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USO Senior Vice President of Operations Alan Reyes, Columbia Metropolitan Airport Executive Director Dan Mann, USO South Carolina Programs Manager Katie Kennedy and USO South Carolina Director Joanie Thresher pose Thursday after the ceremony introducing the refurbished USO South Carolina center to the community. USO photo by Michael Clifton
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Refreshed and New, USO Centers in South Carolina and El Paso Open for Troops

Friday, May 31, 2013

By Andrea Sok and Eric Brandner 

It’s a new era at very familiar places for troops this month, as the USOs in Columbia, S.C., and El Paso, Texas, opened refurbished and new centers, respectively.

With more than 7,000 troop visits per month the USO South Carolina center in the Columbia Metropolitan Airport was due for an upgrade. More than 200 guests gathered Thursday to commemorate the refurbished center’s reintroduction to the community.

“Columbia is such a military community and we are so thankful that everyone came together to make this renovation a reality,” USO South Carolina Director Joanie Thresher said.

The amenities of the South Carolina center had been put to the test since it opened in June 2010, as 20 percent of the airport’s traffic consists of troops and their families. The refurbished center features new electronics, flooring and furniture thanks to partnerships with organizations and companies including the Armed Forces Family Foundation, Moore Quality Builders, Valspar Paint, Solid Surfaces, Inc., and the Columbia Metropolitan Airport.

“As the operational tempo changes for our service members, as the needs of families and their service members change, please know that the USO will always be there by your side,” USO Senior Vice President of Operations Alan Reyes told attendees.

There was equal cause for celebration three weeks earlier, when the USO opened a new center at the El Paso International Airport on May 10.

Local officials and military leaders including El Paso Mayor John Cook and Army Maj. Gen. Dana Pittard were among the more than 100 guests who attended the new airport center’s grand opening.

“USO El Paso will provide our military heroes with the comforts of home and relaxation during their travels as well as programs and services they need most,” USO El Paso Director Yolanda Castillo said.

The new center – which was constructed in conjunction with the El Paso International Airport and the City of El Paso – extends the USO’s significant reach in the community. The organization already has two centers on nearby Fort Bliss, an Army hub and one of the largest American military installations in the world.

USO El Paso – which is located on Concourse B – is a shade over 550 square feet and has free connectivity options like Wi-Fi and phones for troops in transit along with a children’s play area.

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Photo caption: USO Senior Vice President of Operations Alan Reyes, Columbia Metropolitan Airport Executive Director Dan Mann, USO South Carolina Programs Manager Katie Kennedy and USO South Carolina Director Joanie Thresher pose Thursday after the ceremony introducing the refurbished USO South Carolina center to the community. (USO photo by Michael Clifton)  

* Shop USO Wishbook to donate funds that help more troops and families enjoy the support, programs and services that the USO offers worldwide.  

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