USO Sends Coffee, Supplies to Troops Providing Relief After Philippines Typhoon Disaster
Friday, November 15, 2013
By Eric Brandner
“They asked for coffee and coffee we sent.”
That was the message from USO Pacific Regional Vice President Carly Harris, whose staff loaded a Philippines-bound C-130 with coffee, a coffee maker, condiments, a few items to pass the time and a football on Friday night at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on Okinawa, Japan. USO Pacific Director of Operations Paul Pisano coordinated with the military to deliver four boxes of supplies Friday. He, Harris and Akina Tachimoto packed and delivered the small shipment just hours after the official request came from the military.
“We recognize that there are so many priorities military leaders are managing now on the front end of this disaster response," said Alan Reyes, the USO's senior vice president of operations. "We’re glad to help in any small way that we can, and we stand by to do more as we’re needed."
More than 3,600 people have been confirmed dead in the Philippines and hundreds are still missing after Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the island nation. With fears shifting from the death toll to the mounting food and disease crises, 1,000 American troops have been dispatched to the country with relief supplies and equipment.
While the USO may not immediately come to mind when disaster strikes, the organization has now stepped up four times in the last 14 months to support American troops responding to crises.
When Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc in the Northeast in October 2012, the USO was there with two Mobile USO centers and a recreation tent at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, N.Y. The USO’s presence allowed the thousands of troops and emergency personnel living in the Floyd Bennett tent city to relax during their down time by grabbing a snack, using the complementary Internet services, and even watching football between shifts on Sundays.
In January, USO Europe personnel at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, provided emergency aid to eight hostages evacuated from the Algerian oil field hostage crisis.
USO personnel at Ramstein also played a key role in the Sept. 12, 2012, evacuation from Benghazi, Libya. A C-17 with evacuees – mostly diplomatic workers – arrived at the base the night after the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three others. The USO was on the scene with emergency clothing, snacks and toiletries along with providing Internet and televisions. USO Europe partner TKS also provided prepaid cellphones for evacuees who didn’t have a means of communication at the time.
“Even though these were not service members, they were serving our country,” USO Kaiserslautern Area Director Konrad Braun said at the time. “We had the resources available and the will, and we executed both of those.”
Photo caption: USO Pacific Regional Vice President Carly Harris, left, and USO Pacific Director of Operations Paul Pisano pack boxes of coffee and recreation supplies bound for American troops in the Philippines. USO photo
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