USO Center Director Receives Army Outstanding Civilian Service Award for Work in Afghanistan

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Regina Wages, left, receives the Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal from Gen. John F. Campbell, Commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan. USO Photo

Regina Wages now has something in common with World War II hero Audie Murphy, former Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and “The Late Show” host and USO tour veteran Stephen Colbert.

On Sept. 24, Wages received the Army Outstanding Civilian Service Award for her work as director of the USO center at Forward Operating Base Fenty in Afghanistan. Army Gen. John F. Campbell, Commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan, presented her with the medal during a recent visit by military senior leadership.

“Units have deployed and returned home over these years and Regina has just continued to take care of the troops and the leadership to make their service there more bearable,” USO Regional Vice President Bruce Burda wrote in an email.

Described by Burda as “the dynamic and bridging force at FOB Fenty over the past five years,” Wages, a former South Carolina police officer, “has worked hard to keep the center open around the clock so this small base always has a place for the troops to relax and get away from their routine. With only one or two staff members at most, she has taken advantage of every opportunity to build key relationships and has lifted tens of thousands of troops’ spirits during her time in Afghanistan.”

With her sixth Christmas in Afghanistan approaching, Wages has pledged to stay in Eastern Afghanistan as long as the USO needs her there.

“Just because we’re not in combat mode doesn’t mean ISIS and the Taliban got that memo,” she said during a recent phone call as an alarm sounded in the background. “As you can hear, FOB life is very much the same.”

Wages said her most rewarding experience was an opportunity to bring holiday cheer to troops in the most austere fighting positions.

“We flew in helicopters up into the Kunar on the Pakistan border to more than 30 camps, some literally on the sides of snow-covered mountains with my sergeant major sitting next to me wearing a Santa Claus hat,” she said. “They were running off a generators, these kids. There were no latrines or showers up there. They take baths every few days off a solar bag and they do their business in a hole.

“Taking them an Xbox or a PlayStation, and games on Christmas — these kids would cry. And their reactions, by far, made this whole journey worthwhile.”

USO Centers Around the Globe Celebrate National Volunteer Week

As National Volunteer Week comes to a close, here’s a look at a few of the scores of celebrations held at  centers around the world. The USO’s 27,000-plus volunteers  donated more than 1.375 million hours last year in service to America’s troops and their families..

USO Fort Hood

USO Fort Hood Programs Manager Isabel Hubbard, left, USO volunteer Frank Wright and USO Fort Hood Story Time Coordinator Andrea McDonald attend Wednesday's event. USO photo

USO Fort Hood Programs Manager Isabel Hubbard, left, USO volunteer Frank Wright and USO Fort Hood Story Time Coordinator Andrea McDonald attend Wednesday’s event. USO photo

USO Fort Hood held a luncheon Wednesday to honor its volunteers who logged a total of more than 22,000 hours last year.

“I’m really proud to stand here and see how many amazing people answer the call,” USO Fort Hood Director Robin Crouse told the Killeen (Texas) Daily Herald, which covered the event.

Read more about the event in the Herald’s story.

USO Forward Operating Base Fenty

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USO Forward Operating Base Fenty volunteers share a joke – and a cupcake – during National Volunteer Week. USO photo

The USO at Forward Operating Base Fenty in Afghanistan showed its appreciation to volunteers – almost all of whom are troops themselves – with some baked goods. They posted photos of the volunteers earlier this week.

“Thanks to all the great volunteers at Fenty for all you do for your fellow soldiers!” USO Senior Vice President of Operations Alan Reyes wrote in a Facebook comment about the celebration.

USO Houston

USO centers know how to get creative. To celebrate National Volunteer Week, the staff at USO Houston put together a JibJab breakdance video.

USO Houston had 248 volunteers donate 20,056 hours to their center last year.

USO San Antonio

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USO San Antonio volunteers pose at Wednesday’s USO Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast at the USO’s airport center. USO photo

USO San Antonio held a USO Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast at their airport facility on Wednesday morning.

“We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, ‘We couldn’t do what we do without our volunteers,’” the staff wrote on its Facebook page.

–Story by USO Story Development