By Cpl. Kayla Staten

Guests speak during the re-opening ceremony. | Photo credit USO Futenma

After 18 months of renovations, USO Futenma celebrated its grand re-opening on Jan. 16. More than 150 guests attended the multi-cultural celebration, including contractors, sponsors, USO staff members, Japanese nationals and service members.

Highlights of the event included lunch, a ribbon-cutting and a traditional Okinawan tea ceremony.

“The overall goal for the remodel of the USO Futenma was to upgrade our 12,000 square foot space to modernize it, making it more usable and applicable to our service members,“ said USO Futenma Field Programs Manager Kayla Stamey, who was also the lead designer of the new space.

Guests speak during the re-opening ceremony. | Photo credit USO Futenma

“For example, we created several casual and professional work spaces for marines and sailors that can accommodate play as well as career development to mirror their lifestyles,” she said.

Under Construction, But Open to Serve

Although a section of the USO center was closed for renovations since April 2018, the entire location wasn’t off-limits to service members during construction. The USO made it a priority to ensure active duty, Guard and Reserve service members, as well as their families, were taken care of, even during the refurbishments.

“I was impressed that they were not going to close while the work was taking place, I thought they would be out of commission for several months but, in true character, they kept it open for the marines and sailors,“ said Sgt. Maj. Jason Kappen, sergeant major of MCAS Futenma.

A New Space for the Military Community

The newly renovated USO has a main lounge, eight computer stations, 11 laptops for check out, a small theater with 25 leather recliners, a gaming room with seven individual gaming stations, a 75-inch multiplayer gaming station, a fully equipped conference room that seats 20 people, ping pong tables, billiards, outdoor patio, fire pit, BBQ, and lawn.

Other services available include Wi-Fi, streaming services, charging stations and printing.

Giveaways at the re-opening ceremony. | Photo credit USO Futenma

Programs include weekly Wednesday meals, late-night meals on Fridays and Saturdays, and cultural experiences, such as Japanese cooking classes and temple visits.

Nobu’s Curry restaurant and AIG Insurance are also within the USO office.

"This is a testament to the level of service the USO offers. No matter what is going on here they are going to take care of us, and for that we are very appreciative. This is truly a home away from home,” Kappen said.

-This story originally appeared on DVIDS.net. It has been edited for USO.org.