News & Notes from Around the World

Kuwait – The different units assigned to Camp Ali Al Salem started a Softball League and the USO sponsored their T-Shirts.  Thomas Lee, a Duty manager at AAS, coordinated the all the logistics to make it happen.

Each team came up with a design and the USO got the shirts made in Kuwait City. The USO logo was placed on each shirt to help promote the USO and to make it all seem as real as possible. The Softball League was created to unite the units and as a way to help boost service members’ morale.

Players get ready to hit the diamond as part of the newly formed softball league in Kuwait.

Stuttgart, Germany – On Friday June 4 2010, USO Stuttgart partnered with FMWR, AUSA and other local organizations to welcome home the 554 MP Co after a one year deployment in Afghanistan.  The USO Mobile Canteen served up hot dogs, the local American Legion grilled up hamburgers and pork steaks that were donated by the VFW.  USO Stuttgart volunteers cooked up sides and  salads, while the Center provided the desserts and cake.  A disc jockey played music and a bouncing castle and inflatable jousting ring provided entertainment for the kids.  In addition, USO Stuttgart raffled off four free entry registrations for our 19th Annual Golf Tournament in August, as well as amusement park tickets.  We take great pride in serving those who continue to serve our great nation!

A USO banner is the perfect way to welcome home Troops returning from Afghanistan!

Kuwait – At Buehring sometimes we have the opportunity to do something a little out of the ordinary. A couple months ago someone asked me if I would hold onto a card for her boyfriend who would be coming through Camp Buehring in June. Being the last stop for all units going into Iraq, Buehring has a constant flow of transient troops. In the flow of troops, Sgt. Ball found me to ask if someone had left him a card…over two months later! It was great to be able to hand deliver the card to brighten his day and help two people make a connection after they both passed through our tent doors!

Reunited, and it feels so good: Sgt. Ball with his card!

Guam – La’Licia is a six year old native of Guam who continues to greatly grieve the loss of her beloved Uncle and godfather — Sergeant Gregory Fejeran –who died at the age of 28 in Operation Enduring Freedom.

When Alicia Yamzon, La’Licia’s mother, shared this information with the Guam USO and that La’Licia had an upcoming birthday, the Guam USO arranged a small party at the USO for La’Licia and her family. USO provided a birthday cake that read “To La’Licia — Happy Birthday — I Love You — From Daddy.” She received presents, and was then connected with her daddy in Afghanistan via Skype…Please click here to read the full story.

The birthday cake from Daddy was held up for him to see, along with the presents and other special gifts for all his children.

Operation Hardwood – Hoops with the Troops: Episode 1

In 2006, 12 NCAA basketball coaches traveled to Kuwait to coach soldiers in a March Madness-style basketball tournament as part of "Operation Hardwood II."

Operation Hardwood was created in by the USO in 2005 to boost morale and bring a touch of home to those in uniform.  The USO has a long tradition of bringing sports figures and sports-related events to troops overseas,“Operation Hardwood” has deployed more than 35 NCAA basketball coaches and sports personalities to Kuwait and Japan.

In 2006, a group of elite coaches participated in “Operation Hardwood II,” coaching the basketball teams in Kuwait, and participating in combat drills, tank simulations, and visited injured troops in the hospital.
As part of a special four-part series, FOX Sports is looking back at this unique USO trip to see how it changed the lives of the soldiers and the coaches.  Through new interviews with some of the coaches – Rick Barnes, Tom Izzo, Kelvin Sampson, and Gary Williams – viewers get to see how their lives have been affected by the trip.  We hope you enjoy this series.  Let’s get it kicked off with Episode 1…

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more about “Operation Hardwood: Episode 1“, posted with vodpod

Our Volunteers are the Best!

It may be National Volunteer Week stateside, but our USO Centers in Southwest Asia are extending that celebration overseas by recognizing their volunteers, too!  Here are some stories from the field…

National Volunteer Week in Full Swing at Ali Al Salem

To kick off National Volunteer Week the staff at Ali Al Salem (AAS) just so happened to be planning their quarterly volunteer recognition event. This time it was a day of fun in the sun, a pool party.

Duane DeVorak, AAS’s Volunteer Coordinator, planned the event over the past three months.  “I think every USO employee knows how valuable our volunteers are. That’s why I wanted to plan something to recognize them and give back to them,” said DeVorak.

The Rock Air Force Base right next door has a swimming pool and volunteers did nothing but enjoy themselves throughout the day.  “This was a much needed break from everything we have going on right now,” said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Kenora Drake, a USO Volunteer. “I can’t believe they did all this for us.”

“We had great food, give-a-ways and all kinds of pool toys for everyone, said Cindy Glenn, Assistant Volunteer Coordinator. “It seemed like everyone had a great time and really enjoyed themselves.”  In an effort to unite the centers here in Kuwait, DeVorak invited the volunteer coordinators and the top volunteers form Camp Virginia and Camp Buehring.

Volunteers from Ali Al Salem, Camp Buehring, and Camp Virginia enjoy a pool party thrown at Rock Force Air Base in honor of their efforts.

Baghdad USO Army and Air Force Volunteers Surpass the 150 Hour Mark!

Baghdad USO would like to congratulate SSG Shaina Newton assigned to TF28th CSH, Sather AB Iraq; her home unit is Bravo Company 28th CSH Fort Bragg, NC and her hometown is Shreveport, Louisiana. Also we would like to thank SMSgt David Sopshier assigned to 447 ELRS Sather AB Iraq; his home unit is 96 LRS Eglin AFB FL, and his hometown is Charleston, SC.

They both started volunteering in January 2010 and are eager volunteers who display a special desire and responsibility for their duties, learning new programs, and volunteering for additional tasks without hesitation. They are valued members of our USO team and consistently exceed the normal  expectations. We are very proud of their work here at USO Baghdad. Check out the pictures of Shaina and Dave!

SSG Shaina Newton and SMSgt David Sopshier celebrate 150 volunteer hours each!

Celebrating Volunteers AND Earth Day During a Water Shortage

And finally, Baghdad SO has been experiencing a water shortage and one of its many volunteers is helping out by recycling the water that is left behind from people passing thru BIAP and we are using it to mop and keep the USO buildings clean instead of going to the faucet to fill up. Below is a picture of Youssefian Parker doing his part and he is also rapidly approaching 1000hrs as a volunteer here at BIAP. THANK YOU PARKER!

Volunteer Youssefian Parker helps conserve water during a shortage at BIAP.

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 (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 (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!


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)