From the Desk of…

We here at the USO hope this new blog is keeping you informed of the many programs, services, celebrity entertainment tours, and more that our organization has to offer the men and women who bravely serve this nation.  One of the great things about a blog is that we can share the words and thoughts of the people that make this organization what it is.  “From the Desk of…” will serve to give you first-person postings from the USO.  So here, without further ado…

From the desk of John Hanson, Senior Vice President of Communications:

Welcome to this site.  We’ll promise to update you regularly on what the USO is doing and how you can help the troops.  We can’t do what we do without you.

Fort Hood Community Strong

Hood Stadium, just before the start of the Community Strong concert

Right now (the afternoon of December 11), thousands of troops, family members and local citizens have gathered at Ft. Hood, Texas.  They’re participating in a daylong event that featuring some of today’s best performers.  They’re performing for free, just as all of the celebrities we call on do.

Watch this space for photos and videos as they come in.

Most of us who care about U.S. troops and family members are thinking about Afghanistan.  The USO has been taking entertainment tours to Afghanistan for the past 8 years.  With the help of the National Football League, we built the Pat Tillman Memorial USO Center at Bagram Airfield 4 years ago, and it remains a vibrant hub of activity for the troops stationed there and those transiting through the base. It’s right off the flight line, near the passenger terminal.  There’s access to the Internet and we make free phone calls home available, just as we do at all of our centers in the region.  There’s a wide-screen TV for watching movies (and football games), and a great little kitchen for snacks and drinks.  It’s a great representation of home.

John Hanson - SVP Communications

I was honored to escort Marie Tillman when she visited the center just before Thanksgiving.  I think that experience was important for her, and her visit meant a great deal to the men and women stationed there.  All of my trips to Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait are emotional, but this one was very special.

Our presence in Afghanistan is expanding, as the U.S. role there is.  In addition to the Tillman Center, we will open a new center across the base.  When we built the first location, there were 8,000 troops at Bagram.  The number has expanded, and we need another place for troops to relax.

We’ve also opened a phone kiosk in Kabul, and our next large center will open in Kandahar in spring.

A word about the Internet and phone calls from the region.  We have known for years that access the Internet and clear phone calls was a challenge.  It was really hard to log on, and sometimes impossible to get a call out of the country.

In April, we bought access to a satellite and created our own private telephone network.  Every USO location in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait has access to the network.  Initially, we thought troops would be thrilled with fast on-line access – and they are.  The most gratifying aspect, though, is that about 180,000 phone calls a month are being made.  It’s great to play a part in that connection to home.

So, we’ll grow in Afghanistan as troops’ needs require.

Stay tuned.

Fort Hood Community Strong!

It’s finally here – the opportunity for Fort Hood to gather and show their support and strength as a community.  The USO is proud to be a part of this day of healing, fun and entertainment.  If you live in the Killeen, TX, area, then head on over to the base to take part in the excitement!  This event is free and open to the public. For up to date event information including a schedule of events and transportation information, please see the Fort Hood Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation website.

Not anywhere near Texas?  No problem!  We’ve devised a number of ways for you to show your support of the Fort Hood Community:

Fort Hood – “The Great Place”

Fort Hood

From left, Janie Anderson, the family readiness group leader with Bravo Company, 303rd Military Intelligence Battalion, her mother, Jo Ellen Freleigh, and Janie's daughter participate in a candlelight vigil Nov. 6, 2009, at the stadium at Fort Hood, Texas. The event was held in memory of the 13 people killed Nov. 5 by a lone gunman. (U.S. Army photo by Grazyna Musick/Released)

Fort Hood, Texas, the largest military installation in the world, is home to tens of thousands of soldiers and their families, along with the schools and recreational services that make it a vibrant community.

Lovingly referred to as “The Great Place,” now a shocked community is doing what residents say is their only option: providing as much love and support as they can in the wake of the horrific November 5 shootings.

Robin Crouse, director of USO Fort Hood, received the phone call at 2 P.M. that day, telling her to lock down the Center immediately. Someone was shooting soldiers on post. She immediately locked the building and told the 35 soldiers at the Center what was going on.

“At the time I was really nervous because we’re only a half-mile from the scene,” Crouse said. “It was surreal.”‘

Read the full story from ON★PATROL Magazine

Tweet to Support the Fort Hood Community!

This Friday, the denizens of Fort Hood will hold “Community Strong,” an event to show how they’ve rallied together to support their Troops, families, and everyone touched by the events of November 5. The USO has been there all the way, providing basic needs to those on the base in the aftermath, and continuing that support to this day from our USO Center and USO Mobile units, and other locations on base.

Now it’s YOUR chance to show your support for Fort Hood! Use the hashtag #CommunityStrong all this week whenever you talk about Fort Hood, culminating on Friday when we hope the anticipated 50,000 attendees will help make this a trending topic on Twitter. How cool would that be?  Make sure to follow us @the_USO and we’ll retweet live updates from the event. “Tweet” you there!