Troops Use Sports to Keep Moral High

One of the popular requests for the USO2Go program is the athletic kit, which features recreational activity equipment including a putting green and portable putting set, volley ball and badminton set, horseshoes, frisbees, footballs, flag football belts, nerf balls, soccer balls and a magnetic dart board.  Individual USO Centers often augment those offerings with sports equipment of their own.  And sometimes they get really creative!

Camp Buehring, for example, recently had NASCAR-themed event inspired by the recent race at Bristol Motor Speedway.  Right before the race began, troops signed up on the “Caution Lap Pool” to guess when the first five cautions would occur. Winners won prizes if they guessed correctly.

They also held their own race, right inside the USO! Troops competed against each other by racing remote-controlled cars throughout the cafe on a 550 cord race track.  How cool is that? As one duty manager said, “Troops and staff had a blast at this event!”

USO Race

It's not as easy as it looks! Just because they're lacking a full-size track doesn't mean Troops have any less of a good time racing remote-controlled cars through the cafe at USO Camp Buehring.

Over at the USO at Ali Al Salem, it was the Great American Pastime that brought together Troops.  Staff and volunteers there hosted a day of festivities last week to say goodbye to the old command cell and welcome the new command cell.  The events kicked off with a good old game of softball, with the old command cell winning the game 22 to 17.  “Take me out to the ballgame” now has a whole new meaning!

Baseball USO

A serviceman knocks it out of the proverbial park, as the old and new command hit the diamond at USO Ali Al Salem. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

USO Basebal

Teammates cheer a running back to home base, as the old command cell defeated the new in a game of softball. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

Finally, it’s not our story, but we think it’s a good one anyway.  A group of Canadian and American hockey players from the NHL recently travelled to Afghanistan for a game of street hockey.  And they brought along the Stanley Cup!

This friendly rivals have been playing a series of exhibition games organized by the Canadian government.  Players past and present played alongside Troops in Kandahar, among other locations.  This is the fourth time the Stanley Cup has visited the Persian Gulf.  Keep updated with posts on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ website and take a moment to listen to a report from NPR.

With Team Canada's Lt. Cmdr. Lorne Hartwell (Royal Canadian Navy) close on his heels, Sgt. Francisco N. Aponte of the Kandahar Hawks (a maintenance noncommissioned officer with the 143d Expeditionary Sustainment Command) chases after the ball in a ball-hockey game against Team Canada March 4. Team Canada, comprised mostly of former National Hockey League players, visited Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, on a morale trip for troops. (Army photo by PFC Elisebet Freeburg)

Saving Abel – Coming to Ustream this Thursday!!

Be sure to tune in on Thursday when the Saving Abel USO concert at Camp Arijan will be broadcast on Ustream at 10 pm EST/7 p PST!!

And check out the latest pics as their tour continues through Kuwait…

Saving Abel's Scott Bartlett shares a light moment with Marine Corporal Randy Callaway, 25, of Tyler, Texas, during a USO meet and greet at Camp Arifjan on Feb. 23, 2010. In the region to extend their gratitude to troops, the band will visit three countries in just eight days. (USO photo by Mike Clifton)

More than 1,700 troops stationed at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait flock to the stage for an up close look at Saving Abel as they perform a USO concert on Feb. 23, 2010. As part of their eight-day, three-country USO tour to the combat zone, Saving Abel will visit multiple military bases and perform numerous concerts. (USO photo by Mike Clifton)

At Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, as part of their first USO tour, Saving Abel's concert will be broadcast on Ustream in early March. To view the USO concert visit http://www.ustream.tv/savingabel. (USO photo by Mike Clifton)

More than 1,700 troops stationed at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait rock out in excitement as one of their favorite bands, Saving Abel, performs a no holds barred USO concert Feb. 23, 2010. Known for such songs as “Addicted," 18 Days” and “Drowning (Face Down),” Saving Abel are avid supporters of the U.S. military and have made multiple appearances on bases stateside. (USO photo by Mike Clifton)

Rock band Saving Abel performs for more than 1,700 troops stationed at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait on Feb. 23, 2010. In the region as part of their first USO tour, the concert will be broadcast on Ustream in early March. To view the USO concert visit http://www.ustream.tv/savingabel. (USO photo by Mike Clifton)

Saving Abel front-man Jared Weeks performs for troops stationed at Camp Arijan on Feb. 23, 2010. Performing such hits as "Addicted," "18 Days," "Drowning (Face Down)" and "In God's Eyes," the USO concert will be broadcast on Ustream in early March. (USO photo by Mike Clifton)

The USO’s Board of Governors Visit Centers in Southwest Asia

Two members of the USO Board of Governors recently toured Kuwait as part of a three-day trip. Dennis Swanson and Sue Timken were accompanied by Sue’s husband William Timken, former US ambassador to Germany, and representatives of other major USO partners, including Sally Ann Zoll, CEO of United Through Reading; Steven Nardizzi, CEO of the Wounded Warrior Project; Mary Louise Austin, CEO of USO Georgia; and Bruce Nitsche of the Wounded Warrior Project.

The overall mission of the trip was to give the board and major stakeholders a chance to see the USO in action.  The tour kicked off with an in-depth look of the Wounded Warrior Unit at Camp Arifjan, where they all got a chance to meet with service members in recovery.  Day two of their journey brought them to Camp Ali Al Salem where USO center director Val Burnham and a few duty managers presented the group with a rundown of the special USO programs, which have started there and are actually implemented at various centers across Kuwait.

After Camp Ali Al Salem it was off to Camp Buehring, where they got a chance to see the difference a few miles make since the two bases are only about 25 miles apart. That night the board members wanted to take some of the USO volunteers out to dinner as a thank you. The last day of the tour the group visited Camp Virginia. At Camp Virginia they got a chance to see the base and what it’s really like for the soldiers there.

We’d like to thank all of these guests for spending time at our centers in Kuwait.  You are welcome back any time!

USO BOG

Dr. Seuss continues to unite family members half way around the world. Sally Zoll CEO of United Through Reading discusses a service member’s book selection while he waits to read to a love one at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Sally was part of a three day USO Board of Governors tour of Kuwait. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

Even after volunteering 30 hours in three days, this USO volunteer still has a smile on his face as he poses with members of the USO Board of Governors, Dennis Swanson and Sue Timken at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

USO Board of Governors member Sue Timken gets a chance to get in on the action when multiple people came up to the USO front desk counter as she checks in service members at USO Camp Buehring. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

USO Board of Governors member Sue Timken (center) gets a chance to feel as confidant as most soldiers do. Timken along with other board members took time to thank service members for all they do while serving in the Persian Gulf. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

Some USO volunteers were so excited to have a nice dinner thanks to the USO Board of Governors who took them to the Seven Seas restaurant in Kuwait City. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

USO volunteers at Camp Ali Al Salem take time to greet USO Board of Governors members and other dignitaries on one of their stops during their tour in Kuwait. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

USO Board of Governors members spend time with troops assigned to the Wounded Warrior Unit at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. This was just one of their stops as part of a three day tour of Kuwait. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

Camp Virginia Gets Creative

We love getting dispatches from the field, especially from our USO Centers that support Troops who are far, far from home.  Like Camp Virginia, in Kuwait – this USO Center never fails to amaze with their innovative programs, events, and activities.  We take a moment to share a few of our favorites from this month…

CakeCamp Virginia held a Black History Month/United Through Reading celebration with a beautiful cake and inspiring speech by SFC Areka Brown of the 90th HRC.

SFC Brown spoke movingly about the important contributions of African Americans throughout the history of the United States and the U.S. military.  Afterward, she cut the amazing cake (seen at right with SFC Brown), which was enjoyed by the permanent parties and transient troops in attendance.

Sock PuppetsNothing says fun in the desert like…sock puppets?  But how cool is this: on 8 February, USO at Camp Virginia held their first “Sock Puppets for the Sick” arts and craft event.   And all of the puppets were donated to a children’s hospital!

The USO supplied buttons, felt, ribbon and markers for the over 35 creative puppets.  As Duty Manager Bonnie Bachenheimer wrote us, “Socks ‘n stuff + inventive and caring troops = smiling young patients.”

Finally – and just when you thought they couldn’t top the cake and puppets – USO at Camp Virginia hosted a concert featuring Celtic Aire, a musical group composed of the U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants.  Members of Celtic Aire are Technical Sgts. Joseph Haughton, Julia Brundage, and Emily Lewis, and Master Sgt. Eric Sullivan, all seen below.

Celtic AireAs Bachenheimer explains, “We were initially somewhat bewildered because we never previously had this type of group entertain at the USO.  However, it took less than one song for Celtic Aire to win over just about everyone inside the Center. The group played Irish folk songs and dance music, American Blue Grass and country, drinking tunes and bar ditties.  Between the jigs and sing-alongs, the jokes and stories, their show seemed much shorter than the 75 minutes they played.”  Awesome!

Thanks to the staff and volunteers at USO Camp Virginia for sharing these amazing stories with us.  And if your loved one has spent any time at the USO Center there, let us know!  We love to hear YOUR stories, too.

Santa (sorta) Even Made it to Kuwait!

USO Camp LSA had no shortage of holiday cheer, as service members posed for Christmas pictures at the USO Camp LSA and MWR sponsored tree lighting party.

Camp LSA also stuffed thousands of greeting cards that were sent to us from all over the US with AT&T calling cards and handed them out as part of Operation Phone Home.   Altogether, USO staff and volunteers handed out over a thousand cards.  As Duty Manager Duane DeVorak (also the photographer for the events) sais, “These photos show how we put a smile on their faces.”  Wonderful!

Renovation at Ali Al Salem

Staff and volunteers at the USO Center Ali Al Salem in Kuwait decided the place could use a little renovating.  Center Manager Valerie A. Burnham explained a bit of the overhaul:

“The first 2 photos are ‘before’…The last photos are ‘after’…

We painted the walls a warm butter yellow with gray/green inlay to give our USO a more ‘homey’ feel.  We also divided the big living room into two sections, U-shaping the couches to provide a modern appearance.  We also fixed the couches and cleaned them.  We hung two TV’s on each side of the room, one over the fire place.

We painted the movie room dark green, dark purple, and maroon, added new berber carpet (donated, and volunteers removed old and installed new) that we can remove once a month and actually clean! We hung black curtains to block out light, and to give it a movie room feel.  I spent hours with the cleaning crew to clean the tile (looks brand new).

We also repainted the UTR room w/ original art work by Petty Officer Albert Lopez, one of our top volunteers.

THE COST = Less than $500.00 . .  we did all the work ourselves along with volunteers.”

Wow!  All we can say is WOW.  The renovations look amazing and we’re so proud of our staff, volunteers, and everyone else who made this happen.  Great work!