By Danielle DeSimone

Many service members and military families in Europe are still under stay-at-home or quarantine orders. But what if there was a way they could finally step outside their doors and explore a vineyard in Italy? Or even just the movie theater on base?

Now, they can do just that – through the USO Naples’ virtual field trips.

COVID Lockdowns Limit Life for Military Families in Europe

To civilian friends and family, being stationed in regions like Europe might sound like a vacation, but for service members, their military spouses and children, these duty stations can be incredibly challenging.

Duty stations in foreign countries require adjusting to an entirely different culture and language – all while dealing with the stress of deployments and being far away from loved ones and everything familiar. The upside of these duty stations is that military families often get to explore an entirely new part of the world, traveling through their duty station country and beyond.

But now, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, they can’t even do that. For military families stationed in countries like Italy, which was hit especially hard by the virus, they’ve had to endure a strict lockdown in their homes for months and are only just now being allowed to slowly venture outside into their communities.

Given all these restrictions, and the probability that many military families won’t be able to travel much - if at all - in the near future, the USO Naples team in Italy decided to bring those travel experiences to them - virtually.

Military Families in Italy Explore Their Neighborhoods Through “USO Virtual Field Trip Fridays”

Earlier this spring, USO Naples, located in the southern part of Italy, launched a series of online programs and created the local digital program, “USO Virtual Field Trip Fridays.”

Every Friday, while military families were stuck at home under quarantine, a member of the USO Naples team posted a video of themselves safely – while adhering to the local military command’s health and safety protocol – visiting a location around their community and gave viewers at home video-style tour of the location.

One of these virtual field trips included a tour of a military medical ambulance while another went behind-the-scenes of the base movie theater so virtual field participants could see how their movies are screened. A different field trip brought the online military community to a nearby Italian winery, where they learned about the wine-making process, and one particularly special virtual field trip gave viewers an inside look at the daily life of the K9 working dog unit on base.

Although the “Virtual Field Trip Fridays” program was originally created for the Naples military community, anyone in the world with access to Facebook can head to the USO Naples Facebook page to enjoy the digital travel series.

“Awesome! Good job everyone!” Tiffany Butler, a USO Virtual Field Trips Fridays viewer, commented on USO Naples’ Facebook page. “I know the kids will love this because I did.”

These moments of “virtual travel” provide service members, military spouses and military children a brief moment of connection to the world around them – and a reminder that those moments will be waiting for them at the end of quarantine.