Cool and Fueled: USO South Carolina Delivers Daily Surprises to National Guard Members During Weeks-Long Training

By Sarah Bostic Parsons

After a year of uncertainty and limited training opportunities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the South Carolina National Guard conducted its annual training at McCrady Training Center and Poinsett Electronic Combat Range in Eastover, South Carolina. This year, USO South Carolina and Mobile USO teamed up to surprise these service members with daily visits and provide a welcome morale boost.

Over the span of two weeks, USO South Carolina provided food, fun and supplies to over 900 South Carolina National Guard soldiers and Navy Individual Augmentee sailors conducting training at McCrady Training Center. Mission delivery consisted of over 13,000 snacks and refreshments, including 3,500 bottles of water and Powerade, 1,000 ice pops, 650 slushies and lots of other treats to keep service members cool and fueled as they conducted training in the sweltering summer heat.

USO South Carolina kept things fresh and delivered different surprises each day. One day, the USO team served Starbucks Refreshers, snacks and toiletries to soldiers with the 1223rd Vertical Engineering Company who worked in the 90-degree heat that week. This unpredictable treat offered them a well-deserved break from building a tactical training course that reaches more than 20 feet into the air.

“The USO is awesome – you guys never cease to amaze me,” Sgt. First Class Douglas Brill said. “[The USO] brings joy to so many soldiers and you boost morale. You may not think it’s a big impact, but for us it’s huge … you bring smiles amongst the ranks.”

The USO South Carolina team loaded up each night and headed to Poinsett Range, where soldiers were training as a unit to maintain their mission readiness. The Mobile USO team – who operates the USO’s “centers-on-wheels" – was there for five nights and provided a place for them to grab a snack, get out of the rain, charge their phones and even challenge each other to some Call of Duty or an intense game of Connect Four.

The surprises did not stop there. The service members were astonished when they heard that USO South Carolina partnered with Texas Roadhouse to distribute over 500 meals of hamburgers, hot dogs, beef tips, pulled pork, mashed potatoes, sweet tea and brownies.

“The South Carolina National Guard has worked tirelessly over the last year to support our community during the natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic,” USO South Carolina Executive Director Joanie Thresher said.

“We were thrilled to support this year’s annual training in a big way, including a catered meal for the soldiers working at the Poinsett Range. We are grateful for our incredible partners, USAA and Texas Roadhouse for making this dinner possible.”

The Army National Guard is constantly training to stay well-equipped for mobilization at a moment’s notice, and the USO stays ready to meet them wherever they are. Whether in training or while deployed, service members know that the USO is there to offer a boost and bring them a piece of home.

- USO Staffers Sarah Kemp and Barry Morris contributed to this article.

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