USO Fort Campbell Opens

Photo by @FortCampbell

A center opening is always a happy occasion for the USO. Today we opened the 142nd USO center worldwide in Ft. Campbell, KY, home to to the 101st Airborne “Screaming Eagles.”

There were brand new shiny USO signs, the ever-popular cups of coffee, troops, families, community leaders, donors and a Huey.  Yep, a Huey –  right smack dab in the middle of USO Fort Campbell.

This helicopter was recovered from a scrap yard at ft Campbell in 2010.  Thanks to the 159th combat brigade, Bravo Company  563D Aviation Support Battalion it’s now the newest, coolest gaming station you’ll ever see — and loaded with Xboxes and games thanks to Microsoft.

The 159th not only transported this helicopter, they also helped restore this UH1 Huey. Thanks to these soldiers, their labor of love will help lift the spirits of their fellow soldiers for years to come. – Gena Fitzgerald, USO VP of Communications

Welcome to USO Sharana!

There's more furniture and furnishings yet to come, but the USO at FOB Sharana is quickly becoming a favorite place to hang out!

As of 1800 on Thursday, USO Sharana is operational! For the last week volunteers have been pouring in to build walls and more in order to make sure doors were open by then.  In addition, three 42” and two 21” TVs, as well as tables and chairs, were donated.  To kickoff, USO staff and volunteers held a karaoke event.  Here are a few pictures to show the center’s progression…

Welcome to USO Sharana!

The Segovia private telephone network will be installed soon. In the meantime, troops enjoy the gaming system and big screen television.

Opening day kicked off with some karaoke and Halloween decor.

USO AMC Terminal at Kadena AFB Gets a Makeover!

The USO AMC Terminal lounge officially reopened with a ribbon cutting ceremony on September 20, 2010. (Photo by USO Okinawa)

During the month of September, our team at USO Okinawa worked hard to upgrade and renovate the USO AMC terminal at Kadena AFB with the special help of a few great volunteers who took charge to make it all happen.

This project was spearheaded by my wife Debbie Kolstad (wife of USO Regional Vice President for the Pacific Thomas Kolstad), volunteer coordinator Shirley Smiley and her husband Tom Smiley, and AMC Command Billy Fisher from DRMO.  They cleaned, sorted, scrubbed, painted, selected furnishings, and arranged and decorated with all of the new furniture.

It was truly a collaborative effort, with Air Mobility Command (AMC) helping to provide for the furniture and fixtures; the Air Force donating and installing carpet for the luggage room; donations of three appliances and a 42″ TV; and donated paint applied – along with wall decor –  by the volunteers.  The space was completed with 17 USO posters from the Arlington.  A huge thank you goes out to each and every volunteer who helped make this happen!

BEFORE: A fresh coat of paint was just one step of many during the three-week process of renovating the lounge! (Photo by USO Okinawa)

As reported by Airman 1st Class Maeson L. Elleman, 18th Wing Public Affairs, thousands of travelers pass through Kadena’s Air Mobility Command passenger terminal. The journey usually includes waiting hours on end before heading to their final destinations.

“It looks really nice, and it’s an inviting place,” Brig. Gen. Ken Wilsbach, 18th Wing commander said at the ribbon cutting ceremony Sep. 20. “In the past, maybe people wouldn’t have used it because it wasn’t as nice, but now it’s more inviting and more comfortable.  Volunteers put their hearts and souls into making it a nice place for Airmen and their families to rest.”

The USO has been a part on Okinawa for more than 50 years, providing servicemembers with an entourage of assistance and information to help ease the burdens of traveling.

“If you just pop in on a Space-A flight, and you end up spending a night, you don’t necessarily know where everything is, so it’s a great source of information,” stated General Wilsbach.

The terminal USO is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Gardner Williams, manager of the AMC terminal and Gate 2 USOs, said people can volunteer to help the USO to keep it open longer or more days by going by either USO on base and filling out a volunteer form. People can also donate money or baked goods to either USO to support servicemembers and their families.

The refurbished main seating area features a flat-screen, high-definition TV with a surround-sound system and Blu-Ray player, several new leather couches, free wireless Internet, an Internet phone. (Photo by USO Okinawa)

Kids now have a special place to play and nap peacefully! (Photo by USO Okinawa)

USO Opens New Center in Kandahar Afghanistan

USO SWA Regional VP Gary Bibeau, USO Board of Governors Chairman Ed Reilly, Col. Chris Gentry, BG Reynold Hoover, and USO Kandahar Center Director Larry Cooke show their excitement after cutting the ribbon during the Opening of USO Kandahar. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

We’re so proud to announce the opening of our eleventh center in Southwest Asia: USO Kandahar!  This 8,200 square-foot facility is expected to serve more than 35,000 troops each year on Kandahar Airfield, including those traveling to and from forward operating bases in the region.  USO Kandahar is located in the Reception, Staging, Onward movement, and Integration (RSOI) compound and is open 20 hours a day.

Commander 643rd Regional Support Group, Colonel Chris R. Gentry had this to say about the opening: “The USO’s presence on KAF is a much-anticipated event. They bring a little piece of home to everyone they touch. We are very grateful for their support of all our service members and look forward to a long and successful collaboration together.”

USO Kandahar Duty Manager, Duane DeVorak shoots a video about our United Through Reading program as Duty Manager Erin Mintmier explains the program to a soldier. (USO Photo by Joan Gardiner)

Twenty computer stations, eleven Sony PlayStation™ 3 video gaming systems, 52-inch televisions, books and a music room will entertain troops during their free time. The center also offers 18 telephones for troops to call home at no expense on the USO’s private telephone network.  Troops will also be able to participate in one of the most popular programs – United Through Reading’s Military Program – which will be available in three recording rooms.  All programs and services offered at USO Kandahar are free to troops.

“It is a real honor to be a part of the team to bring the first full-service USO in Afghanistan to Kandahar,” said Larry Cooke, director, USO Kandahar.  “This has been a true partnership with the US Garrison Support Group and many other units on KAF. My deep appreciation goes out to each one of them. I know this center will play a key role in the lives of our service men and women serving in this region.”

For individuals and corporations looking for more information or to make a donation, contact Larry Cooke at (202) 747-2792 or via email.  And be sure to visit USO Kandahar’s Facebook page for many more photos of grand opening festivities and the new center in action!

USO Kandahar Duty Manager, Kevin Wells trains new volunteers during the Grand Opening of USO Kandahar, September 17, 2010. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

These Airmen are among the first to try out the free Segovia phones during the Grand Opening of USO Kandahar September 17, 2010. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

These three soldiers are the first to enjoy the Jam Session Music room at USO Kandahar during the Grand Opening September 17, 2010. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

USO Northwest Florida Opens New Airport Center!

The Grand Opening of USO of Northern Florida's "Freedom Lounge" was a cause for celebration at the Northwest Florida Regional Airport on June 29, 2010. (Photo by Devon Ravine; reprinted with permission)

USO of Northwest Florida certainly put the “grand” in their Grand Opening ceremony for “The USO Freedom Lounge” earlier this week.

A new center is now located in the Northwest Florida Regional Airport will serve more than 30,000 troops and their families in Escambia, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties.  With 1,000 square feet of space, the center boasts Wi-Fi connectivity, computer stations, televisions, gaming tables, a children’s area and snack bar.

Guests, Troops, and their families were decidedly impressed with the new facility: “This is the classiest USO facility I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Col. Bruce McClintock, commander of the 96th Air Base Wing at Eglin Air Force Base told Northwest Florida Daily News. “This community does the best job with caring for past, present and future warriors. We are grateful to all of you.”

Troops and their families checked out the new facilities, which include such amenities as flat screen televisions, comfortable furniture, and an area for kids! (Photo by Devon Ravine; reprinted with permission)

USO of Northwest Florida consists of three centers – the Airport Welcome Center at Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional Airport, the USO Recreation Center on NAS Pensacola and the newest center at Northwest Florida Regional Airport.

The USO Freedom Lounge (special thanks to Leadership Okaloosa Class 2009-2010 for naming it as their project!) is located across from the ticketing counter and we know it will positively impact our military traveling through the airport.  Be sure to follow USO of Northwest Florida on Facebook and click here to find out about volunteer opportunities!

USO South Carolina Officially Opens at Columbia Metro Airport!

Guests - including USO's President and CEO Sloan Gibson, 2nd from left - look on as a Color Guard places the American and South Carolina flags outside the new USO Center in Columbia Metro Airport.

The USO proudly announces the opening of its first center in South Carolina at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport!  This 900 square-foot facility will serve approximately 46,000 service members traveling through the airport each year, along with the 65,000 active duty troops and their family members stationed at Fort Jackson, Fort Gordon, Shaw Air Force Base, 81st Regional Support Command (USAR) and McEntire Joint National Guard Base.

“Having the state’s first USO located at Columbia Metropolitan Airport plays a key role in the airport’s continued goal to support our customers coming to/from Fort Jackson, Shaw AFB, and McEntire ANG Base among other installations. We are pleased and honored to be a partner with USO. My thanks to the Airport Commission and staff and to the many key players representing Fort Jackson and our business community in the evident teamwork that was done to make this USO a reality. Joanie Thresher, Director USO South Carolina, and her team of volunteers provide an incredible service daily to the men and women of our military branches and their families, ” said Dan Mann, executive director, Columbia Metropolitan Airport.

The center is located in the airport atrium, and will be open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.  All programs and services offered there are free to troops and their family members.  Computer stations and Wi-Fi access will allow troops to check email and stay connected to their loved ones. Xbox® 360 video gaming systems, large screen TVs and books will entertain troops during long layovers.  Snacks are available for those with empty stomachs.

Joanie Thresher, the Center Director at USO South Carolina had this to say: “I want to thank the Columbia community for their generosity and support in making USO South Carolina possible. Opening this center has truly been a labor of love, and I am confident that with this continued level of support, we are headed toward bigger and better things.”

For individuals and corporations looking for volunteer opportunities or to donate monetary gift or supplies, please contact Joanie directly at (803) 404-1824 or via email.  Enjoy more opening day pictures below!

Joanie Thresher cuts the ribbon, officially opening USO South Carolina June 3, 2010.

Combat Veterans of Lexington, SC, present a check to USO South Carolina at the grand opening ceremony June 3, 2010.

Brigadier General Bradley May, Commanding General, Fort Jackson, sings the praises of USO South Carolina Director Joanie Thresher at the center opening June 3, 2010.