Passion for the Customer: USO Partner 3Di Goes the Extra Mile to Connect Troops to Families

Most of us get frustrated when our Internet service goes down. 

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Thanks to 3Di, troops were able to surf the Internet during their down time while deployed to New York City for Superstorm Sandy cleanup late last year. USO photo

But what if when you called your service provider – instead of putting you on hold for an hour to listen to elevator music – they made your broken connection such a high priority that the owner of the company dispatched a plane to fly a tech out to fix it that day.

It’s not make-believe. It’s 3Di Technologies.

The day before Thanksgiving, a satellite dish donated by 3Di to the USO for use during SuperStorm Sandy was inadvertently moved out of position, severing the Internet connection for deployed troops assisting with the cleanup. On a day most people were gathering with family, 3Di co-founder Don Baker wasn’t about to leave deployed troops in the dark.

As soon as he learned of the outage, Baker flew one of his techs from Baltimore to New York to fix the problem, re-connecting the dedicated satellite network in time for early-afternoon Thanksgiving chow.

“Serving the USO is a natural and truly effective way to provide comfort communication services to those who dedicate so much to our great country,” Baker wrote in an email. “We’re honored to do what we do, and we look forward to more opportunities to help the USO accomplish their mission.”

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The 3Di team during a trip to Kuwait. Courtesy photo

Satellite communications are at the heart of the USO mission to lift the spirits of troops and their families every day at more than 160 locations worldwide. The dedicated satellite network provided by 3Di makes it possible for the USO to connect deployed troops with family and friends over a game of Call of Duty from trailer in the middle of Africa, and it’s what brings new fathers into the delivery room via Skype from a remote center in Afghanistan.

3Di Technologies – a subsidiary of L3 Communications – helped the USO connect 3.1 million calls in 2012. That’s nearly 28 million minutes of goochie-goos and I love yous that military parents and spouses would have otherwise gone without.

After working for more than 10 years installing communications solutions in harsh, remote locations overseas, operating partners Dan Throop and Don Baker teamed with a financial backer to create 3Di Technologies. Their company aims to deliver end-to-end satellite communications, equipment, integration and – most importantly – field support, to their growing number of customers.

Their partnership with the USO began by supporting the USO-in-a-Box field canteen trailer program, and continues today with the coordination of connectivity at 14 centers in Kuwait and Afghanistan.

“USO-In-A-Box wouldn’t have existed over the past year without 3Di Technologies’ charitably donated bandwidth support,” USO-In-A-Box Program Manager Juston Reynolds said.

“Wherever those USO trailers went, no matter how far out into nowhere they were dragged, or what conditions they were under, they always had connectivity,” Reynolds said. “3Di came through when the USO needed them most, and I think that’s really what made them stand apart from their competition — their determination to get it right.”

In their own view, being passionate about the customer and working in the field to customize communications solutions that perfectly fit the customer’s needs is part of the fabric of the organization.

“The motto at 3Di has always been ‘passion for the customers,’” 3Di Technologies Director of Business Development Ray Fuller said. “That’s because most of our customers are guys on the front lines, and whether they are calling for fire support or calling their wife and kids from a USO, our mission is to make that connection happen.”

For the USO, it was clear 3Di understood the significance associated with connecting deployed troops with their loved ones at home via email, voice, video and gaming.

“Connectivity always rates at the top of troop needs in the field,” USO Director of Operations Kristen Baxter said. “What 3Di brings to us is a dedicated satellite network we can use to connect our troops directly to their families without hassle. Ten-digit calling — just like here in the states.”

–Story by Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer

USO in a Box Lands at FOB Westbrook

This USO is a BOX is fully operational! (Photo courtesy of USO El Paso)

Great news!  Last week we shipped a USO in a Box from Baltimore, MD to FOB Westbrook on McGregor Range in New Mexico, which – for those who’ve never visited – is essentially in the middle of a desert.  As of Saturday, the USO in a Box wasfully operational and the troops from FOB Westbrook began enjoying the full range of the great entertainment that it has to offer.

At first, the troops were curious as to what a USO in a Box actually was, but once the box was set up and running, they were blown away with excitement!   Some troops were already enjoying the amenities while we were still completing the finishing touches for delivery.  The standard USO in a Box features Internet access, two rugged laptops, four flat screen televisions, a DVD player, VoIP, three Xbox® 360 gaming systems and surround sound.

USO in a Box features - among other amenities - a gaming station with surround shown, as shown in this model, on display at Fort Belvoir in May 2010. (USO photo by Em Hall)

Because of this FOB’s location, it acts as a simulation of FOB’s in Afghanistan.   As troops are preparing for their deployments, they now not only receive their essential training, but get a little taste of what the USO has to offer while they are deployed in remote locations.

We’d like to give a special thanks to a few people that were instrumental in the success of the USO in a Box being delivered to FOB McGregor. This could not have happened if it weren’t for El Paso Center Director Yolanda Castillo; USO El Paso Program Manager Robert Medrano; and Director of Logistics & Facilities Jonathan Matthews. They all worked hard to get the USO in a Box from Baltimore to McGregor with zero errors or speed bumps.  Great job!

USO El Paso will be overseeing this USO in a Box while at McGregor. They will work closely with FOB Westbrook to ensure the future success of this great program.

From the Desk Of…

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.