MSgt Barbara Fuller | SWA Region: USO FOB Shindand, Afghanistan
Troops at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Shindand in Afghanistan can say, “arrivederci” to boredom thanks to MSgt Barbara Fuller. Fuller fostered relationships with leadership in the Italian forces to partner with USO FOB Shindand to offer weekly Italian language classes.
Interesting, unique and fun are just a few words to describe the events that Fuller has brought to USO FOB Shindand. Not only are her Italian classes a hit, she also started one of the most popular programs on base, karaoke!
Working as a one-woman marketing and advertising firm, Fuller promoted the karaoke event, attracting a very excited audience and some very brave musical acts. She also worked to gather all the music files and lyrics to ensure there were songs for any musical taste.
As a senior non-commissioned officer deployed to Afghanistan for 12 months, Fuller truly understands how important offering a respite for troops is, in the brief free time they have.
“Fuller, like most of our volunteers, works a full shift at her military job and then heads to the USO. She always stops by the USO both going to work and coming home from work. Her willingness to put in extra hours and energy into the USO after a long day at her job is unmatched,” said Frank Stinson, USO FOB Shindand Center Manager.
Any given night of the week, a troop is able to relax and refocus for at least a few moments because of the programming that Fuller has initiated. Whether it’s homemade pancakes she is making, a care package of chocolate bars she is sharing or a karaoke night she is hosting, Fuller makes sure the troops know someone cares.
Ellen Jenkins | PAC Region: USO Osan, South Korea
Moving to a new country half a world away from home can be intimidating, but thankfully for troops USO Volunteer Ellen Jenkins is there to greet every one of them.
Jenkins makes sure she is at the passenger terminal on Osan Air Base to personally welcome every new face. Her warm and friendly personality makes the troops feel at home the second she greets them. In addition to being the unofficial welcoming committee, Jenkins volunteers three days a week at the USO Osan center.
“Ellen participates in every single center program we have…It shows how she cares about the USO center, and Ellen’s enthusiasm even pushes me to work harder,” said Juyeon Park, USO Osan Duty Manager.
Jenkins does what it takes to make troops and their families smile including dressing up as a wicked witch for Halloween. While her character costume couldn’t have been further from her personality, she delighted the children with decorating the center and bringing in Halloween movies for them to enjoy.
When Jenkins is not busy sharing smiles, she is sharing her passion for volunteering. Jenkins regularly updates the volunteer roster, and even shares her own shifts so others can enjoy the opportunity to volunteer.
In all the ways Jenkins assists America’s troops and their families at Osan, she is giving them the feeling of a home away from home.
Kent Mohr | EUR Region: USO Grafenwoehr, Germany
Accountability, efficiency, and structure are three cornerstones of every military operation, and now they are at USO Grafenwoehr as well, due to the efforts of USO Volunteer Kent Mohr.
Since Mohr began volunteering at USO Grafenwoehr in November last year, he has logged more than 500 hours. Mohr is a quintessential member of the USO team taking the initiative to help establish new procedures for inventory and supplies, center programs and volunteer shift checklists.
Mohr’s exemplary performance and unparalleled dedication to teamwork have fostered a sense of community among the staff, volunteers and troops at the USO.
“Mr. Mohr is one of the reasons for all the kudos, compliments, smiles and thanks for the changes implemented at USO Grafenwoehr. He took the lead in creating, suggesting, and innovating many of those changes, and the positive state of our center is partly due to his leadership and collaboration with our staff and other volunteers in our drive for excellence,” said Jean Felix Astride, USO Grafenwoehr Operations Manager.
Mohr held the first poker tournament at USO Grafenwoehr. It is now a monthly event that more than 250 troops, turned poker masters, have played.
Mohr’s unwavering commitment to the USO mission earned him the title of the very first USO Volunteer Team Lead at USO Grafenwoehr, a title that Mohr proudly lives up to every day.
LeAnn Thornton | CONUS Region: USO Bay Area, San Francisco
LeAnn Thornton is always by the side of our troops and their families. Thornton is dedicated to providing support to everyone from a young Marine stranded by last minute travel changes to a family navigating an unfamiliar airport on the most difficult day of their life.
Thornton is a respected member of the Families of the Fallen team at USO Bay Area. She has assisted with every single family that has passed through their center this year, and has rarely missed a mission over the past 5 years. Her compassion, respect and ability to do what is needed make her an invaluable connection for the families.
Just recently due to travel changes, 90 Marines were stranded at the airport for more than 16 hours. Thornton took it upon herself to coordinate their meals, get them expedited through security, recruit extra volunteers to help and worked with community groups to show the Marines a sense of hospitality that just comes second nature to Thornton.
When there is a homecoming event, Thornton completes every task with excitement from communicating with family members and USO volunteers to even making personalized signs for every troop that comes home to San Francisco.
“She has raised the bar in quality of programs and helped to spread the word about USO Bay Area and all we have to offer. She has increased participation by other volunteers in programs outside the center with her enthusiasm, resulting in an increased level of service that the USO Bay Area can provide to our local troops,” said Amy Eilts, USO Bay Area Operations and Programs Manager.
Armed with a poster marker, a brownie spatula or just a big old smile, Thornton reports for volunteer duty ready to lift the spirits of America’s troops and their families.