“Wherever we are, we deliver a message of thanks to troops far from home and those here at home.” Sloan Gibson, President of the USO
Courtesy of Media Planet:
Periodically, we’re bringing you the best in USO photography from around the world. Enjoy this latest installment of our photo essays!
(P.S. – if you know any of the photographers of images that don’t credit one, please let us know!)
By Staff Sgt. Megan P. Lyon, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division Public Affairs
FORWARD OPERATING BASE KONDUZ, Afghanistan – When Soldiers deploy, what to do during the rare time off is not something many spend time thinking about.
But thanks to the work of Capt. Tony Hampton, chaplain for 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment deployed from 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y., and numerous volunteers, Soldiers have a spot at the FOB Konduz United Service Organizations to get away from it all, even if it’s just for an hour or two.
Long before members of the Soldiers stepped off the plane, coordination had begun to secure “a bit of home away from home” for the Soldiers.
“Before we left Fort Drum, I contacted the USO and asked if they would send us a USO2GO pack,” said Capt. Hampton. “When we arrived on the ground, boxes started appearing.”
Inside those boxes was everything a Soldier could ask for to be entertained.
According the USO’s webpage, inside of the USO2GO delivers the USO’s most popular services to troops in the remote and restricted areas. Included are beanbag chairs, snacks, and coffee, toiletries, DVDs as well as gaming platforms.
“Everything you see in the USO, came from the USO2GO packs that they sent us, said Capt. Hampton.
When Soldiers first arrived, the building set to house the USO had been left unattended and required several days to renovate. During that time the interior was painted, new furniture brought in and arranged in the building. Different areas were set up to accommodate numerous activities including a section to watch movies or play video game, a reading area, a ping-pong table, a foosball table and a music area complete with guitars and a karaoke machine.
“The greatest thing for me is just seeing the Soldiers coming and having a place to relax,” said Capt. Hampton. “They can watch a movie, play a and get something to eat. Just seeing them come in, get off their feet and relax is the biggest reward to me.”
The decision to update the facilities was an easy one for the chaplain.
“Part of my job description for the battalion is the morale and spiritual welfare of the Soldiers, said Capt. Hampton. “If they go out there and fight, when they come back in, they should have some where that feels somewhat like home, that they can come and relax.”
“They can come in here and watch movies or play video games, “said Pfc. Andrew Taylor, 1st Brigade, 87th Infantry Regiment medic, who volunteers his time to help run the USO.
“It’s like a slice of home in a way,” he added.
Many people know the USO for our celebrity entertainment tours and USO Centers in airports around the world. But did you know that we have a variety of programs that can be enjoyed by service members far beyond the reaches of a center or tour.
And we continue to grow! Our newest program – Operation Enduring Care – is a “comprehensive long-term initiative to support America’s Wounded Warriors and their families.” And many local USO Centers also offer programs and services that are unique to the populations they serve. Your USO is changing…but the fact that we support our Troops and their families will always remain.
Take our quick poll to let us know which program is your favorite, or which one your family enjoys the most. We’re always looking for feedback and love to hear your personal stories. PLUS, two lucky blog comments will be chosen at random to win a special USO Prize Pack! (Sorry, but USO employees and their families are not eligible)
Vote for your favorite above, add your original idea below, and be sure to check out this short video that shows USO2GO in action!
USO Centers are located around the world, serving Troops and their families in over 140 locations. But is that enough? We recently asked ourselves, Is there a location not being served? Where can the USO boldly go?
One word: Space. How illogical not to serve those who serve us, even at an intergalactic level, we thought. That’s why we’re proud to announce two new initiatives: the building of a USO Center on the International Space Station (ISS) and the expansion of our USO2Go program to include USO2GO: Lunar Module.
NASA and the U.S. Military have a long history, with military training being one of the surest ways to get to pilot a spacecraft. Active duty military are some of the top recruits to the astronaut program. So it just made sense to extend our reach into space.
Admiral Ackbar – current commander of the ISS – is thrilled at the prospect of a USO Center on board: “Many of our crew members are stuck all today conducting science experiments. The chance to relax with the comforts of home – albeit in a zero gravity environment – is a huge morale booster. We especially like that the USO will stock butter pecan – in addition to the traditional Neapolitan flavor – of Space Ice Cream.”
When deciding to expand our programs and services we consulted numerous experts, including world-renowned physician Dr. McCoy, who had this to say about the importance of serving every individual possible: “In this galaxy there’s a mathematical probability of three million Earth-type planets. And in the universe, three million million galaxies like this. And in all that, and perhaps more…only one of each of us.”
General Grievous said he’d been asking for something like this for the astronauts and crew of the ISS ever since he first visited a USO Center in the 1970s while stationed in Southeast Asia. “I feel like I’ve been shouting about this from the rooftops forever,” explained the General. “But, as they say, in space, no one can hear you scream.”
Standard offerings like the USO Care Package will also be available to the men and women of the ISS and – eventually – the moon. USO Senior Vice President of Marketing & Communications John Hanson is thrilled at the prospect of serving more people with these renowned USO programs. “I just hope that our space program can – like other offerings from the USO – live long and prosper. We do rely on the generosity of individual donors to provide land- and space-based support, unlike Astronaut Barbie, who completely sold out.”
Both programs are set to debut in December of 2012 or – as the Mayans call it – “the end of days.” We have no doubt that these programs will come to be enjoyed by tens, if not dozens, of former active duty military and the occasional space chimp. Admiral Ackbar summed it up best when he said, “This is one small step for the ISS and the moon, and one giant leap for the USO.”
So say we all. So say we all.
Okay, let’s say you’re sitting a remote base in Iraq or Afghanistan, and you spend all of your waking hours working or wishing you had something else to occupy your time.
Resources are scant. Maybe you and your comrades crowd around a laptop computer to watch the same video. Who would blame you if you wondered, “Does anybody know I’m here?”
Now, let’s say your senior NCO contacted the USO and asked for some sporting equipment, some more laptops and movies. Maybe some snacks or musical instruments. The USO is answering that call.
The USO2Go program takes these requests, fills them and mails (that’s right, MAILS) dozens of boxes to remote locations across Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait.
Thanks to our donors, the USO has shipped more than 300 of these USO2Go kits across the region, and the demand for them is growing.
We’re proud of this program, and we are honored to be able to help.