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 us directly.

15 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.

  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.

  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.

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