USO Guam Quickly Transforms into Temporary Hotel for Traveling Marines in Limbo
Monday, August 11, 2014
By Sandi Moynihan
Last-minute travel changes can be a hassle, even for the military. But even in those cases, troops usually have a spot to sleep.
A group of 41 Marines traveling from Okinawa to Australia last week faced an unanticipated 30-hour layover sleeping on a hanger floor in Guam. One of the first things they did was call the USO.
“[W]e really dived into this opportunity to be able to show our support to our Marines and to our soldiers,” said USO Guam Center Manger Victor Tano.
According to USO Pacific Regional Operations Manager Susan Poe, the Marines notified the USO Pacific when they realized an impending typhoon was going to force an early departure and a prolonged layover on Guam. In a matter of hours, the USO coordinated sleeping arrangements, meals and around-the-clock volunteer shift assignments so the USO Guam center could serve as a makeshift hotel.
“It all happened within three hours,” said USO Okinawa volunteer Erin Wendlandt. “It was very fast, but we have a really strong team here that works well together.”
Even before the Marines boarded their plane to Guam, USO Okinawa volunteers, including Wendlandt, were at the terminal handing them snacks and water bottles to make their long journey a bit more enjoyable.
“Being able to get someone something that they didn’t expect … I love that,” Wendlandt said.
Once the Marines arrived in Guam, they were welcomed to the USO center with a hot meal donated by Outback Steakhouse and other volunteers as well as pillows and blankets provided by the Royal Orchid Hotel so they could get some much-needed rest.
In order to accommodate the 41 Marines, the USO Guam staff and volunteers kept the center open for over 30 straight hours — a challenge that, Tano said, his team was more than willing to take on.
“It was pretty much home,” Tano said. “They were pretty comfortable, I think.”
The Marines relaxed during their stay by watching movies, playing video games and surfing the Web in addition to enjoying three meals from volunteers and donors like Winchell’s Donut and Infusion.
“[A lieutenant said] they wished to be stuck here in Guam … here at the USO, if that happens again,” Tano said.
“[W]e’re all just happy that we were able to provide that support to them, aside from our regular operation and our support daily at the center. That was an experience for our staff and volunteers.”
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