By Sandi Gohn
The end of summer is only the beginning of hurricane season 2019, as evidenced by Hurricane Dorian, which is rapidly approaching the East Coast.
While families living along the Gulf of Mexico and East Coast brace for any potential hurricanes, National Guard units across the country stand ready to provide relief and support if the moment arrives.
Many of these “weekend warriors” will leave their families and homes at a moment’s notice, all to protect the land we love from nature’s unrelenting force.
Thanks to contributions from supporters like you, the USO is also prepared to deploy to the wake of the storm and provide a touch of home to troops activated during hurricane season 2019 relief efforts. It’s something we’ve been doing for years and something we are quite proud of.
This hurricane season won’t be any different.
Troops Deployed During Hurricanes Recharge at Mobile USO Units
Because the military’s response to each hurricane is unique, the USO team works hard to adapt our expeditionary services to compliment troops’ changing needs.
One way we typically provide support during hurricane response efforts is through our Mobile USO Centers. Acting as USO centers-on-wheels, Mobile USOs provide a place for troops to relax, connect with loved ones and recharge during downtime. Each Mobile USO offers free amenities like Wi-Fi (even in the middle of nowhere!), laptops, large screen televisions and movies, video games, comfy seats and more.
Often, Mobile USO staffers will also have USO Toiletry Packs or Snack Packs on hand to give to troops, many of whom had little time to pack personal care items ahead of their rapid deployment. These innovative care packages are constructed with a durable, tan, nylon material that has a M.O.L.L.E. system on the back for attachment to most military issued gear, which is perfect for a deployed guardsman on the go.
In the past few years alone, tens of thousands of active duty, national guard and reserve service members activated for hurricane relief enjoyed a touch of home thanks to the Mobile USO program, which is possible because of generous supporters like you.
For example, in 2018, after Hurricane Florence, the Mobile USO team hit the road to offer its services to troops sent to help with cleanup efforts in the Carolinas.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in September 2017, the USO sent three of its mobile units to support deployed troops in Southeast Texas. That same month, after Hurricane Irma hit Florida, the USO sent two of its mobile units, in conjunction with USO of North Carolina vehicles, to support the National Guard troops in Florida.
Even During Disaster Relief, There’s Always the Local (or Temporary) USO
Unless a USO location is closed for safety reasons, service members activated during hurricanes, as well as evacuated military families, can always relax at a permanent or temporary USO center.
In the past, USO locations expecting a large number of evacuated military families in their area have extended operating hours, supported base logistics, collected donations and even arranged special meals to support their temporary guests, like USO centers in the Carolinas did during Hurricane Florence last year.
For example, after Hurricane Matthew in 2016, USO Northwest Florida collected child-related donations, like baby formula and car seats, to hand out to the 700 U.S. military family members who were forced to evacuate to Pensacola from Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The USO of Central Florida near Tampa, which wasn’t expecting many Hurricane Matthew evacuees, ended up staying open all night to support traveling military families stranded from the storm.
Your donations have even helped us open temporary USO centers in areas where the military’s hurricane relief efforts took several weeks to months.
After Hurricane Maria took a heavy toll on Puerto Rico in 2017, the USO opened four expeditionary locations near military installations around the island. Troops stationed in Aguadilla, Ponce, Ceiba and San Juan had a home away from home where they could enjoy a snack, play video games with their friends or watch their favorite teams and shows in a TV lounge.
“We cut the ribbon and there was a line [immediately],” said Jeff Hill, the USO’s regional vice president in the U.S, in 2017. “We just opened the site in Aguadilla and they said there was a line around the corner to get in.”
That same year, the USO Houston team opened a temporary center at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base after Hurricane Harvey to provide core USO services to service members working in the area.
Although the future of hurricane season 2019 remains uncertain outside of Hurricane Dorian, the USO stands ready and prepared to serve any guard, reserve or active duty troops tapped to help with hurricane relief efforts.
Every day, America’s service members selflessly put their lives on the line to keep us safe and free. Please take a moment to let our troops know how much we appreciate their service and sacrifice.
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