USO-NFL Partnership Kept Football Streaming to Troops in Afghanistan During Government Shutdown

Troops gather at USO Kandahar in Afghanistan to watch football, courtesy of NFL Game Pass. USO photos by Daniel Wood

Troops gather at USO Kandahar in Afghanistan to watch football in late September, courtesy of NFL Game Pass. USO photo by Daniel Wood

The recent government shutdown – which ended on Thursday – left troops downrange with a slimmed-down version of the Armed Forces Network, and the prospect of missing their favorite football teams on Sunday nights.

However, NFL Game Pass – which the league offers free of charge to USO centers outside the United States – kept the games streaming for troops at sites like USO Kandahar.

“They really saved the day here,” said Daniel Wood, duty manager at USO Kandahar.

Here’s what troops in Afghanistan told the USO’s Eric Raum on Oct. 6:

  • Spec. Gary Stripling: “I thought we just weren’t going to get to watch the games this week. A buddy told me the USO was still going to show the NFL over an Internet connection so we all came down early to get a seat.”
  • Staff Sgt. Brian Duchsne: “It’s something we look forward to all week, it gets you through, knowing you’ll relax for an evening and watch football, so we were pretty excited to hear the USO was still going to be showing the game.”

USO Volunteer Wins Keys to Brand New Jeep Wrangler

Norm Hallowell, center, poses with the USO’s Senior Vice President of Operations Alan Reyes, right, and Chrysler Chief Marketing Officer Olivier Francois, after winning a new Jeep Wrangler on Oct. 11 in Washington. (Photo courtesy of Jeep)

Norm Hallowell, center, poses with the USO’s Senior Vice President of Operations Alan Reyes, right, and Chrysler Chief Marketing Officer Olivier Francois, after winning a new Jeep Wrangler on Oct. 11 in Washington. (Photo courtesy of Jeep)

WASHINGTON – Norm Hallowell, a longtime USO volunteer and Vietnam War veteran, won a brand new A 2014 Jeep Wrangler Freedom Edition last night.

Hallowell, the winner of Jeep’s Hero at Home Award, was presented with the honor during The Daily Beast’s Hero Summit at the Newseum in Washington. The winner, who’s amassed more than 580 volunteer hours at the USO, was introduced by Chrysler Chief Marketing Officer Olivier Francois.

“Today, [Jeep] wanted to honor the heroes at home,” said Francois. “So, together with the USO, we thought about an initiative, about recognizing someone — not a hero in uniform — but one who acted as such from behind the scenes.”

To announce the winner, a video clip featuring Hallowell and some of his colleagues played on the big screen. In the video, Hallowell, who volunteers at the USO Family and Warrior Center at Fort Belvoir, Va., said, “I don’t consider myself anybody special. I’m one of 270. … That’s all.”

The award, part of Jeep’s Operation Safe Return program, was voted on by the public. Hallowell beat out two well-deserving colleagues at Fort Belvoir. His humble attitude and dedicated service surely helped him earn the votes needed to win the new Jeep Wrangler.

The USO’s Senior Vice President of Operations Alan Reyes presented Hallowell and his wife with the keys to their new vehicle.

For more information about Operation Safe Return, go here.

Barbecue Hosted by Fox News Reporter and Orioles Pitcher Raised More than $23,000 for USO

From left Orioles pitcher Darren O'Day and his wife, Fox News' Elizabeth Prann, pose with USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore's Elaine Rogers and John Fallon. Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles

From left Orioles pitcher Darren O’Day and his wife, Fox News’ Elizabeth Prann, pose with USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore’s Elaine Rogers and John Fallon. Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Orioles pitcher Darren O’Day and his wife, Fox News reporter Elizabeth Prann, presented a check for $23,463 to the USO during a ceremony on Thursday. The funds were raised during a Barbecue for the Troops event the couple held for the USO at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Aug. 4.

The August event featured a bullpen picnic-area barbeque that included a silent auction featuring many one-of-a-kind items provided and autographed by Orioles players. The Orioles also auctioned off the special Stars and Stripes hats the players wore during the team’s July 4 game against the Texas Rangers.

And to top it off, the Orioles  donated 50 tickets to USO Metro for Thursday night’s game so that local troops and their families could enjoy a night at the ballpark.

–Story by the USO

OEF Crisis Hotline Gives Stressed Troops an Outlet Downrange

More than 1,000 runners came out for the OEF Crisis Hotline 5K, hosted May 24 at six USO Centers in Afghanistan. USO photos by Eric Raum

More than 1,000 runners came out for the OEF Crisis Hotline 5K, hosted May 24 at six USO Centers across Afghanistan. USO photos by Eric Raum

It was a run for those who feel trapped.

Six USO centers in Afghanistan hosted more than 1,000 total runners for a 5K on May 24 to promote the OEF Crisis Hotline, a downrange-based call center troops can contact if they are dealing with stress or other mental health issues. The hotline has two mental health professionals on duty 24 hours a day.

The USO – which has been advertising the hotline to troops via posters at downrange centers – provided prizes for the top three male and female finishers.

Sgt. Kristian Patino of the Army’s 254th Medical Detachment said the hotline fills a void downrange and is modeled off a similar system the Department of Veterans Affairs operates stateside.

“It is peer support in its purest form,” Patino said. “You have service members here in Afghanistan going through the same struggles and dealing with the same issues as whoever would be calling in, so they are able to connect with the caller and relate to them.”

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The hotline – which was originally run by the 254th Medical Detachment in Kandahar – is now operated by the Army’s 85th Combat Operational Stress Control Detachment out of Bagram.

Patino believes the hotline makes a difference.

“One instance, a woman called in and was very frantic, in a complete panic and crying,” Patino said. “When we were done, it was a day and night shift. We worked through relaxation techniques and talked through what was troubling her.”

Troops downrange can reach the OEF Crisis Hotline the following ways:

Stateside troops and veterans can reach the VA’s Military Crisis Line by dialing 1-800-273-8255 and then pressing 1. Europe-based troops can reach the Military Crisis Line by dialing 00800 1273 8255 on regular phones or 118 on DSN lines.

–Story by Eric Raum and Eric Brandner, USO

USO Brings Mother’s Day Treatment to Kandahar-Based Troops

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Mom doesn’t get much thanks downrange.

The USO Southwest Regional Team understood this, and went out of their way to give a special thanks to the women of Kandahar Airfield’s Role 3 Trauma Hospital with a spa day on Sunday.

“These ladies work long hours on their feet and have little time to pamper themselves,” USO Southwest Asia wrote on its Facebook page.

The spa experience included manicures, pedicures, facials and massages. More than 100 treatments were provided.

Check out USO Southwest Asia’s Facebook page for more details.

-Story by USO Story Development

Military Children Create Patriotic Artwork

A young girl points to her award winning artwork

A young girl points to her award winning artwork.

In honor of April’s ‘Month of the Military Child,’ the USO of Hampton Roads and Central Virginia (USO HRCV) held a unique contest to engage local children and raise awareness of the USO’s mission.

For the third year, the USO HRCV called on all school-age children in the area to compete in an art contest that turns the winning artworks into panels that will be displayed in the Richmond International Airport.

The children, ages 5 to 18, were instructed to create illustrations that incorporated a patriotic theme. On Monday, April 29, USO HRCV announced the winners of their contest. This year, winners were from Hampton, Chesterfield, Prince George, Henrico, and Hanover counties.

See the slideshow below for a look at some of the winners as they display their beautiful and patriotic creations.

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Sarah Camille Hipp, Communications Specialist