A New Floor Plan: USO Northwest to Lay Decking from WWII-Era USS Colorado in Airport Center

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

USO Northwest was gifted a piece of history Thursday. The USO center at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport received planks from the teak decking from the USS Colorado, a ship that patrolled the waters of the Pacific during World War II. The decking – a gift from Boeing, which possessed the boards for more than 50 years – will cover roughly 1,500 square feet of floor inside the USO’s Sea-Tac center.

“We are very excited the Boeing Company has chosen the USO Northwest to be the recipient of this great piece of history,” USO Northwest Executive Director Don Leingang said, according to the Tukwila Reporter. “Our organization truly understands the significance of this donation and is honored to be the new caretaker of this teakwood planking for as long as the USO exists at SeaTac Airport.”

A New Name and a Remodeled Center for USO Northwest

The USO’s footprint in the Northwest has increased.

A look inside the renovated Shali Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. USO Northwest photo

The USO Puget Sound Area operation is no longer defined by the waterways of Washington State. Troops and their families in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and throughout Washington State will now benefit from programs and services offered by the newly rebranded USO Northwest.

The announcement of the name change was made Nov. 8 at a ribbon cutting ceremony for USO Northwest’s remodeled Shali Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

USO Puget Sound Area’s board of directors and staff made the unanimous decision to make the name change in June.

“The closest USOs to USO Northwest are USO Wisconsin to the east and USO San Francisco to the south,” USO Northwest Executive Director Don Leingang said. “My goal is for our USO Mobile Canteen to visit Idaho at least once per year and Oregon two to three times annually or as requested. Although we physically will not be able to drive our Mobile to Alaska, we have already assisted units there through the Helping Hands Grant.”

USO Northwest’s Helping Hands Grant provides access to funds for military events such as homecoming parties, pre-deployment events, command functions and other camaraderie-building events.

More than 3,500 service members will be deploying through the center—which received $375,000 in renovations—before the end of November.

“The center was remodeled because the features were outdated and the design didn’t provide the maximum flow to support our massive troop deployments that are inherent by being the third-largest military installation in the U.S.,” Shali Center Manager Andrew Oczkewicz said.

The Shali Center includes a commercial-grade kitchen, dining room, bathrooms, five flat screen TVs, a United Through Reading room, laptops with Skype capabilities and a gaming lounge with Xboxes. It will continue to provide free food such as hot dogs, made-to-order sandwiches, snacks, fruit and drinks.

“I have no doubt our volunteers and staff can move mountains for our local service members,” Leingang said. “Each one of them sees military personnel as family. They have a great love for what they do. Why else get up at two in the morning to make sandwiches?”

The Shali Center is named after USO Northwest Board Member Joan Shalikashvili and her late husband, Army Gen. John Shalikashvili, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Shalikashvilis have built their lives around service to the U.S. and enriching the lives of local military and their families.

–Meaghan Cox, USO Northwest