Military Village Expo Makes Win-Win at Military Bowl

The Air Force Academy may have been edged out by Toledo during the hard-fought football game, but the military as a whole ultimately emerged victorious at the Military Bowl, yesterday, due in part to a well-visited armed forces expo in front of the stadium before the game.

Volunteers with USO Metropolitan Washington give out information to Military Bowl attendees inside a 1,250 square-foot, heated DRASH (Deployable Rapid Assembly Shelter), Dec. 28, 2011, which became quite the popular place once the cold winds began to blow outside. DRASH are currently the shelter of choice by the U.S. Army. USO photo by Joseph Andrew Lee

The Military Village, organized by the USO, was an event unlike any other, showcasing the military’s wide array of assets while also providing an opportunity for corporations and non-profit organizations alike to describe their products and causes to game day attendees and other passers-by. Its goal was to showcase the equipment, the mission and the personnel of the United States military.

It was a cold and windy day, and the ground was left muddy from rain the day prior. Fortunately, DHS Technologies was on site to lend an abundance of shelter and warmth inside its Deployable Rapid Assembly Shelters (DRASH). It was easy to see why these shelters replaced the old “GP Tents.”

Equipped with their own ventilation, climate control, and flexible yet durable Bike Track flooring, the 1,250 square-foot shelters are today’s standard for U.S. Army brigade command headquarters in the field. Without a doubt, DRASH made an instant difference between the turbulence outside and tranquility inside.

Military Bowl attendees walk through the Military Village outside RFK Stadium Dec. 28, 2011, to interact with Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard personnel and equipment. USO photo by Joseph Andrew Lee

The longest line award goes to BAE Systems, for its on site HAWK Advanced Jet Training System. Once inside this large trailer, visitors were met with more than a dozen large digital screens displaying both heads-up flight information as well as a digital representation of jets being piloted by participants sitting either inside a simulated jet cockpit or at desktop stations.

Every teenage boy present (and their Dad) was willing to wait in line to jump into the cockpit of what seemed to be the largest, most realistic video game they’ve ever seen! What the younger audience likely didn’t grasp was the fact that, while fun to use, this technology may soon become the actual equipment used to train American pilots to fly today’s most technologically advanced jet fighters.

“We have one cockpit simulator and two desktop simulators here that can all train against one-another,” said Brandon Engle, T-X Deputy Campaign Lead for BAE Systems. “But we can also combine actual jets in the air with simulated jets on the ground for the most realistic training environment possible.”

According to Engle, the HAWK system is the current trainer used by the Royal Air Force, and next year it will be competing to become the primary trainer for pilots of the U.S. military’s F-22 and F-35 advanced tactical fighters.

In addition to the military support organizations and corporations, the U.S. Coast Guard, Navy Seabees, the U.S. Air Force and Navy SEALs were all on site as well to flex their military might – displaying their unique assets and capabilities, including several Navy helicopters and even a miniature replica of a C-17 Globemaster that guests could climb into and pretend to “pilot.”

“This is so much fun, and so informative at the same time,” said Julie Harrington, who traveled to RFK Stadium with her husband and son to watch the Toledo Rockets play in the Military Bowl. “I’ve always known how great the USO is and I’ve always supported them just because they’ve been supporting the troops since before I was born and while we donate from afar, we suspect that our money is well-spent.”

“It’s so great to actually get the opportunity to interact with the troops and step inside a Mobile USO to see first hand what you guys are doing for them,” she added. “It’s just fantastic the things you can do. My suspicions are confirmed, and I think my money is going to the right organization.” – Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer

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At Home in Our Hearts

They’ve sacrificed so much for our country. Now, our troops are counting on us.

Your year-end donation to the USO’s At Home in Our Hearts campaign will help deliver vitally important services to our service men and women. And starting today, any gift you make through December 31st will be matched by a generous supporter — up to $350,000.

Whether they’re embarking on a new deployment in Afghanistan or returning from a difficult tour of duty in Iraq, you can let our troops know they’re At Home in Our Hearts. Your gift of $10, will provide $20 of support for our troops thanks to this limited-time matching gift opportunity.

Double the impact of your generosity with a tax-deductible gift to our troops today.

As always, you can count on the USO to be right there on the front lines with our troops on duty in Afghanistan. They may not have made it home for the holidays, but, with your support, we’ll make it clear they are At Home in Our Hearts with free phone calls home, military care packages, mobile USO2GO units reaching troops at remote outposts and more.

With your help, the USO will also be there for those returning from service in Iraq, many of them after multiple deployments. We’ll extend a helping hand to children who have spent most of their lives thousands of miles away from Mom or Dad. We’ll be there for those who have come back from the front lines wounded. We’ll honor our troops not just in words, but in deeds.

Make your At Home in Our Hearts matching gift today.

I’m so grateful for all that supporters like you do, especially around the holidays, when our troops miss their homes more than ever. I can’t tell you how much it means to them to be able to count on USO centers and supporters for a cup of coffee, some time to relax with friends, or a simple hug.

Sincerely,

General James Jones

USO President Visits Afghanistan

In December, USO President Sloan Gibson and SVP of Operations Alan Reyes visited the Middle East, including a NATO hospital and Southwest Asian USO Centers such as recently recognized USO Kandahar! Check out some of the great pictures here and read more about the Christmas Convoy at USO.org!

The USO <3's UFC's Clay Guida, Urijah Faber & Brittney Palmer!

UFC’s Urijah Faber, Clay Guida and Brittney Palmerrecently traveled to Italy, on what was the trio’s first USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour. The group visited six bases in nine days, to sign autographs, pose for photos and share takedown techniques with troops.

From left to right, the UFC's Urijah Faber, Brittney Palmer and Clay Guida pose for a photo with troops in Italy as part of their first USO tour on Dec. 18.

Why did you decide to go on a USO tour?

Urijah Faber: I wanted to do my part to support our country and our troops overseas. I feel like I’m living the American dream and I’m fully aware that freedom isn’t free.
Clay Guida: It was a no brainer, I was honored to be chosen as one of the UFC representatives. I have a personal admiration and respect for our troops whever they are for whatever they do. I can only imagine how tough it must be to be away from home and family for such long periods.
Brittney Palmer: My manager recently went on a USO Tour, and he was telling me how rewarding the experience was for him. When I was presented the opportunity to go on a USO Tour, I immediately accepted. I’ve always respected our servicemen and women, and having the chance to thank them in person means so much to me. I hope that I can do another tour soon, as this experience changed my life!

What expectations did you have going in and how did that compare to the actual experience?

UF: I went on a tour in Afghanistan [visiting the troops] and I wasn’t expecting to have such nice places to stay and great food in Italy. They really treated us like kings. All the troops were awesome as expected.
CG: I didn’t really have any fixed ideas on what it would be like , I assumed it would be a bunch of meet and greets. As far as the experience it was all amazing. Doing the clinics always makes me feel at home , especially wrestling so that was fun. The experience as a whole was just so great , my family has its history in Italy so being able to see the sites , meet people and eat lots of food was something I have wanted to do for a long time.
BP: I expected an amazing time meeting the troops, and I was blown away by how many of the soldiers and their families were thanking ME for visiting them. They truly are my heroes.

What was one of your favorite moments on tour?

UF: Being on tour with Clay Guida and Brittney Palmer was super entertaining because our personalities came out and we generally got to entertain the troops through our interaction. Clay’s answers to their questions were priceless, sometimes never ending and had the crowd in hysterics.
CG:Having fun on the road with Urijah Faber and Brittney Palmer was lots of fun. Getting to meet the troops and see what it meant to them was special , its still new for me to be appreciated so much by fans , so to have people that I respect wanting my time is really flattering.
BP: I loved meeting the family members. In the States we’re grateful for all the troops do for us, but the sacrifices of the family members gets lost I think. I really enjoyed talking to the little kids and holding all the babies while Urijah and Clay taught the clinic!

If you could say one thing to all the men and women serving our country right now, what would it be?

UF: Keep doing your thing and we are very proud of you back home!
CG: I would say thank you to the thousands of servicemen and servicewomen for their sacrifice’s large and small. Thank you!
BP: To every service member, I’d tell him or her I’m immensely appreciative and grateful from the bottom of my heart for what you do. Your sacrifice and selflessness give all of us the opportunity to live our lives peacefully and free, and I’m indebted to you for it.

See more pics at USO.org!

USO Kandahar Recognized for Quick Thinking

It’s pouring rain.

There seems to be no end in sight to this storm, and you’ve got tons of electronics and furniture inside what amounts to little more than a field tent in the middle of Afghanistan.

The water starts creeping in. Everything could be ruined. What do you do?

The waters rose and rose and rose.

“Jesse Boyles and Jillian Ferron were on shift as the water came into the center,” said USO Kandahar center manager Richard McCarty, in an email response to USO President Sloan Gibson, explaining what happened after a recent storm flooded the Center.

“They took quick and important steps to ensure the safety of the customers in regards to electricity and the protection of the center’s valuable furniture and electronics by cutting breakers as needed to provide safety,” he added. “But also minimizing the inconvenience to the people stuck inside still watching TV’s and on phones.”

"We quickly moved as much as we could to the highest point in the tent, pushing most of the furniture to the middle of the tent. "

Boyles and Ferron, along with the rest of the staff and volunteers of USO Kandahar, were recently presented the President’s Award for performance above and beyond the call of duty when they experienced the unfortunate reality of operating in a field environment – in a third-world country – in a combat zone.

The President’s Award is presented to individuals whose contributions have had a significant impact on their department and the organization. Ferron’s contribution alone, by quickly rounding up a work detail to get 30 cloth La-z-Boy chairs in the theater stacked on the high end of the room, saved the USO more than $4,500.

According to Gary Bibeau, regional vice president, the entire floor of the Kandahar USO center was underwater for a period of time. The flood ran through the entire center, depositing mud on the both the floor and on the furniture.

“By the time I got there, the staff and volunteers had taken the furniture and electronics out and put it all in storage, limiting any damage,” wrote Bibeau in follow-up documentation.

The it was time to clean up!

The clean-up effort that began the following morning would take two-and-a-half days to complete, but employees Penn Walker, Blair Ciccocioppo and Randy Montesi all joined Boyles and Ferron first thing in the morning to start the arduous work of removing 8,000 square feet of ruined flooring and carpet and sweeping out the excess water and mud.

Unfortunately it wasn’t just water the team was stuck cleaning up. Several of the outdoor port-o-johns were also tipped over, adding some sewage to the soaking mess. Because of concerns about mold and toxic material in the water, Bibeau had the local Navy medical unit come in to do a health inspection after the site was cleaned up, and it has since been cleared for safe occupancy once again.

“I would like to make special recognition of Erin Mintmier, who was at the center during the flooding and took the leadership of the clean up and volunteer coordination,” said McCarty. “We faced a tremendous amount of work and … the first difficult steps were to organize … how we can direct the volunteers to help,” he added. “It was in this aspect that Erin really shined as a leader.”

Through their teamwork and excellent leadership, USO Kandahar weathered the storm, and for that, we as an organization now stand that much stronger beside them. Congratulations on your recent recognition and keep up the great work! – Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer

Welcome a Hero Home

USO Wishbook | Welcome Home a HeroIn the coming days, thousands of service members will be returning home from war. For the ninth day of USO Wishbook why not Welcome Home a Hero! Our troops’ long flights home are grueling and the anticipation of being back can be . For $25 you’ll be helping the USO decorate and celebrate our troops as they return home with welcome banners and streamers – making sure they know as soon as they step off the plane how much their service means to us.

Check out all the Twelve Days of USO Wishbook!