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USO provides Airmen home away from home experience

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Cierra Presentado
  • 455th AEW Public Affairs

When deployed military members need to call home or just have a nice comfortable place to relax, the United Service Organization here provides all of the necessary luxuries to make Airmen feel more at home.

Bagram currently has two USOs, one on both sides of the airfield. The main USO, the Pat Tillman Memorial USO, was built in 2005 from funds donated by the National Football League in honor of fallen Army Ranger and professional football player Pat Tillman who was killed in action Aug. 22, 2004.

The USO offers various activities for Airmen to indulge in from watching movies on the large-screen televisions to making free morale calls home to playing games on the gaming systems and hosting large game nights.

“We’re here to provide Airmen a nice comfortable environment where they can relax for a little while they are away from their jobs, or for those passing through or re-deploying,” said Scott Wilhite, USO center director. “We know how tough it must be for Airmen to be away from their loved ones, so we do the best we can to provide them with those comforts.”

Due to a large number of military members deployed here in the past, the second USO was built in 2012 on the east side of BAF. Unlike the Pat Tillman USO, this one has a large gaming room with various gaming systems for Airmen to use.

“The USO is a great place. After a long 12 hour shift I know I can go there to relax and just watch TV, play a game or even sleep,” said Airman 1st Class Christian Collins, 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron combat patrolman. “It’s a nice place to meet new people too.”

The USO is managed by volunteers. They help maintain the facility and do tasks such as stock and prepare snacks, hand out phone cards and help the staff with different events.

“I like to volunteer at the USO on my days off or when I have down time. I really recommend my fellow Airmen volunteer here, it’s such a good experience,” said Staff Sgt. Sabrina Dawson, 455th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron air transportation apprentice. “Being able to interact with members of different services and the U.S. civilians is really rewarding.”

Each month the BAF USOs get a combined 10-12 thousand visitors, even and with the drawdown of U.S. forces the facilities will remain open to BAF deployers.

The Pat Tillman USO is open for 24 hours and the east side USO is open from 8a.m. - midnight. The USOs are also always looking for volunteers to come help out.

“This truly is a good organization; being able to come here every day and do something small to put a smile on someone’s face is awesome. It’s a great place to make new friends and have a good time outside of the busy schedules.” Wilhite said. “I’ve been here for six years and every time I see military members connect with their loved ones whether it be a skype or a morale call, it’s a good feeling knowing the USO is here to support and help make this possible for them.”