Four USO Entertainment Staffers Honored by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs for Work on Tours

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They’re normally behind the scenes. This month, they were in the spotlight.

Four USO Entertainment employees were honored Feb. 13 for their roles in entertaining America’s troops at a surprise Pentagon ceremony with the military’s top officer.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presented the Joint Chiefs of Staff Distinguished Public Service Award to USO Vice President of Entertainment Rachel Tischler and the Outstanding Public Service Award to USO Vice President of Celebrity Recruitment Juliet Gilliam, USO Entertainment Specialist Brook Northrip and USO Tour Producer Jeremy Wilcox.

The quartet was specifically honored for their work on Dempsey’s four USO Chairman’s Holiday Tours, the last of which he wrapped in December. The tours – which are whirlwind USO visits traveling from the U.S. to Europe to the Mideast and back in the course of a week – touch thousands of troops annually in the weeks before Christmas.

“The Chairman’s Holiday Tour is an incredibly important annual tour that directly connects our nation’s top military leader with our troops serving around the globe,” said retired Brig. Gen. John I. Pray Jr., USO Executive Vice President for Operations, Programs and Entertainment. “The tour always includes an amazing group of celebrities who eagerly volunteer to accompany the chairman and I was thrilled that Gen. Dempsey recently recognized four USO entertainment team members with the Distinguished and Outstanding Public Service Awards for the key roles each played in making these tours such a big success.”

The most recent tour covered five countries in six days, including stops Afghanistan. The tour roster included eight-time USO tour veteran and country star Kellie Pickler, 2007 USO tour veteran and comedian Rob Riggle, “Glee” co-star Dianna Agron, former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, “Suits” co-star Meghan Markle and Washington Nationals pitcher Doug Fister.

“In my dealings with the USO over the past few years, spearheading tours around the globe, I can confidently say that the USO is as helpful and comforting today as it was back [when I joined the Army],” Dempsey said in a press release during the 2014 tour. “This year’s tour has been just as memorable.”

Your USO at Work: February 2015 — Jay Leno Auctions Off Prized Car For USO

Jay Leno Auctions Off Rare Muscle Car to Benefit the USO

Auction houses selling rare and expensive collector cars are usually teeming with excitement, but at Gooding & Company’s Scottsdale, Arizona, auction in January, there was an extra layer of celebrity buzz when late night legend Jay Leno rolled out his prized 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 — with all proceeds benefiting the USO.

The highlight of the auction was Leno’s Challenger. The crowd roared as bidders competed in the one of the most exciting bidding displays Gooding & Company has ever seen.

The bidding started at $50,000, but when the auctioneer finally dropped the gavel at $360,000, the entire auction house stood for applause. However, the giving wasn’t done.

“After the car sold, one of the men who lost the bid for Leno’s car stood up and offered an on-the-spot cash donation for the USO — he would match anyone’s donation up to $100,000,” said USO CEO and President J.D. Crouch II, who attended the event.

Paddles began flying and within moments, another man committed to match the full $100,000. Additional donations totaled $5,625, which means that thanks to Jay Leno and other generous supporters, the USO will receive a total of $565,625.

“We’re overwhelmed by the response that we got from those who attended the auction,” Crouch said. “The funds raised here will go far to advance our goals of expanding our services to men and women in uniform.”

USO Mission Continues in Afghanistan Despite Formal End of Combat

On Fridays, troops at USO Kandahar can kick back for a few moments and enjoy some special treats after a long week of hard work. USO photo

Troops at USO Kandahar can kick back for a few moments and enjoy some special treats on Fridays — and every other day of the week. USO photo

The American combat mission in Afghanistan is officially over. But the USO is still on the ground serving more than 10,000 U.S. troops stationed there.

“The mission has not changed for us,” said USO Senior Vice President of Operations, Alan Reyes. “Troops serving in harm’s way will always be one of our top priorities, so we will continue to serve those troops in Afghanistan and throughout the region.”

If U.S. troops need support, the USO will be there for them. Wherever that may be.

Operation Enduring Freedom officially ended Dec. 28. However, according to the Defense Department, more than 10,800 American troops will remain in Afghanistan through 2015 as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

USO centers in the Middle East will stay open as long as there’s a need at the bases they support. There were four fully operational USO centers in Afghanistan at the beginning of February and the USO also has standing operations in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, and has supported the mission of U.S. troops sent to other areas around the region as needed.

Visit USO.org/donate today to pledge your support for America’s troops.

USO Supporting Quarantined Troops Returning From Ebola Mission

Thousands of U.S. troops are stationed far from home every day, but a few hundred of those brave men and women are serving an unconventional mission, isolated as a precautionary measure after duty in West Africa to fight the Ebola outbreak.

Army Pfc. Michael Matale, left, signs out a video game from Sgt. Brandon Banks at the grand opening of the USO at Barclay Training Center in Monrovia, Liberia. Army photo by Spc. Rashene Mincy

Army Pfc. Michael Matale, left, signs out a video game from Sgt. Brandon Banks at the opening of the USO at Barclay Training Center in Monrovia, Liberia, in December. Army photo by Spc. Rashene Mincy

And the USO is by their side.

Troops rotating home after deployments to West Africa are being isolated for 21 days in what the military calls controlled monitoring areas (CMAs) at installations in the United States, Germany and Italy. Thousands of troops have deployed and returned from the region with no issues to date.

In Liberia, where about 300 military personnel continue to support the mission to build and support hospitals, the USO is on the ground providing the comforts of home. These items include dedicated satellite service for Internet connectivity, phone cards, health and comfort items and even leisure and recreational equipment.

In the U.S., troops are being monitored at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Fort Hood and Fort Bliss, Texas and Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.

In most cases, groups of 20 to 30 soldiers are isolated at the same time. Subsequent groups cannot have items used by a previous group because of health precautions, so providing multiple sets of supplies has made the operation more challenging.

“If somebody can find a problem, the USO can find a solution,” said Glenn Gibbs, manager of USO Vicenza, who is supporting the CMA site at nearby American-Italian installation Caserma Del Din. “It’s just what the USO does.”

USO/Hire Heroes USA Helps Transitioning Troops in Three Phases

Starting a new career is about the details.

How you describe what you bring to an employer. How an interviewer feels you fit their corporate culture. How you present yourself in person – and even online.

Army Capt. Amelia Campbell is one of many transitioning troops who have benefitted from a USO/Hire Heroes Workshop. Courtesy photo

Army Capt. Amelia Campbell is one of many transitioning troops who have benefitted from a USO/Hire Heroes USA workshop. USO photo

The last of those was a detail Capt. Amelia Campbell picked up during a two-day USO/Hire Heroes USA Workshop in Tacoma, Washington, in November.

“Something that’s really resonated with me … [is] how important it is to actually represent myself in social media,” the 22-year Army veteran said.

Statistically, getting an interview is the hard part. With plenty of job-seeking Americans and college grads looking for work, there’s lots of competition out there, so USO/Hire Heroes USA workshops take time to fine-tune transitioning service members’ resumes to give them the best shot to beat the odds.

Getting through stacks of resumes is difficult because companies are used to having many qualified applicants in today’s economy. So if there are only a few openings, having the strongest resume alone won’t get you an offer. You need to nail the interview, and that means you need to practice.

USO/Hire Heroes USA Workshops and Career Opportunity Days prepare attendees by holding mock interviews with Hire Heroes USA staff or local hiring managers who’ve volunteered their time. The interviewers question the service members about what makes them the right fit for a position. When it’s over, the interviewers provide feedback on how the service member did, and any other applicable tips.

Multiple employers who’ve participated in the mock interview sessions have extended follow-up interview requests and some of those second interviews have led to job offers.

“We definitely want them to have that renewed confidence as they take on the job market,” said Elda Auxiliaire, who manages the program for the USO. “We want them to have that confidence as they sit down with an employer and say ‘I can do this just as well as anyone else.’”

You can help transitioning troops and military spouses start new careers by visiting  USO.org/donate today.

 GEICO Becomes USO Worldwide Strategic Partner

The USO and GEICO announced a new worldwide strategic partnership Feb. 12 that will expand GEICO’s support of our mission to lift the spirits of America’s troops and their families.

Geico LogoGEICO will support 14 USO centers and USO programs like Ride 2 Recovery, which provides wounded troops with bikes to help them build hope and confidence through cycling, and Mobile USOs, which serve as centers on wheels.

In addition to funding USO programs, the partnership will also provide opportunities for GEICO to build relationships with USO centers throughout the country and volunteer at USO events that support our military heroes.

“The USO’s commitment to improving the lives of our men and women in uniform and their families is unparalleled,” said Tony Nicely, chairman and CEO of GEICO. “GEICO has been a proud supporter of the USO for years, so we’re very pleased to take our partnership to the next level as a Worldwide Strategic Partner.”

After a Tough Transition, Military Spouse Found a New Home at the USO 

There was no smooth transition to military life for Cary Fulladosa, a programs coordinator in the USO’s Japan area office. She’s a new military wife and her first duty station is half a world away from her hometown of Miami.

Cary Fulladosa

Cary Fulladosa

In addition to being separated from her close-knit family— five siblings included— Fulladosa left behind a job she loved to make the move. Upon arriving, she said she immediately understood why an overseas military community sometimes needs a boost.

“Instantly, I saw the need for a support net for this kind of lifestyle and I knew I wanted to be part of a greater cause to give sustenance to the community I am now a part of,” she said.

After seeing the job posting for the USO, she researched the organization and realized that the USO’s mission to lift the spirits of America’s troops and their families fell in line with her personal pursuits. Fulladosa, who is working towards a degree in psychology, enjoys helping people reach their potential. She felt the USO would be a great fit, so she applied for the opening, got the job and started her new career in June.

Fulladosa says her coworkers are her favorite part of her first nine months on the job.

“They are so positive, empowering and passionate,” she said. “[They] make work feel like I am not getting up every morning for a job, for a paycheck. I am walking into this office to serve a higher purpose with a crew of spirit-lifting warriors. The passion my co-workers express is inspiring.”

Cast Members from “Being Mary Jane” Visit Troops in San Diego on USO Tour

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Some of the stars of of BET’s “Being Mary Jane” took time to visit troops Tuesday at Naval Base San Diego as part of a USO tour.

The group — which included actors Richard Roundtree, B.J. Britt and Aaron Spears — spent the bulk of their day with sailors and their families, signing autographs, posing for photos and even taking a tour of the base’s facilities.

It wasn’t the first time “Being Mary Jane” cast members hung out with troops at a USO event. Some of the show’s actors stopped by the Mobile USO to send messages of thanks to service members at The BET Experience in Los Angeles last June. The San Diego stop was also part of BET’s celebration of Black History Month, which kicked off with a new episode of “Being Mary Jane” on Feb. 3.

The cast members and attendees shared their experiences on Twitter, too:

14 Military Facts about American Presidents

Thirty-one of the 43 men who’ve served as President of the United States also served in the military. Here are 14 military facts about men who rose to the rank of commander-in-chief.

#1

FDR_USO

USO archives

The USO owes it’s creation to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who tasked six interested nonprofits to form a new organization to help America’s troops in the lead-up to World War II.

#2

Teddy Roosevelt is the only president to receive the Medal of Honor. It was awarded 103 years after his actions in the Spanish-American War . On Jan. 16, 2001, then-President Bill Clinton held a ceremony in the Roosevelt Room of the White House to present the medal to Roosevelt’s relatives for his actions during the 1898 Battle of San Juan Hill. Roosevelt was installed as vice president in 1901 and ascended to the presidency just six months later when then-President William McKinley was assassinated.

#3

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Courtesy of the Department of Defense.

Former-President George W. Bush christened the USO Warrior and Family Center at Bethesda, Maryland, last March. He also spoke at the USO Gala in Washington in 2008.

#4

GHW Bush 2010

USO photo

Of course, he wasn’t the first President Bush. Former President George H. W. Bush — a former Navy pilot — spoke fondly about the USO during a May 2010 forum for C-SPAN. “As a young Navy pilot, the USO was a home away from home for me,” the 41st president said.

#5

Photo via Scripps Howard Foundation Wire.

Photo via Scripps Howard Foundation Wire

President Barack Obama and the National Endowment of the Arts presented the USO with the National Medal of Arts on Feb. 13, 2012, to mark the organization’s 70-plus years of providing excellence in entertainment to America’s troops and their families. The USO is the only military nonprofit to date to receive the honor.

#6

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Photo via the Reagan Foundation

Former President Ronald Reagan and fellow former President Gerald Ford bracket USO mainstay Bob Hope in this Oct. 17, 1981, photo at an event at the Washington Hilton marking the organization’s 40th anniversary. Reagan had survived an assassination attempt at the same hotel just seven months earlier.

#7

James Buchanan is the only president to serve in the American military but never become an officer. He’s also the only president to date to be (1) a lifelong bachelor and (2) born in the state of Pennsylvania.

#8

The pen and other mementos from then-President Jimmy Carter's signing of the USO charter are on display at the USO's Arlington, Virginia, offices. USO photo

The pen and other items from then-President Jimmy Carter’s signing of the USO charter are displayed at the USO’s Arlington, Virginia, office. USO photo

On Dec. 20, 1979, then-President Jimmy Carter — a Navy lieutenant from 1943-53 — signed the USO’s official Congressional charter. Among other operating provisions, the charter establishes the President of the United States as the USO’s honorary chairman.

#9

USO photo by Joseph Andrew Lee

USO photo by Joseph Andrew Lee

Former President Bill Clinton hosted a USO care package assembly event in the spring of 2012 in Washington as part of the Clinton Global Initiative University program. The event brought out the 42nd president, his daughter, Chelsea Clinton, a few NFL players and hundreds of college students to assemble Operation USO Care Packages to send to troops.

#10

USO archives

USO archives

Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower is one of 10 Americans who’ve been promoted to the rank of five-star general. He’s also the last person to be elected president without having been elected to any previous office.

#11

Twelve generals have been elected president, including a string of five-consecutive men from 1865 to 1885: Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur. Eisenhower was the last general to be elected to the nation’s top office.

#12

One of the USO’s newest centers is at the airport named for our 35th president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The USO opened its state-of-the-art center at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport last fall. Kennedy was a Navy lieutenant during World War II, receiving a Navy and Marine Corps Medal and a Purple Heart for his actions.

#13

Then-President Harry S Truman gave the USO an honorable discharge on Dec. 31, 1947, formally shuttering the organization’s centers around the world to coincide with the perceived lack of need after World War II. The USO was re-activated in January of 1951 — while Truman was still in office — to serve troops during the Korean War.

#14

While most presidents who previously donned an American uniform were Army men (or members of militias), the Navy has dominated the White House the last 50-plus years. Six of the last 10 presidents have Navy ties, with four of them (Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon and Ford) serving as officers in the Navy Reserve.

How the USO, Joining Forces and FTD are Bringing Valentine’s Day Moments to the Military

A soldier holds up a sign at USO Colorado Springs. USO photo

A soldier holds up a sign at USO Colorado Springs. USO photo

Many Amercan troops will be thousands of miles away from their loved ones this Valentine’s Day. With this in mind, the USO, Joining Forces and FTD are teaming to show these military families how much we appreciate their sacrifices.

As part of the USO’s Every Moment Counts campaign, USO centers across the United States are receiving a floral arrangement, courtesy of FTD, as a symbol of our nation’s love and enduring support. Every American can add their voice to this display of support, too, by going on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram this weekend and using the #USOmoments hashtag to send messages to America’s troops and their families.

The USO is also inviting Americans to send USO Love Notes to our troops by visiting the USO’s Love from America site. Visitors to the site can also learn about the challenges troops and their families face and what they as civilians can do to help.

Too often, troops miss out on family dinners, date nights, birthdays and the even the births their children. With this in mind, the USO created the Every Moment Counts campaign to rally Americans to show their gratitude by helping the USO create priceless moments for our troops and their families.

“The USO is proud of its collaboration with Joining Forces and FTD, and this synergy shows our troops how much we care wherever they may be serving,” said J.D. Crouch, CEO & President of the USO. “We want the 30,000 troops and military family members who pass through our doors each day to feel closer to home and know that we are always by their side, especially on this Valentine’s Day.”

Channing Tatum, Adam Rodriguez and Nick Zano Wrap USO Tour to Afghanistan

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Actors Channing Tatum, Adam Rodriguez and Nick Zano wrapped the USO’s first 2015 entertainment tour to Afghanistan over the weekend. The six-day handshake tour was the first USO experience for the trio, which spent time with more than 1,500 troops, including these folks from Oregon.

In all, Tatum, Rodriguez and Zano visited seven bases downrange and the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan.

“My trip with the USO was a once-in-a-lifetime window into the sacrifice and duty that these brave soldiers and their families devote every day to,” said Tatum, whose “Magic Mike XXL” will hit theaters this summer. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the experience. Safe travels home and until then, keep holding it down there and in every other place that flies the stars and stripes.”

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