By Danielle DeSimone
As warfare and conflict across the globe adapts to new technology, U.S. troops must as well. That’s why American soldiers deployed to the Middle East in the wake of rising tensions with Iran are being ordered to leave their personal phones, computers and other electronic devices at home.
While this is a logical step for operational security, it has also left service members – many of them deployed on short-notice, just days after the holidays – without any way to contact with their loved ones. That’s where the USO comes in. Here are three ways we are ensuring troops deployed to the Middle East are still connected to home.
1. Phone Calls Home
Through Operation Phone Home®, our USO centers in combat zones and throughout the Middle East are equipped with a private, secure telephone network and phones for service members to use. These phones (and international calling) are free to use and can make all the difference for a service member just trying to make a simple phone call to friends and family back home.
“We have had large numbers from the 82nd Airborne Division coming through our USO centers. Many of them were told to leave their personal devices behind, so they are all coming in to use our free phones and computers,“ said Sara Lottie, regional vice president of USO Southwest Asia.
“This is why the USO’s presence in places like the Middle East is so critical, when our service members deploy unexpectedly, we are there to ensure they can stay connected to home and update their families as conditions on the ground continue to change.”
2. Free Wi-Fi and Computers
USO centers also provide service members with free, high-speed Wi-Fi to connect their own devices. But for service members who deploy device-free, there’s always the center’s computer rooms, where they can use a USO computer to connect to a secure internet network for work, sending emails or simply chatting with loved ones stateside, all while remaining in compliance with operational readiness and security protocols.
3. Connecting to a Home Away from Home
USO staff and volunteers are pros at helping build community and a sense of home for service members stationed all around the world — and especially in the Middle East. Our USO programs and services – from movie nights in comfortable couches to craft activities that lift their spirits – provide our men and women in uniform with a place where they can relax and connect with each other.
These experiences can greatly improve the morale of our troops during uncertain times and make all the difference when they are far from everything familiar.
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