Ben Lyman volunteered.

In his platoon’s inaugural blog post last October, the first lieutenant and platoon leader made it clear that he and every one of his soldiers joined the Army willingly. The implication, of course, is that when the going gets tough for the 25-man firing platoon, they’d have the backbone to finish the mission.

But tough going doesn’t just mean combat. With the gradual drawdown of American troops in Afghanistan, fewer and fewer support services are available for service members on the ground. That, coupled with the fact that troops on small installations like Forward Operating Base Ghazni – where Lyman’s platoon lives and works – didn’t have much to choose from in the first place, can make downtime nearly as much of a grind as time spent on patrol.

That’s where the USO – and specifically USO2GO – comes in.

“There is not enough space on the feedback form to describe the impact the USO2GO program has had on my platoon and the boost in morale,” Lyman wrote in an email to the USO late last year. “Here at FOB Ghazni we are already feeling the effects of the drawdown in Afghanistan. Many of the services we took for granted back in the United States are no longer available or will soon be shut down. The USO2GO program is going to help us bridge the gap as we continue our mission during the next several months of our deployment.”

There is not enough space on the feedback form to describe the impact the USO2GO program has had on my platoon and the boost in morale

The USO2GO program delivers customized, morale-boosting packages to the most remote places on Earth. Troops deployed anywhere around the globe that don’t have a USO presence can request USO2GO shipments through the USO’s website. USO2GO shipments provide everything from beanbag chairs, snacks and coffee to toiletries, sports equipment, board games, televisions, DVDs and video game consoles and titles.

Soldiers at Forward Operating Base Ghazni show off goods from their recent USO2GO shipment. | Photo credit 1st Lt. Ben Lyman

“There isn’t an item we haven’t made use of already in the first couple of weeks,” Lyman wrote. “Whether it is the extra toiletries, the board games, sports equipment, or the Wii and the Xbox, my soldiers have already put it to good use.

“A pot of coffee brews every morning, the snacks keep my guys going during long hours of work or training, and I know the soups and teas will keep us warm in the winter months. The movies, video games and board games provide a welcome relief for my soldiers in long hours between missions.”