USO Metro’s One Million Milestone

The USO of Metropolitan Washington (USO Metro) has achieved a major accomplishment in its commitment to serve our troops. In December of 2011, USO Metro surpassed the one million mark for the number of troops they have supported in its airport centers.

USO Metro began taking care of America’s troops and their families at airports when it opened its first center inside Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) in 1999.

Volunteers work at the BWI airport center.

The timeline below shows in detail how the USO Metro airport services have expanded over the years.

USO Metro’s Airport Centers Timeline

  • 1999: BWI opens doors to USO Metro’s first airport center
  • 2001: Reagan National Airport (Reagan) center opens
  • 2005: Andrews Air Force Base opens an information desk
  • 2007: Washington Dulles International Airport (Dulles) center opens
  • 2010: Andrews Air Force Base airport center opens

According to USO Metro’s Airport Services Manager, Pam Horton, the 15,000-square-foot BWI center is both the largest and busiest center because of the Air Mobility Command (AMC) flights that many troops travel on through BWI. The other airport centers primarily serve troops who are flying on commercial flights.

Like all USO centers, the BWI center has many amenities geared to create a comfortable and home-like lounge for our troops. The facilities at BWI’s center include a concession filled with food and drinks, a sleeping room, children’s room, computer room, lounge with television and comfortable chairs, and Xbox games.

While BWI is the largest location, USO Metro’s achievement is a celebration for each airport center and USO Metro’s airport services program.

The number of guests at each airport center shows how each location has contributed to USO Metro’s grand total of 1,020,211 troops and family members served.

USO Metro Airport Centers’ Guests from 1998-2011

  • BWI = 762,797
  • Dulles = 129, 936
  • Reagan = 84, 567
  • Andrews AFB = 42, 911
  • Grand Total = 1, 020, 211

USO Metro Airport Centers’ Guests for 2011

  • BWI = 71, 313
  • Dulles = 30,302
  • Reagan = 21,777
  • Andrews AFB = 42, 911

Horton, who was first a USO Metro volunteer at BWI, says the milestone would not be possible without the support each airport center receives from its committed volunteers. The four airport centers currently have a total of 715 volunteers on file, all of whom are committed to at least two shifts each month.

Similar to USO centers around the world, USO Metro and its volunteers have remained dedicated to serving our troops, one by one.

Congratulations to USO Metro and your volunteers on touching over one million troops and family members! - Sarah Camille Hipp, Communications Specialist 

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Voice Avenue Supports Troops and the USO

The singing group Voice Avenue, who are finalist on the NBC show “Sing-Off” and who are supporting the USO’s mission with proceeds from their song “Wishing on a Chrismas Star” performed to a capacity crowd of more than 3,000 at Starthmore Concert Hall in Bethesda, MD last night along with Michael W. Smith.

The group told the audience about their love for our troops and encoured evenryone to support the USO.

Yesterday they were moved at witnessing the changing of the guard and wreath laying at Arlington National Cenmetary yesterday. Afterwards they spent time thanking the Soldiers who guard the Tomb and who oversee the burial of our honored heroes.

Last week following their concert in Dallas they visited the USO at DFW and performed for troops and thanked them for their service.

Later this week Voice Avenue will be in Cincinnati, St Louis and Hosuton where local NBC affilaites will have them on to promote the USO and where they will visit USO Centers.

For a video of Voice Avenue on FOX 5 DC discussing supporting the troops and the USO, click here.

“Wishing on a Chrismas Star”

Voice Avenue Homepage

Click here to go to Voice Avenue's homepage

Operation Star One

Click here to go to learn more about Operation One Star

“Me and a Friend”: It’s a Homerun for Military Kids

Kelsie Vick, second from left, poses with her friends Josh Braden, Mimi Nsanzimana, and Kyle Thornhill before the start of the Nationals-Mets baseball game at Nationals Stadium in Washington, D.C., July 4, 2010. Kelsie has relocated 10 times with her Army family. (USO photo)

Last Saturday we gave you an exclusive preview of the new program for military kids called “Me and a Friend.”  A collaboration between the Washington Nationals and USO of Metropolitan DC resulted in this unique program, which provided nearly 4,000 free tickets for Sunday’s home game at Nationals Park.  The program was created in consultation with the Department of Defense as a way to say thanks for the sacrifices made by military kids, and will continue throughout the remainder of the baseball season.

Teens, especially, find that heading out to a baseball game with friends can make a big difference in normalizing their experience as a member of a military family.  “A lot of times, teens just can’t find anything to do,” as Josh Braden explained to Lisa Daniel of American Forces Press Service.  “The focus is just on clubs and stuff. So this is a good thing to do to keep kids out of trouble.”  Braden attended the game with his friend Kelsie Vick, a recent graduate of Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Va., who has relocated 10 times with her Army family.

Didn’t make it out to Sunday’s game?  No problem!  There’s still plenty of time to participate in “Me and a Friend” this summer.  To check ticket availability for the July 11 game against the Giants please use USO-Metro’s TicketLine program.  All tickets must be picked up at the USO office at 228 McNair Road, Bldg 405 Fort Myer, Va., 22211.  And check out more pics below!

Military Kids run the bases as the Rushmore Four cheer them on at the July 4, 2010 Washington Nationals home game against the New York Mets. (USO photo)

Two recipients of the "Me and a Friend" tickets took time out of watching the game to write a Major League thank you note to Washington Nationals players on July 4, 2010. (USO photo)

The Nationals Park billboard gave a special shout out to USO of Metropolitan Washington and all of the military kids, their friends, and their families in attendance at the game. (USO photo)

This Week’s Snag Film: Ballou

It’s time to grab the popcorn and gather the family around the computer, because we have your new offering for the USO Theater from Snag Films!

This week’s documentary is Ballou; here’s the synopsis from Snag Films:

The marching band at Ballou Senior High School in D.C.

“Members of the Ballou Senior High School Marching Band rise above their violence-filled Washington, D.C., neighborhood in this documentary, which follows the group as they try to achieve their dream of winning the national marching band competition. Inspired by their tireless director, Darrell Watson, and helped by a dedicated team of volunteers, the musical teens put their heads, hearts and souls into making the band the best it can be.”

Enjoy!

National Guard Keeps the East Coast Safe from the Storm

As USO Centers along the east coast have greeted Troops whose flights are delayed or cancelled because of the Blizzard of 2010, one group is tackling the snow head on: the National Guard.

“‘This is our job, and this is what we do,’ said Army Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz, commanding general of the D.C. Guard Joint Force Headquarters. ‘We have always answered the call for help from the District of Columbia at a moment’s notice, and our people have done a tremendous job in supporting emergency missions during this historic blizzard.’”  -Click here to read the complete DC National Guard news release.

National Guard Blizzard 2010

Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 116th Infantry Brigade, prepare their vehicles for potential missions in the Staunton, Va area, Feb. 5. Approximately 30 Soldiers from the Brigade are on state active duty in the Staunton area ready to assist local authorities in case of emergency. The Soldiers will be positioned in area emergency operation centers. (Photos by Capt. Matt Nowak, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

The Virginia National Guard, meanwhile, is dispatching up to 500 personnel throughout Sunday and the governor continues to urge residents to stay home for the Super Bowl, as even Humvees are finding themselves mired in the snow!  -Click here to read locations and additional info from WHSV.com

We still think we’d rather be in a Humvee than an SUV, as evidenced by this video:

National Guard units in Delaware, West Virginia, and Maryland are responding similarly, with Delaware dispatching troops “in about 75 Humvees and other specialized vehicles [to take] police, doctors and nurses to and from work. They drove patients to emergency room appointments such as dialysis treatments. They took people without power to shelters.”  These essential acts are the hallmark of National Guard activity in times of emergency.  -Click here to read the full story from Delaware Online.

Block Leave Enters Baltimore

Donna Miles of Air Forces Press Service has been reporting on holiday homecomings for the past two days: “’This is a nice, quite place, where they let you take a load off your feet,’ said Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Nao Lewis.”

The USO Lounge at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport offers military travelers a respite from crowded airport terminals, particularly during the holiday season. DoD photo by Donna Miles

He’s speaking, of course, about a USO Center, in this case the one at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport.  And other Centers around the country continue to see huge upticks in the number they serve.

As Troops stream through airports on Block Leave, USO Centers continue to adapt to their needs.  The USO at Philadelphia International Airport slept 100 on Saturday night, as snow blanketed the East Coast.  Things had calmed down by Wednesday afternoon, though the staff continued to meed unique requests.

“Do you have a refrigerator?” one Troops questioned as he entered the Center.  After the staff confirmed that they did, and that he could use it, he unloaded a knapsack with nearly 60 pounds of deer meat it in, bound for Christmas dinner at points south.  Just another day at the USO!

The BWI USO was running with a staff of three…augmented by 230 volunteers!

Miles reports, “Airman Ronald Carr, who just finished Air Force basic training, grew up in a military family that taught him to appreciate the USO. ‘It’s good to know that this is basically an all-volunteer operation, with a volunteer staff and donations that keep it running,’ he said. ‘It makes me feel good about my service, knowing that people care about what I do.’

Army Pfc. Taylor Walther, a California National Guardsman returning home for a holiday break from training at Fort Eustis, Va., said he’s already had the chance to check out several USO facilities, and never walks away disappointed. ‘They’re all good. When you go there, they’re all friendly, they all tell you to help yourself and make yourself at home,’ he said.”

Read the complete story here!