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USO Fort Campbell Opens With Unique Feature

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

By Christian Pelusi 

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. -- The USO proudly opened its newest center in Fort Campbell, Ky., on Wednesday with a dramatic flair.

The center that will provide services and comfort to more than 36,000 active duty military personnel and their families will do so with a feature that is sure to be the hallmark of the center and the envy of other bases.

A rehabilitated and renovated Vietnam-era UH-1 Huey helicopter now takes up residence in the 8,500 square foot USO center on the grounds of Fort Campbell, thanks to the hard work and expertise from over 60 members of the 159th combat aviation brigade, Bravo Company, 563rd aviation support battalion.

(Read more about the helicopter project.) 

The iconic aircraft is a profound symbol of what Fort Campbell and the 101st Airborne “Screaming Eagles” are famous for while combining the comfort and care that are associated with the USO with four gaming systems located inside the fuselage.

Outside the Huey are additional gaming stations with wireless capabilities, computers with Internet connectivity, breakout rooms to record United Through Reading® sessions, gathering spots to watch big events on flat screen televisions and play billiards or foosball. Along with the customary food station and kitchen, the Fort Campbell USO is poised to become the jewel of the USO center network.

 “[The USO] has done a tremendous job providing services to our soldiers and family members worldwide,” said Col. Perry C. Clark, Garrison Commander at Fort Campbell. “And like many of us in uniform and now retired and out of uniform and family members, we’ve all used these services somewhere in the world. At an airport or at a post or at a base, we’ve all used it. And you know they always been first class, very well done, very well run, very well organized and we at Fort Campbell are very fortunate to see this great organization come here and really occupy … this beautifully renovated, 8,500 square foot facility. Truly a fitting location.”

For USO President Sloan Gibson, the opening of a center at Fort Campbell, the third largest military population center in the Army, is overdue.

“With the 101st being what I think is accurate to describe, the most deployed contingency force in the United States Army, this is where we need to be,” he said.

“This is your USO. This is a place for you to call home. We want you to feel that way about it. We want you to feel like it’s all yours. We’re here for only one reason: we’re here for you. We don’t have any other agenda. We’re just about troops and families.”

For SPC Jay Fuller, from Rock Island, Ill., the center is a welcome addition to base life.

“I think it’s great,” said SPC Fuller who also was part of the unit that assembled the helicopter. “I’ve been deployed and every time I’ve gone to an airport or stopped somewhere, I’ve always looked for a USO to go to. Every one of them that I’ve ever been to has never had as much to offer as this one. Visually, it’s very exceptional, especially since it’s the only USO with a helicopter in it. There’s just so much to offer. All the staff are very kind and nice and helpful. We’re always happy to help. It’s just our way of paying back for what the USO gives to us. … It was pretty fulfilling to be a part of this.”

PFC Mike Alexis from Haiti said that prior to this new USO center, he’d head to the bowling alley to hang out. Now, he wants to head here whenever the opportunity presents itself.

“It’s totally impressive. [It’s] unlike the other USO’s that I’ve been to. This one pretty much amazed me. You can’t go wrong with the USO, honestly.  It’s one of the things that soldiers need, especially during tough times. With the benefits that they have, with the gaming systems, not to mention the food … this one is pretty awesome.”

SPC Michael Sralik III, from Phoenix, concurred.

“I really dig the USOs because when I was deployed, we didn’t have anything to do. Once they got [the USO center] built up (at Kandahar Air Field), whenever we had some downtime, we could shoot some pool … it was really, really nice. Just because it’s kind of like a ‘hometown comfort.’ It means so much. And especially here, too, because [some] don’t have family here, like myself. So going to places like this, it’s nice to have.

“Get your game on, hang out with buds, it’s a good thing. I think we need more USOs.”

With approximately 8 million servicemen and women visiting over 160 USO centers around the world, Gibson and the organization gladly take up the challenge.

“We’re the fortunate ones here,” Gibson said in closing. “We’re pleased and proud to be here for you. We’re delighted that this day has finally come and we’ll be here until every single one of you comes home.”

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