From staff reports

Forty-eight hours before the USO opened its doors on Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, service members were staking out shady patches near the new center, electronic devices in hand.

What was happening? The new USO had turned on its Wi-Fi.

“As soon as we hit the Wi-Fi and brought that up, the place was surrounded,” USO Europe Regional Director Grant McCormick said. “By Sept. 6 when we opened the doors, it was just a flood of people. It was great.

“The biggest thing about the center … is the connectivity,” said McCormick, who served 28 years in the Air Force before joining the USO. “We need to make sure we can keep these guys and girls connected. That means more to the deployed soldier than anything else. I know that [from experience].“

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The USO center on Incirlik Air Base in Turkey opened its doors to troops earlier this month.

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The USO center on Incirlik Air Base in Turkey opened its doors to troops earlier this month.

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The USO center on Incirlik Air Base in Turkey opened its doors to troops earlier this month.

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The USO center on Incirlik Air Base in Turkey opened its doors to troops earlier this month.

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The USO center on Incirlik Air Base in Turkey opened its doors to troops earlier this month.

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The USO center on Incirlik Air Base in Turkey opened its doors to troops earlier this month.

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The USO center on Incirlik Air Base in Turkey held celebrated its grand opening Sept. 23.

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The USO center on Incirlik Air Base in Turkey opened its doors to troops earlier this month.

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The USO center on Incirlik Air Base in Turkey opened its doors to troops earlier this month.

After a busy soft launch, the USO center at Incirlik Air Base held it’s official grand opening Friday.

With five computer stations, four Samsung phones equipped with unlimited international calling capabilities and free Wi-Fi, service members working around the clock on the front lines in the fight against ISIS now have a place where they can set aside the stresses of their jobs and connect back home.

Located near the Turkish city of Adana, Incirlik is a gravelly base where many service members sleep in converted Conex boxes lined with bunk beds. The service members have been confined to base for months, as terrorism and a failed coup attempt have created unease in the region. Service members who were deployed with their families had to say goodbye to those loved ones in late March, when the Department of Defense issued an order saying it had become too dangerous to continue accompanied tours in Turkey. The USO assisted those families during the evacuation.

The original plan was to set the new USO center up in a series of connected Conex boxes. Instead, U.S. commanders on the ground identified roughly 1,000 square feet of space inside an existing building in Patriot Village – where several American service members live – that could host the center.

Proximity to Patriot Village is key, as many service members stationed at Incirlik work around the clock and often have unpredictable schedules.

When service members do get to spend time at the center, they’re just a short walk away from several creature comforts. USO partner TKS – which provides pivotal communications support for the organization across Europe – set the center up with more than 150 channels of free cable television. There’s also a new kitchen, a gaming area with two more TVs and multiple gaming consoles, a pool table, a foosball table, all new furniture and the aforementioned connectivity options. McCormick said the phones and computers were all occupied within minutes of the USO opening its doors Sept. 6 and have seen high use since.

The center plans to add a quiet room soon, too, where service members will be able to study, relax or record themselves reading a USO/United Through Reading Military Program book to send to their children back home.

“One of the ladies that walked in – an airman – she said, ‘Wow, this USO is better than the ones I’ve seen in the States,’” McCormick said. “[That] makes you feel good, because … [Incirlik is] pretty barren and hot. And they step inside that USO and it’s really nice.”

You can directly send our military families a message of thanks or support online via the USO’s Campaign to Connect. Your messages will then appear on screens at select USO locations around the world.