By Joseph Andrew Lee

Each February the United States armed forces kick off a series of multinational field exercises throughout the Pacific region and the USO acts as the Force Behind the ForceSM, providing units with field support where and when they need it most, connecting them back to the people, places and things they love.

According to Charles K. Hyde, USO regional vice president in the Pacific, the region is of growing importance to the U.S. military and the USO. In an email, he outlined the region’s importance from a military perspective.

Encompassing more than 52 percent of the earth’s surface and 36 countries with more than 16 time zones, he wrote, the Pacific contains the world’s most populous nation (China), the largest democracy (India) and largest Muslim population (Indonesia). The Pacific is also home to seven of the 10 largest standing militaries, five nuclear nations, and five of the seven U.S. Mutual Defense Treaties.

“These essential strategic priorities require military operations in locations where the U.S. does not have military bases, where there is not a permanent U.S. military presence and where we do not have a permanent USO presence,” Hyde wrote. “USO Pacific expeditionary operations fill this gap and keep our service members connected to family, home and country.”

The first location where the USO is providing expeditionary support this year is at Phu Lamyai Training Area in Thailand, where participants from multiple NATO countries engaged in exercise Cobra Gold to conduct live-fire exercises. Service members will have access to custom tailored USO2GO kits, satellite television and even a CrossFit gym built out of a 10-foot by 20-foot shipping container.

The second location is at Surathamphitak, where the Army’s 25th Infantry Division is interacting with local schoolchildren in Thailand as part of exercise Cobra Gold and Pacific Pathways, a U.S. Army initiative that puts a single unit through a series of three existing exercises with military partners and allies in the Pacific.

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A 1,200 square-foot, air-conditioned tent was built to support deployed elements of and will provide a welcome respite from the humid jungle there. The tent boasts satellite television, board games, furniture and a modified USO2GO package which includes two Mobile Entertainment Gaming Systems (MEGS).

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Satellite television inside a 1,200 square-foot, air-conditioned tent provides a touch of home to service members deployed for training exercises Cobra Gold and Pacific Pathways.

There, a 1,200 square-foot, air-conditioned tent was built to support service members and will provide a welcome respite from the humid jungle. The tent boasts satellite television, board games, furniture and a modified USO2GO package, which includes two Mobile Entertainment Gaming Systems (MEGS).

“This is the first of three iterations of the Pacific Pathways Deployment Concept,” said Kristen Baxter, the USO’s vice president of field operations. “Like the past two years, Thailand and other Pathway countries will restrict all off-installation activities, meaning service members will not be able to leave their host’s cantonments during their off-duty times.”

The USO’s role will be to continue to provide the connection home and a place to relax during off-duty hours.

“In the field environment – just like in garrison and on the front lines – the USO continues to be the Force Behind the Force, providing the connection to family, home and country throughout their time in service,” Baxter said.