USO Baghdad Supports the Sisterhood Against Sexual Assault

USO Baghdad Duty Manager Robin Symes (l) hands out USO Care Packages and Girl Scout cookies to smiling Troops. Enjoy a Trefoil for us!

Operation USO Care Package is one of our most popular programs here at the USO.  In the past few months we’ve created exclusive care packages for female Troops, and introduced a new program of care packages just for families.  For those of us who pack these goodies into the bags and boxes, it’s great to know that what we’re sending off is received and greatly appreciated on the other end. (Not that there was any doubt!)

We were thrilled to receive word this weekend that the Female Care Packages, in particular, are being utilized as part of a larger program of support in Baghdad.  Here’s a great note from our center there…

Care packages designed just for female Troops were packed last November on Capital Hill and are still making their way overseas!

USO Baghdad Duty Managers Megan Lynch and Robin Symes took Operation Cookie Drop and the USO’s Operation Care Package to Camp Victory’s Hope Chapel to support the Sisterhood Against Sexual Assault. SASA is a unique program to combat Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment in the military. It is focused on Senior Female Leadership providing mentorship to our future generations of military female leaders.

During monthly meetings, women and men come together to share experiences and build the skills necessary to combat alarming statistics of harassment and assault during deployment. This month, CSM Williams spoke to the group addressing the theme “Your Best You.”  Afterward, everyone had a chance to mingle and walk away with a USO care package!

A standard USO Care Package contains items like pre-paid international phone cards, toiletries, periodicals, and a deck of cards, among other oft-requested items.

For more information on the Sisterhood Against Sexual Assault please visit their Facebook page.

A $25 donation sponsors one USO care package and allows you to include a personal message of support and appreciation.  Click here to request a care package for a member of our troops.

Pentagon Care Package Stuffing Party

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, participates in a USO Care Package Stuffing party at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Virginia, July 2, 2010. (USO photo by Mike Theiler)

“Thanks for doing this,” Admiral Mullen told the volunteers. “I’ve been in the field with the troops a lot, and I know what a difference this makes.”

USO of Metropolitan Washington hosted military leaders, staff aides, and USO and Pentagon volunteers for a morning devoted to assembling 2,000 packages to be distributed to US military forces deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife, Deborah, were among the volunteers.

“[USO’s support of military members] gives us strength, it gives us inspiration, and it helps us in what are very, very difficult times,” the chairman told Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden of American Forces Press Service.

We’d like to thank everyone who came out to show their support  - and care package stuffing skills! – for this perfectly patriotic event.  Check out more pictures below…

Active duty service members take time to assemble USO care packages that will be sent to deployed troops, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, during a care package event at the Pentagon on July 2, 2010. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

Sandee Cartwright, wife of Gen. James Cartwright Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, joins Elaine Rogers and Cheryl Laaker Hall, of USO of Metropolitan Washington, during a Pentagon care package event on July 2, 2010. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

The USO Liberty Bells take time to assemble care packages at an Operation USO Care Package party at the Pentagon on July 2, 2010. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

More than 100 Pentagon employees and friends assembled 2,000 care packages during an Operation USO Care Package party on July 2, 2010. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

Yep, Your Care Packages Made it to Iraq

You probably already know all about Operation USO Care Package, and that we’ve donated over 1.5 million packages to Troops serving around the world.  You can always make a donation to the program, or – if you’re in the DC Metro area – volunteer at a USO Care Package stuffing party.  Our care packages are handed out at airports, in USO Centers, and other places to whomever wants one.

Other groups give you the opportunity to send a care box to specific individuals.  Additionally, a service member can register directly with these groups and the receive one or many boxes.  All of these care packages augment Operation USO Care Package and ensure that Troops have a variety of the comforts of home to choose from.  Our USO staff in Iraq just wanted to let you know, “Yep, your care packages made it to Iraq,” and to thank all those who contributed!  Read more…

Baghdad, Iraq – Three separate patriotic organizations have made their mark out here in Iraq with donated care packages that directly benefit the Servicemen downrange. Small, easy-to-carry hygiene products along with practical sundries can go along way to those people in the middle of a week long transit or in the middle of a cross country convoy. Trips to the base store are infrequent for these servicemen and the gesture of kindness that comes with these donated items lets these guys and gals folks back home are looking out for them.

The Raleigh Regional Association of Realtors put together a drive to send these care packages directly to Sather Air Base and the driving force with this fine organization is Terry Benson, the former Center Manager of the USO here in Baghdad. Terry has the first hand knowledge of what items are the most useful and put together very thoughtful items for the traveler in need.

Adopt a Platoon strives to provide a better deployment quality of life by sending cards, letters and care packages to lift the morale of Troops as they serve far from home and assist military families. These members of the 702d Brigade Support Battalion loaded up their MRAPs with the boxes for the next mission.

The fine folks at Operation Gratitude send care packages that contain food, hygiene products, entertainment items and personal letters of appreciation, all wrapped with good wishes of love and support.  Through collection drives, letter writing campaigns and donations of funds for shipping expenses, Operation Gratitude provides civilians anywhere in America a way to express their respect and appreciation to the men and women of the U.S. Military in an active, hands-on manner.

It’s a Party When Congress and the USO Get Together to Stuff Care Packages for Troops!

Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), (left), and USO volunteer Nancy Lee Fiscus grab items to include in USO care packages. (USO photo by Mike Theiler)

Yesterday, members of Congress led Hill staffers, donors, military leadership and other volunteers in stuffing more than 2,000 USO care packages for troops deploying to Afghanistan, Iraq and other overseas locations.

Volunteers move down rows of items as they stuff the packages with care. USO photo by Mike Theiler

Care packages provide items requested by service members, including prepaid international phone cards, toiletry kits with shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush and toothpaste and shaving kits, sunscreen, snacks, refreshments and other entertainment items. Each care package also contains a special message of support from the donor.

Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), (right), and his wife Carolina stuff peanuts and bandages in care packages. USO photo by Mike Theiler

Members of the USO Congressional Caucus in attendance included Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas), Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.): Rep.Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) and Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.). Also present were Annie McChrystal, wife of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Commander, International Security Assistance Force/Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan; Ed Reilly, American Management Association president and chairman of the USO Board of Governors; and senior military leadership and their spouses attended this event.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), (center), makes remarks on the importance of Operation Care Package as Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), (left) and USO Board Chairman Ed Reilly listen. USO photo by Mike Theiler

Military spouses (left to right) Dale Rowe (wife of Army Maj. Gen. Richard J. Rowe), Sandee Cartwright (wife of USMC Gen, James E. Cartwright) and Annie McChrystal (wife of Army Gen Stanley A. McChrystal) show off some completed care packages. USO photo by Mike Theiler

Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) and California National Guard Adjutant Brig. Gen. Mary J. Knight stuffed two bags at a time before handing them to USO volunteers to ship overseas. USO photo by Mike Theiler

Working with the USO: Southwest Asia

The Duty Managers at USO Baghdad ensured that Troops waiting for connecting flights were well equipped with USO Care Packages.

Just because there’s the occasional pool party, a game of touch football with NFL players and coaches, or ten-song set from the likes of the Zac Brown Band doesn’t mean that serving in Southwest Asia is anything like a “normal” experience.

And working for the USO in that region has its own unique rewards and challenges.  Check out this great new video from our own videographer that gives insight into what it’s like as a USO employee in Southwest Asia…

Interesting with working with us?  Click here to learn about USO opportunities today!

Care Packages – What It’s Like on the Receiving End

Regular blog readers often hear about our USO Care Package stuffing parties.  Just within the last few months we’ve had the kid’s one, the one just for families, the Female Care Package, and the one that engaged celebrities.  And those don’t even include the almost-weekly “regular” care package stuffing parties that happen without any fanfare and with the support of hundreds of volunteers.

The story we don’t often tell – simply because we often don’t know – is what happens with the care packages after we bag and box them up, and send them off to airports and centers around the world.  How do Troops react when they receive their care packages?  We’ve worked hard to create a program that fulfills the requests of things we’ve been told that Troops want to see in the care package.  But are we right?  Are they getting what they want and need?

Imagine our excitement when we received this story from USO Pat Tillman Programs Manager Charlotte Del Vecchio:

“These Marines were stranded at the Airfield with all of their bags stuck on a pallet elsewhere. They were headed down range and the Squad Leader came into the center and wanted to know if we had any toiletries to hold them over. We did better than that, and distributed the care packages to them, within 30 minutes of the request.  The Marines were so grateful – and they loved the calling cards and gummy lifesavers too!”

Awesome!  Thanks, Marines, for your service.  We’re glad to make the trip a little better for you. Have YOU received a USO Care Package?  What did you like about?  What can we improve?  Let us know!