USO Provides Internet Connectivity to Superstorm Sandy Cleanup Personnel

Troops unwind on four MEGS (Mobile Entertainment Gaming Stations) inside the USO tent at Floyd Bennett Field. Photo by Leigh Edmonds, Mobile Program Manager

Thousands of troops and emergency personnel are settling in at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, N.Y., for what may be more than a month of cleanup efforts in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. The USO is right there with them to provide support at the heart of what has been dubbed “Tent City.”

Army engineers are spending their days clearing debris from nearby streets and security personnel are pulling 24-hour shifts to keep the most heavily damaged areas of the eastern shore safe. But they now know they’ll be able to relax when they return from duty, whether its inside one of two Mobile USOs or in a 30-foot by 30-foot USO tent featuring food, entertainment and Web access.

The first wave of connectivity support arrived with the newly refitted Mobile USOs. These units have both 4G wireless and satellite capabilities that can provide more than 25 concurrent online access points within a 200-foot radius. Inside the nearby USO tent, five Mobile Entertainment Gaming Systems (MEGS) have been deployed as gaming and movie-watching stations. Additional laptops are available for use by troops and first responders who do not have their own equipment.

Nothing like a little football with friends at a USO mobile canteen! Photo by Leigh Edmonds, Mobile Program Manager

All this high-speed technology translates into some simple comforts of home for troops who deployed to New York City—comforts like Sunday afternoon football on the Mobile USO televisions or a Skype conversation with loved ones back home.

“When you think about getting deployed—whether it’s disaster relief or combat—the last thing you expect is to catch the game on Sunday,” said Army Capt. Keven O’Reilly of the 204th Engineer Battalion. “But these soldiers are out here sleeping in the cold in order to bring security and peace to a community under duress. To get something like a football game or access to the Internet, it makes being deployed that much easier.”

The second wave of connectivity support soon to arrive in Tent City will be a portable satellite kit and bandwidth provided by 3Di.

According to USO Operations and Internet Technology personnel, this unit will be located adjacent to the USO tent and will provide wireless access for up to 50 additional users, as well as continuous Internet access to the USO tent should the Mobile USO need to relocate.

“That’s one thing I love about the USO—they show up right where we need them most with exactly what we want the most,” O’Reilly said. “All I can say is thank you—you guys did it again.” - Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer

Mobile USOs Arrive in NYC to Support Troops During Superstorm Sandy Recovery

The USO of North Carolina’s Mobile USO arrived in Harlem, New York, on Tuesday afternoon. USO photo by Joseph Andrew Lee

Last Friday, USO of Metropolitan New York received a call from the 369th Regiment Armory in Harlem, requesting a touch of home for more than 7,000 troops deployed to New York and New Jersey in response to the recent superstorm.

These troops came from around the country in support of Operation Sandy—a massive joint-services cleanup and humanitarian effort expected to last the next few weeks. Troops will live in a tent city at Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field, braving the elements in order to bring food, water, gasoline and security to Superstorm Sandy-impacted communities in New York City.

To make their lives a little easier, the USO sent two Mobile USO vehicles—one from the USO’s regional office in Norfolk, Va., and another from USO of North Carolina—along with three vans packed full of supplies to provide creature comforts to the thousands of brave citizen-soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.

“These troops are sleeping in a field environment with very few amenities,” said Army Capt. J.C. Bravo of the 369th Regiment Armory. “Right now we’re setting up something very similar to a Forward Operating Base—just like you might see in the field—so their noses are to the grindstone, hard at work.

“But once we get set up with a place to rest our heads, it will be a great benefit to have the presence of the USO out there.”

The Mobile USOs—scheduled to be in place and operational at Floyd Bennett Field by Thursday—will bring the USO’s special brand of services directly to these troops. Each Mobile USO lounge is equipped with books, magazines and a 46-inch LCD television with state-of-the-art home theater and digital satellite television systems and an Xbox 360 gaming system.

The Internet café inside the Mobile USO based in Norfolk features laptops for checking e-mail, accessing the Web and printing, copying or faxing documents. Each of its four laptops are also outfitted with an Xbox 360 gaming system, with the ability to play individually or against other Xbox 360 consoles networked within the vehicle. Meanwhile, the Mobile USO deployed by the USO of North Carolina features two cell phones for troops to use if necessary.

The Mobile USOs’ quick deployment capabilities allow the USO to get where it needs to be to accomplish its mission of lifting the spirits of troops and their families. And with another winter storm heading toward the New York area this week, it looks like the vehicles made it there just in time.

—Joseph Andrew Lee, USO staff writer

The USO and Iron Skillet® Restaurants Dish Up BBQ to Benefit The Troops

Who’s hungry? Iron Skillet® Restaurants located at participating Petro Stopping Centers nationwide are providing customers with a sticky but delicious opportunity this summer with the “BBQ Double Up Deal.” This delicious deal is geared to raise funds to support the troops through USO and the Mobile USO program. Petro Stopping Centers is the premier travel center brand owned and operated by TravelCenters of America LLC.

“We feel honored to be able to give back to the troops who have given so much to ensure our freedom and security,” said John Ponczoch, Senior Vice President of Restaurant Operations. “The Mobile USO program is a passion of ours as we understand just how much a ‘touch of home’ can impact the spirits of these fine men and women.”

The promotion runs while supplies last at all participating locations. To participate in the deal, customers may pair one of the 12-featured entrees with mouth-watering BBQ ribs. With each “BBQ Double Up Deal” purchased, $1 will be donated to the Mobile USO program, up to $35,000!  Also during this period, with a purchase of an adult entrée, kids 10 and under eat free at all participating locations (see details below).

“We are excited about the Iron Skillet® Restaurants promotion to benefit the troops through our Mobile USO program,” said Sloan Gibson, the USO’s president and CEO. “We appreciate their commitment to connecting the nation to our mission of serving the troops and their families.”

Since 2007, the Mobile USO program has supported troops serving in remote and isolated areas throughout the U.S., these vehicles offer a comfortable place where service members can relax and connect online with family and friends during their downtime. Each Mobile USO is outfitted with laptops, refrigerators, microwaves, high definition televisions, video game consoles, Wi-Fi access and comfortable seating.

USO Naples’ “Got Talent,” a Visit from the Mobile Canteen, and a Chili Dinner at the Warrior Center!

On February 26, USO Naples – with support from United Airlines – hosted a talent show – and did the talent come out in force!  The winners received two round-trip tickets to anywhere in the US.  Check out the coverage from AFN:

USO Kaiserslautern was at the Ramstein Commissary on Saturday March 20 from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm with the Mobile canteen to support the commissary’s “March Madness Club Pack Sale” and show appreciation to the Kaiserslautern Military Community.  Thanks to the generosity of DeCA and other sponsors, USO Kaiserslautern gave out free hot dogs, chips, popcorn, drinks, cookies, books and magazines to more than 800 loyal customers. USO volunteers and staff handed out children’s DVDs and small toys to each child that was present. The event was very successful with smiling faces and donations to support the Troops.

Learn more about our USO Mobile Program!

Military families line up at the USO Mobile canteen for snacks, courtesy of USO Kaiserslautern.

On March 21, the USO Warrior Center hosted three amazing chefs from the States. Blake Powers from Soldiers’ Angels and the ladies from Yellow Bowl Bakery, Molly Greenwood and Katy Gunderson (Manager of Operations/Founder of Bakers without Borders) prepared an awesome Chili and Dessert Dinner for 125 wounded warriors.

The wounded warriors were very impressed by the spread the chefs prepared.  One wounded warrior asked the chefs who cooked the desserts, when Molly and Katy replied that they both made them he said, “I know that it’s illegal, but I would love to marry both of you!”

This was an awesome night with wonderful food and great company.  The USO Warrior Center would like to give a very special thank you to Blake, Molly, and Katy for coming out and cooking for the wounded.

(L to R) Chefs Blake "Laughing Wolf" Powers, Katy Gunerson, and Molly Greenwood show of their certificates with Melissa Parkins of the USO Warrior Center