Faces of the USO: An Invaluable Liaison

Screen Shot 2013-03-04 at 4.30.20 PMBefore coming to the USO, Tomoko McManus lent her skills to some of Japan’s largest, most influential companies, including Nissan, Sony and Fukuda Denshi.

She called on her English language proficiency as she worked with engineers to translate technical documents and manuals. In 2009, McManus learned about the USO during an area orientation at Yokosuka Air Base. She also learned that USO Japan was looking for an administrative assistant.

At home, she told her husband, a retired U.S. service member, about the vacancy.

“He told me that the USO is a great organization,” she said. “It made me think this is an organization I could be a part of.”

Since then McManus, a native of Tateyama in Chiba prefecture, has been an invaluable member of the USO Japan staff. On a daily basis, she fields emails and phone calls and works on reports. She manages the area director’s schedule, arranging travel and meetings.

And she’s still putting her dual language skills to use. She serves as translator when the area director meets with host-nation companies, Japanese government officials or members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces.

During bazaars, McManus is a liaison to international vendors, coordinating base access. And she is intimately involved in planning and executing the annual Service Salute.

“Working with the USO as a volunteer or a staff member is a lot of work but it truly is rewarding,” she said. “When you get a thank you and a smile from a service member that has been deployed or away from home, it makes all of the hard work worth it.” – Derek Turner, USO Sr. Editor

Faces of the USO: A New Way to Serve

Screen Shot 2013-01-17 at 2.22.26 PMElizabeth Vallette’s first experience with the USO wasn’t exactly life-changing, but it lifted the spirits of a cash-poor West Point cadet making her way through an airport en route to a training assignment.

“Another cadet came running … up the terminal at us, screaming ‘Free hot dogs at the USO,’” Vallette said.

Later, during a 12-month deployment to Iraq with III Corps in 2004, the USO brought comedian Robin Williams to her base in Baghdad. “His show was perfect timing,” Vallette said. “It was just sinking in that things were not going well. We really needed the pick-me-up, and he delivered.”

After leaving the Army, Vallette spent time as an MBA student at the University of Houston and worked for a Canadian nonprofit in Kabul, Afghanistan.

When the project ended, she saw a job listing for a center director at USO Houston.“It hadn’t ever really occurred to me that you could actually work for the USO … and get paid,” she said.

Since July 2011, she has led a team that serves nearly 35,000 troops and family members with the help of a team of 400 volunteers.

Anyone who wants a taste of Vallette’s Houston hospitality should check out the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo’s World’s Championship in February and checkout the USO’s entry in the bar-b-cue contest. – Derek Turner, USO Sr. Editor