SVP of Communications John Hanson:
The USO in Afghanistan, Part 2
(read Part 1 here)
In Afghanistan, the USO faced a challenge. We exist to serve the needs of troops – especially those at the tip of the spear. In past wars, it wasn’t so hard. We could build USO centers at large and medium-sized bases and feel confident that we’d be there for most of the people serving in an area.
Afghanistan is different. Our center in Bagram – the Pat Tillman Memorial USO – is an outstanding facility, operating at capacity more than 20 hours each day, but not everybody goes through Bagram.
A view from inside the Pat Tillman USO. (USO photo by Mike Theiler)
But, how can we get to the troops who are in the most isolated (and unforgiving) locations?
Of course, many of our entertainment tours visit large and small bases. If we can get the lift, we’ll take performers to remote outposts. One of those performers is Toby Keith. Toby makes time available to the USO every year – usually just before summer – to spend more than a week in the war zone. He will do large shows at large bases, but he insists on visiting forward operating bases and combat outposts.
After one of his trips, Toby looked at the USO representative on the tour and said, “If I can go there, why can’t the USO?”
So, we created what we call the USO in a Box. It’s a transportable container that expands to about the size of a two-car garage. These units contain laptop computers, a projector for watching movies and video game consoles. They can connect to existing power, or they can on the power produced by a generator. Three of these centers are located around Afghanistan (and we just sent one to Djibouti). And, they can be moved, if the troops move.
They provide a touch of home and a place to relax after a difficult day.
Thanks, Toby, for the challenge and for encouraging us to do more.