, it is also utilized for incoming troops who are new to military service, as well as many other great functions to families, transitioning troops and deployed members.

      I think that airport facilities could benefit from a better policy regarding USO entry when space is available. To also say that resources are limited “carte blanche” would also be inaccurate. I have visited over 15 USO facilities and on occasion they have been trying to give resources away due to the fact they were close to expiration. I chose this reference because it illustrates the fact that these scenarios are situationally dependent. An updated policy, better discretion and judgment seem to be in order. Personally, I have contacted the USO to offer recommendations and I intend to contact my local Senator and the Armed Services Committee to offer suggestions as well. I encourage others who feel this way to do the same. By voicing concern over the proper channels in a polite fashion, hopefully we can encourage a change that will benefit more that have honorably served.

  14. I think they should change the requirements, if you have an ID that shows that you are active or reserve or retired or disabled through the VA, you should be allowed entrance with the caveat that Active Duty has priority. I don’t think anyone would have a problem with that at all. As a disabled vet, I just want to get away from all the crazy people that are usually in the airport, I also would like to converse with fellow service members, and I am sure others would like the same. Again, I agree active duty should always have priority but they should allow anyone with an ID that identifies them as a vet to have access to the facilities.

  15. As a vet myself I have to say it drives me crazy when I see other vets demanding entitlements and discounts. So many times when I have used the USO it was packed. These are mostly volunteers and trying to manage a small space that is in high demand. You all know as well as I do that there would be vets that would not leave on their own when the place fills up and would argue when the staff asked them to leave. Join a veterans organization and try to get something similar going on specifically for vets/retirees rather than decrying the fact that you lose some benefits when you get out. The USO does great things for our active duty folks and their families. Its wrong for you to demonize them just because you are no longer benefitting from their services.

  16. You guys do a great job and provide a great service. Sorry so many of our vets and retired, give you so much grief over not being able to use the facility. I am also a retired, combat vet; and yes, I would like to use your facilities, however, I understand your position and mission. All of the complaints are just an example of the entitlement society that we have become. Too bad some the responders have decided to take their toys and go home, instead of supporting you. I hope they are a minority. Keep up the good work.

  17. Hi everyone. With all the recent comments about USO center access, we wanted to chime in. USO centers are provided for the comfort and convenience of all active, Reserve and Guard personnel and their family members. Unfortunately, we often have to prioritize limited space and resources at our centers to make sure those primary constituents are served first. As some of you have seen firsthand, our USO airport centers can go from empty to packed at a moment’s notice – and we also get many special requests, too. Therefore, we rely on each USO center’s staff to use their discretion to admit military retirees as they have space depending on each day’s operational requirements.

    If you have questions on whether or not you’ll be able to use the center on a specific day/time, you can always call ahead to ask. You can find a list of center phone numbers and locations here: http://www.uso.org/Centers/USO-Centers—United-States.aspx

    The USO

  18. Yup, save yourself the embarrassment at the Charlotte, NC airport. I served my 4 active Army (1 in Afg.) and got out because I was unable to serve with my injuries (90% rating). I’m a DAV member, have my VA card for med, VFW member, and have an expired CAC card. Flat out denied!! All I wanted was somewhere quiet to sit, relax, and have a beverage. Apparently their funding can’t accommodate that. No longer will I consider any financial donations to that organization.

  19. Perhaps the USO organization as a whole should look to the example set at the USO at San Antonio airport. They are of the opinion that they serve the military community – active, reserve, guard, dependents and retirees. All are welcome and treated with respect and courtesy. The center had only a couple of soldiers in there at the time and we asked the volunteer what happens if it gets over-crowded. His response is that they would do the best they could to accomodate everyone, and if need be, ask all those not currently on active duty to adjourn to outside the club.

  20. I just called about entrance, luckily I found this site. There is a lot of back-and-forth on this topic. I am 100% combat vet too. I guess if I am not allowed in, or as space provided then so be it. But here is what ticks me off, I do think veterans who are combat vets and 100% should have a little more priority. No way to probably sort this out from everyone trying to jump on the 100% train nowadays. People who use the military like a welfare plan and visit the base clinics and hospitals all the time for b.s. reason like razor bumps (the last of my concerns (severe in my case) but a priority for many) PTSD from overhearing someone talking abut combat etc… never close to actual combat roles, never left the wire, were in safety zones, or never in the field training vigorously with live fire all the time and beating your body down like a dog (POGs); when the other people who actually get jacked up and receive little to no medical care or record thereof (no complaining rule) and then have to fight the VA forever to get what they deserve and hardly get rated and can’t hold a job-where others are 100% from their welfare plan. If the USO has a policy, its’ their deal-let’s consider taking a step-back and sorting out all this b.s. , I too witnessed on so many accounts certain special treatments to certain factions who hardly served their term and got limited duty for 3 months or more just for stubbing a finger and still have the audacity to act like their some big dog. Or retire on 20 or 30 yrs., then found 100% immediately (concurrent) and THEN get on SSDI right after service without severe immediate injury prior (if your so disabled then you wouldn’t have made full enlistment and had to get out like me)….come on…come on….these are the things that need changed and vets should be complaining about; instead of demanding USO service. This is coming from a former Marine infantryman (Afghan/Iraq) vet. If you don’t like my statements, then you either don’t like or can’t handle the truth or are one of those.

  21. I think the USO does a great job at what they do. I am a veteran who served from 93-97. Back then there were no USO places in any major airports I went through. There was no discounts from almost every business. Also we did not get handclaps in the airports or public places. You were lucky to maybe have a senior thank you for your service. I think a lot of veterans pre 9/11 feel like it not fair. I agree quite a bit about this. But some things we do not deserve just because it was not available when we were in. The USO should only be for active duty and families and Retired. I do not like how disabled veterans get free fishing license etc and many other perks. Not my fault I joined because of Desert Storm and when I was in there was no wars going on…..

  22. I am a veteran who served proudly and gave a lot for my country. I am now a DOD civilian who works for the Department of the ARMY and still giving to my country. Some USO clubs let me in while others turn me and my spouse away. If the USO is truly concerned about the resourses or lack there of why not open it up like a true club like the VFW, or American Legion. IE. Life time membership 1,000 or yearly 50.00. I donate everytime I am able to utalize the facilities and I am sure alot of other vets would do the same. This way you can get the donations to help. Or you can even charge 5.00 per person per visit or 10.00 per couple. All a vet has to do is have a DD-214 or a VA disability card. FOOD FOR THOUGHT.

  23. I was denied entrance to the USO at LAX once because they said I was really retired because I wasn’t old enough. I am 23 and medically retired after getting wounded in action back in 2011. They told me “we can only let in active duty and retired service members. I tried explaining that I am retired and he told me that it’s only for officially retired though and I told him I am officially retired. He said not really because I’m too young and he can tell I didn’t put in 20 years .” Had to sit at the check in counter all night instead until the next flight was leaving. If I had know they would turn down a medical retiree (which isn’t a real retiree apparently), I would have made other arrangements.

  24. We are new at this. Our son just graduated and is off to his A school. I talked at length with the volunteer at Chicago’s USO in O’Hare not knowing the ins and outs of their services. I was told that parents are not considered immediate family. Only spouses and children. I was livid. And reading all the comments above makes me think there must be a better way to support our troops and their families.

  25. Our taxes pay for so many lazy people and unnecessary programs. Many get free cell phones and free health care. Why the hell cant our government kick in a few dollars so the USO can allow veterans who served during a time of war defending this country enjoy a small benefit when they travel with there families. Need to remember the family’s who suffered and supported us while we were deployed.

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