News & Notes From Around the World

Baghdad, Iraq – The USO in Baghdad sponsored a “235th Birthday for the Army Jag” 5K run.  For those of you familiar with the terrain, the runners started at Signal Hill on Camp Victory.  Over 450 people show up for this early morning weekend run. The USO had T-shirts for all the runners and plaques for the top 3 fastest male and female participants.  Congrats to all!

Runners stretched in preparation of a 5K run sponsored by the USO. (Photo by USO Baghdad)

Landstuhl, Germany – On July 30, 2010 the USO Warrior Center hosted an event with Heidelberg Sports and Fitness.  A group came down to cook out for the wounded warriors and give away some T-shirts designed especially for the event.  Menu choices included ribs, pork steak, hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, bratwurst, baked beans, potato salad, corn on the cob, vegetarian chili, watermelon, and garlic bread.  Yummy!

The event also fell on their Flashback Friday tradition, so a couple of older sports-themed movies were shown during the dinner, including “Bull Durham” and “Hoosiers.”  The turnout for the event was great, with 100 wounded warriors in attendance.  Nearly every wounded warrior echoed this warrior’s feelings, “this is the best food I have had in a long time.”

The wounded warriors were grateful to the Heidelberg crew for grilling for them and to the USO for hosting another successful event. (Photo by USO Warrior Center)

Basrah, Iraq – Texas Hold’em has quickly become a base favorite at USO Basrah. Every seat in the house was full once again as soldiers competed to make it to the final table. The addition of new trophies for the top card sharks had everyone playing their hands tight and bringing their best game face to the table.  Though not everyone walked away a champion, everyone had the chance to hone their skills and prepare…for next month’s tournament.  For more pictures, visit USO Basrah on Facebook by clicking here.

The poker tables were packed as Troops anted up for a tournament. (Photo by USO Basrah)

You Helped Us Provide 100,000 Phone Calls…Can We Do More?

This is probably the ONLY time you'll see the phone bank at USO Basra this quiet - when the center's closed for cleaning! (USO photo from USO Basra's Facebook page)

We knew our USO family was the best!  Last week we told you how Billy Ray Cyrus showed his support for Operation Phone Home, and how YOU could show support, too.  We challenged you to help provide 100,000 call for troops to their loves ones before July 31, and…

Guess what?  We blew right past our goal!  We heard your response loud and clear, so we’re upping our goal to 250,000 calls for Troops and the deadline of July 31 is fast approaching!

When you donate $15 today, you will provide our brave men and women with 45 calls home.  That’s three calls for every dollar donated!  We couldn’t do what we do without your support.  Know that we’ll be there providing free phones calls and all of the other great programs and services you’ll find at the USO…Until Every One Comes Home.

USO Basra is Making a Difference

On their Facebook page today, USO Basra is celebrating their volunteers with “Thank You’s” and a treat at the front desk.  In that spirit of gratitude, we want to extend a special thanks to those volunteers and everyone else at COB Basra for pulling together in the wake of a building fire – cause by a rocket launch – that resulted in destruction of property, but thankfully no serious injuries.

Fifteen occupants lost all of their possessions in the fire, but – as Maj. Michael Cobb, the executive officer for Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, told Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Smith, 1st Inf. Div., USD-S PAO for Blackanthem News – people and organizations from across the base quickly mobilized to meet the needs of the displaced individuals.

The door of USO Basra is always open, 20 hours a day, 7 days a week. Come on in!

The USO immediately stepped up, providing whatever they could from the PX to augment the items that were destroyed.

“I’m hoping that by me taking care of that little nuisance for them then it will take that little burden off,” Valerie Burnham, the Center Manager for Basra, told Staff Sgt. Smith.  Burnham, a 24-year veteran who retired from the U.S. Navy last year, said her own service ingrained in her a sense of responsibility to help others.

“You see people in trouble, you want to do something about it,” she said. “It’s my human nature now, after being in the military for so long.”

Thank you, Valerie, and all of your staff and volunteers, and to everyone else at COB Basra who turned a tough situation into something that shows the best of the human spirit.  Stay safe, and we’ll see you back home soon…

USO Sponsors 1st Bodybuilding Competition in Basra

The USO at Basra is open for business 20 hours/7 days each week from 1000 until 0600 and features a wide array of USO amenities, including flat-screen TVs, phones, computers, and gaming equipment.

The last month and a half has been more mentally and physically demanding than the entire rest of the deployment for a group of men and women here on COB Basra. In contending in the first bodybuilding competition on base, the group followed a strict diet and training regimen to get in top physical shape in time for the show.

The driving force behind the event was Sgt. Mark Kring of the 206th Military Police Company. As the 2002 Mr. New York State Bodybuilding Champion, he knows the ins and outs of preparing for a competition. However, in a standard event, you aren’t faced with the additional daily requirements of being a soldier in a war zone. What was already an intense undertaking truly pushed these men and women to the outer limits of what they thought they were capable of, learning a lot about what they can really achieve with hard work and dedication in the process.

The USO co-sponsored the event, which also included many generous donations from the professional weight lifting field, and with a turn-out rivaling that of our biggest USO shows, it was a huge success.

Check out the following video for a behind the scenes look at the event!

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