Project Cinderella

What would military families do without the strength and sacrifice of our military women?

There is no doubt that military women are a large reason why our armed forces are as strong as they are.

To honor these women, USO of Metropolitan Washington hosted its third annual Project Cinderella, an event designed to give military women a day to be pampered. From makeovers by Paul Mitchell to classes on military etiquette and dressing for one’s body, this day long event was packed with ways for military women of all ages to feel empowered and appreciated. For military moms with young daughters, USO-Metro hosted a Shabby Chic Princess Tea Party that included a book reading by Miss Maryland, lunch, arts and crafts, a manners workshop and more. The day was just what military women needed to feel rejuvenated and appreciated for their daily sacrifices. Take a look below to see how much fun everyone had and read more about the event at USO.org.

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You can see even more photos at the Fashion Delivers Facebook page.
- Sarah Camille Hipp, Communications Specialist

Sisters in Arms, Comrades at Heart: A Valentine’s Day Celebration

Kelli Picker Skypes with service women at the USO in Kandahar

Kellie Pickler Skypes with service women at a USO in the Middle East

Songs have been written about them and movies made but nothing beats a real-life GNO! What’s that, you ask? Well, it’s a good old-fashioned “Girls Night Out,” and lets be honest, most of us need one every now and again.

No matter the reason or occasion, women around the world have been getting together to laugh, bond and make some life-long memories and friendships. And our servicewomen in Afghanistan and Kuwait are no exception.  Amidst desert conditions, high-stress missions and the added strain of missing their family and loved ones, they’ve managed to take comfort and find strength in their sisterhood.

You won’t find them at their favorite restaurant, or catching the latest tearjerker at the local movie theater, because they’re on a mission to protect and serve and are deployed in theater.  But once a month, you can find them at their local USO centers taking a break from the stresses of deployment, letting their hair down and getting as glammed as one can in the middle of warzone.

Always looking for innovative ways to serve our troops, USO centers in Southwest Asia recognized that the deployed female military population was in need of some Tender Loving Care and instituted their monthly “Ladies Night” events, where troops are given a private space (women only) to pamper themselves.  From nail polish, to sweet treats and chick flicks, USO centers supply servicewomen with the touches of home they’ve been missing.

When six-time USO tour veteran Kellie Pickler traveled to Afghanistan, to perform and show her support for servicemen and women, she came home realizing just how hard it is to for a woman to feel like a woman when she spends her days and nights in the desert, dressed in camouflage.  Once she heard about the USO’s “Ladies Nights,” Pickler knew she wanted to get involved and what better time than Valentine’s Day.  That’s why this Feb. 14th, the singer/songwriter and a team of her sponsors shipped off a supply of items to USO Centers in Afghanistan and Kuwait– so that our servicewomen could have an extra special day of pampering.

“I am grateful to all of our servicemen and women for the sacrifices they make, but I have a special place in my heart for servicewomen. They are some brave, beautiful and dedicated women. That’s why I wanted to do something special just for them this Valentine’s Day.  While our servicewomen are spending this time away from their families and loved ones I wanted them to be able to take a moment and pamper themselves” – Kellie Pickler

Pickler’s support didn’t end there.  She wanted our servicewomen to know exactly how much she appreciated their sacrifices and she told them via Skype.  Troops at USO Kandahar and USO Shindand in Afghanistan and USO Camp Buehring in Kuwait LIVE chatted with the songstress and heard first-hand about how much their service means to America.  And for those USO centers that couldn’t participate, due to connectivity restraints, Pickler recorded a special message of support.

Everyday that our deployed servicewomen are away from home they are missing out on the opportunity to fulfill their roles as mother, wife, sister, daughter or friend.  And there is no doubt that they are missed by their families and loved ones. Even in the harshest of conditions and when the heartache of homesickness seems overwhelming, our troops know that they can lean on each other and that no one understands what they are going through more than their sisters in arms. While we can’t recreate the moments in life that they are missing, we can show our appreciation and let them know how much their service means to us all.   With support from the American public and celebrity volunteers like Kellie Pickler the USO will always be there for our troops delivering goodness and support wherever they serve.   – Sharee Posey, USO Senior Communications Specialist

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See more pictures at the USO Kandahar Facebook Page and USO Camp Marmal Facebook Page!

USO Baghdad Supports the Sisterhood Against Sexual Assault

USO Baghdad Duty Manager Robin Symes (l) hands out USO Care Packages and Girl Scout cookies to smiling Troops. Enjoy a Trefoil for us!

Operation USO Care Package is one of our most popular programs here at the USO.  In the past few months we’ve created exclusive care packages for female Troops, and introduced a new program of care packages just for families.  For those of us who pack these goodies into the bags and boxes, it’s great to know that what we’re sending off is received and greatly appreciated on the other end. (Not that there was any doubt!)

We were thrilled to receive word this weekend that the Female Care Packages, in particular, are being utilized as part of a larger program of support in Baghdad.  Here’s a great note from our center there…

Care packages designed just for female Troops were packed last November on Capital Hill and are still making their way overseas!

USO Baghdad Duty Managers Megan Lynch and Robin Symes took Operation Cookie Drop and the USO’s Operation Care Package to Camp Victory’s Hope Chapel to support the Sisterhood Against Sexual Assault. SASA is a unique program to combat Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment in the military. It is focused on Senior Female Leadership providing mentorship to our future generations of military female leaders.

During monthly meetings, women and men come together to share experiences and build the skills necessary to combat alarming statistics of harassment and assault during deployment. This month, CSM Williams spoke to the group addressing the theme “Your Best You.”  Afterward, everyone had a chance to mingle and walk away with a USO care package!

A standard USO Care Package contains items like pre-paid international phone cards, toiletries, periodicals, and a deck of cards, among other oft-requested items.

For more information on the Sisterhood Against Sexual Assault please visit their Facebook page.

A $25 donation sponsors one USO care package and allows you to include a personal message of support and appreciation.  Click here to request a care package for a member of our troops.

Women’s History Month Celebrates Women in the Military

Juanita Wilson

Sgt. 1st Class Juanita Wilson (shown at right) accepted a Senate Resolution to recognize the accomplishments of women in the military on Capitol Hill last Thursday, at a Joint Services Women’s History Month Observance.  The resolution – introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer of California – aims to do five things: “to acknowledge the contributions of women in the military, celebrate the role women play, recognize the unique challenges women face, to strengthen programs for women and to honor women veterans.”

As reported by the Army News Service, “‘I wouldn’t have thought that six years down the road, someone would be thinking about me,’ Wilson said of her surprise at being asked to accept the resolution.  Boxer’s office said the senator introduced the resolution because she wanted to highlight the accomplishments, contributions, and sacrifices of women like Wilson in the military.”

This Wednesday, surviving members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP , program will be honored with a special WASP Congressional Gold Medal, created just last year by Congress and President Obama.  Fewer than 300 WASPs are still alive, making this ceremony particularly poignant.

The LA Times show how much has changed since the era of the WASPs: “One of the pilots attending will be [Carol] Brinton — now Carol Brinton Selfridge (shown at left), 92, and living in Santa Barbara.  ‘They didn’t even let us join the Army,’ said Selfridge in an interview conducted on Skype. ‘We were private citizens.’”  Selfridge’s granddaughter Air Force Lt. Col. Christy Kayser-Cook, however, values that women like her grandmother paved the way.  “When Kayser-Cook was commissioned, two people pinned on her bars — her great-uncle, who had been an Air Force pilot during the war, and her grandmother.  ‘She was always ahead of her time,’ Kayser-Cook said. ‘She only got to fly props and she was jealous that I got to fly jets.’”

We salute the service and sacrifice of these women and all women who have served our nation.  Stay tuned for more stories throughout National Women’s History Month.

Care Packages for Female Troops – A Response

We appreciate the feedback on the Care Package for female troops we’ve been seeing in the blogosphere.  Jessica Valenti of Feministing and Kate Harding of Salon.com in particular have offered critiques of the program.  Valenti even quotes directly from our own video of the event.  Additional coverage in Stars & Stripes yielded a strong editorial response.

This is a good thing.

You see, we’ve been hearing from women service members since our Care Package program – Operation USO Care Package – began (that was about 2 million Care Packages ago).  We listened carefully, and decided to try to create a package that answered their requests.  The Care Package for Female Troops in its current version reflects what women told us they would like to have while serving overseas.  Maybe we got it wrong, or maybe this is one of those good deeds that does not go unpunished.  Either way, we don’t intend to guess.  We routinely survey all Care Package recipients to find out what the troops actually want – not what we think they should have.  We have and will continue to make adjustments to the program.

We are about to offer one more variation on a theme.  Our Family Care Package will be sent to families of deployed troops.  We do a great deal for men and women who are deployed, and we realized we need to focus on helping out those they leave behind.  There will be a hiccup or two, but we will get it right.   We cannot simply do nothing at all.