Video By Sandi Moynihan
ANCHORAGE—On February 12, 1941, the USO opened its doors in Alaska to service men and women serving in WWII. Seventy-five years later — almost to the day — the USO re-established a permanent presence in the last frontier.
On Wednesday, after a grand opening ceremony, USO Alaska staff and volunteers officially welcomed their first guests into the brand new USO Alaska center and USO Alaska Wellness Center on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. In addition to a ribbon cutting and center tours, the luau-themed center opening featured remarks by USO CEO and President Dr. J.D. Crouch ll, First Lady of Alaska Donna Walker, Col. Brian Bruckbauer, Commander, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richarson and USO Alaska Center Director Tara Mogan.
“It’s very rare in the military for you to see a project started and completed in one tour of command and we did it within a year,” Bruckbauer said. “We couldn’t do this without the support of our community partners and it’s amazing to see how everyone has come together on the installation.”
The USO Alaska center features traditional USO amenities including cozy couches, leather gaming seats, video games, cable TV, computers with Wi-Fi and CAC access, printing and refreshments. The center also houses a multipurpose room with a big-screen TV that is available for meetings, trainings and other USO programs and events.
A service member lifts weights at the USO Alaska Wellness Center.
Computers at the new USO Alaska Center.
The lounge area of the USO Alaska Center.
The inside of the new USO Alaska Center.
The inside of the USO Alaska Wellness Center.
In addition to the USO Alaska center services, military members and their families can also enjoy the state-of-the-art USO Alaska Wellness Center, designed to supplement existing wellness and fitness programs at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richarson. The new wellness center features commercial-grade fitness equipment including cardio and weight machines, free weights, TRX, battle ropes and more.
“We’ve been able to put together … a place that will make them feel good, a place they want to come back [to and] get a great workout and enjoy it and come back every day,” Mogan said.
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USO Alaska plans to expand its programs and services to serve the military throughout the state.
“Separation is the central challenge of military life,“ Crouch said. "It’s not going into harm’s way, it’s being separated from the things you love.
“The USO is committed to being the organization that helps you stay connected to those things.”
Amanda Fletcher contributed to this story.
You can send a message of support and thanks directly to service members via the USO’s Campaign to Connect. Your messages will appear on screens at USO locations around the world.