How the Mobile USO Unit Creates a Home Wherever Service Members Go

By Danielle DeSimone

In the wake of hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters, the National Guard and other branches of the U.S. military are often called upon to step up in service to their own communities.

Over the past year alone, active duty service members and more than 100,000 National Guard members were called to duty to assist in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, service members have responded to a slew of natural disasters around the country, from Hurricane Laura on the east coast, to the devastating derecho in the Midwest, to the wildfires raging on the west coast.

The pressure of working in such disaster environments can put a strain on service members, affecting not only their morale, but possibly even their work performance. Additionally, spending an extended time away from home, coupled with the realities of working during a national emergency – or even just during a remote routine assignment – can take a toll on even the most resilient military members.

That’s exactly why Mobile USO vehicles are always ready to hit the road – to provide service members a home away from home in the most remote locations and during the most stressful assignments.

Service Members Recharge and Connect at Mobile USO Units

Acting as USO centers-on-wheels, Mobile USO units 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, or with downed cell towers), large screen televisions, 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.

Mobile USOs also offer service members snacks, refreshments and occasionally homecooked meals. Some Mobile USOs have even hosted outdoor movie screenings or impromptu activities, like games of flag football, which help create a sense of ease, community and normalcy for service members working during a catastrophe.

Photo credit Mobile USO

Service members enjoy a game of Connect Four during deployment, thanks to the Mobile USO team.

These seemingly simple services can make a real difference in offering hardworking service members a moment of respite so that they can recover from a long day, connect with their family and friends waiting back home, and return to the front lines.

Mobile USO Supports Troops on Challenging Missions

Photo credit Courtney Anderson

Mobile USO vehicles also support troops in non-emergency situations who are stationed or undertaking missions in hard-to-reach locations.

For service members such as the airmen responsible for changing the nuclear codes of the United States ballistic missile defense system, this is especially important. Such a task requires airmen to deploy to undisclosed, remote locations across the Midwest and change the nuclear codes, while also ensuring that throughout the entire process, the launch capability of the nation is unaffected and still functional. It can be a stressful task that requires immense attention to detail and effort for hours or days on-end.

Far from base and without a traditional USO location nearby, these service members do not have easy access to a place to rest or just take a moment to themselves after a day of tedious and high-pressure work. That’s why the USO deployed a Mobile USO vehicle to these locations for five weeks at a time, where they provide all the classic Mobile USO amenities, as well as a cookout each week for the service members.

Mobile USO vehicles and dedicated USO volunteers also support service members serving in remote – and frigid – locations such as Alaska.

In the winter, these duty stations can be incredibly isolating, which is why the USO visits service members every Monday to provide a boost to their spirits with coffee and games, reminding them that they are not alone.

How Mobile USO Vehicles Have Supported Service Members During COVID-19 and Beyond

In 2020, Mobile USO units have mobilized in response to both the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters, sending multiple vehicles to support service members working in the wake of the crises.

Photo credit 434th Air Refueling Wing/Public Affairs

Airmen line up at the Mobile USO vehicle to get snacks and drinks at Grissom Air Reserve Base, Indiana, this past June.

The National Guard, reservists and Marines and Navy personnel were deployed across the country to help facilitate COVID-19 testing sites, support hospitals as medical staff, operate food drives and more. To date, the National Guard has administered more than 8 million COVID-19 tests and has delivered over 350 million meals to those in need throughout the United States. Meanwhile, the Navy sent two ships, the USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort to New York City and Los Angeles, where communities were hit hard by the virus. Aboard these ships, sailors and Marines assisted in the COVID-19 relief efforts and provided medical support.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented challenge, but just as the U.S. military stepped up, so too did the Mobile USO team, ensuring that those serving on the front lines of the pandemic were supported during an otherwise difficult time.

At the height of the military’s COVID-19 response, Mobile USOs traveled more than 12 hours in a single day to deliver supplies to service members serving aboard the USNS Comfort in New York City. Other Mobile USO units deployed to states such as Ohio and Indiana, where they offered snacks and caffeinated beverages to service members who were working in the fight against COVID-19.

Later this summer, as hurricanes battered the east coast and wildfires burned throughout the west, Mobile USO units again sprang to action, deploying multiple vehicles to Louisiana to support service members working in Hurricane Laura relief efforts, as well as to California, to support those fighting the wildfires that have raged for weeks now.

As service members work hard to support and ensure the safety of their local communities, having the support of the Mobile USO team can make all the difference in alleviating the pressure of service members’ immense responsibilities. Doing so provides our troops with a sense of home away from home, no matter where their service takes them.

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As the COVID-19 outbreak is evolving, the USO has pivoted resources across the entire global enterprise in an approach that helps care for military members and their families.

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