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380AEW Article

USO Staff and Volunteers: Giving Back to Those who Serve

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Darnell T. Cannady
  • 380th AEW/PA

The United Service Organizations at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates provides different services and events to deployed members so they can stay connected to their families, friends and home during their deployment.


Through the USO, deployed service members have access to phones, computers, Wi-Fi, daily programming and a comfortable environment to relax. They also provide the United Through Reading program where service members can record themselves reading a book and the USO will send the book and recording home to their child.


“The USO aims to have a minimum of one event each day of the month,” said Marisela Rodriguez, USO center manager. “Occasionally, we double up to offer activities for those who are unable to make our nightly programming."

“The events we provide vary, we offer anywhere from foodie events like Midnight Munchies to arts and crafts like our famous Do It Yourself nights,” said Rodriguez. “We like to offer something for all different kinds of interest on a weekly basis like poker, gaming tournaments, and open mic nights. One of our core values is innovation, so we strive to provide programming that is unique and engaging.”


The USO staff works with volunteers to help organize and run these events. Volunteers attend a monthly Meet and Greet to learn about the USO, the volunteer program, and their role as a volunteer on ADAB. Once they begin officially volunteering, they can continue to volunteer at bases anywhere in the world once they leave ADAB.


For many staff members and volunteers, the USO brings people together and provides them with a chance to meet new people.


“I’m a people-oriented person and this gives me an opportunity to see all sorts of new people,” said Staff. Sgt, Nicholas Mannion, USO Volunteer. “I enjoy seeing how happy people get when they get here and go to all our events, it’s rewarding.”


“I get to meet new people and it gives me something to do on my days off,” said Senior Airman Katelynn Kay, USO volunteer. “I like to help with the events that we put on.”


“I like having conversations with service members to the point they think of me as a friend from back home,” said Alex Harrell, USO staff United Through Reading coordinator. “It’s that personal vibe. That’s the unique thing about this job, you can be personable and be yourself.”


Others work with the USO because of the positive impact it makes for themselves and their families.


“I like giving back to the service members,” said Lucie Sertich, USO outreach coordinator. “I come from a military family so when my brother would deploy they had opportunities like this and it gives me an opportunity to give back.”


“I love what the USO stands for,” said Tech. Sgt. Justin Lane, USO volunteer. “I’m glad it’s here, there’s a lot of bases in the AOR that do not have one so I am very grateful we have one here. This is something that I wish I would’ve done on my very first deployment so I’m definitely capitalizing on it this year.”


“My father joined the Air Force at 18 years old and was sent to Vietnam,” added Rodriguez. “He has recently been diagnosed with PTSD and has expressed how his positive memories came from the USO in Saigon. So, the opportunity to interact with service members on the daily and work to brighten their day while being far away from home and their families is why I do what I do!”


Regardless of the reasons, both the staff members and volunteers love how the USO supports the deployed service members and their families.


“I feel so lucky to have this incredible job, but the thing that stands out the most is getting to know people who come into our center and participate in our events,” said Rodriguez. “They often express how grateful they are for what the USO provides and it's an incredible feeling to see the impact we have, and the difference you can make in someone's day.”