Just Getting Started: Five Years at USO Fort McCoy

By Army Spc. Salome Denoon and Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office

Starting the day with a hot cup of coffee is usual for most. Enjoying a cold bottle of water bottle, a flavorful drink or a snack would not be considered a luxury. However, for soldiers training out in the field at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, any of these day-starting routines might sound like heaven.

Caitlin Wallen, the center operations specialist with the Fort McCoy USO, welcomes a group of soldiers at Fort McCoy. | Photo credit U.S. Army/Spc. Salome Denoon

Fort McCoy is the largest military installation in Wisconsin and represents all branches of the military. For five years, USO Wisconsin has provided support for thousands of service members and their families that visit or live in the area surrounding Fort McCoy.

“The USO mission is to support our active duty military as well as National Guard and Reserve service members,” said USO Wisconsin Operations and Program Manager Elizabeth Hazlett. “Fort McCoy is no exception.”

“Our troops need to know the American people are behind them when they risk their lives and return home.”

The USO’s presence on the base began in 2016 in the form of expeditionary support to the thousands (and even tens of thousands!) of transient troops that visit Fort McCoy for training each year. To this day, these expeditionary services – which feature a Mobile USO vehicle – are still some of the most popular USO offerings at Fort McCoy.

Mobile USOs are essentially USO centers on wheels and provide many of the comforts service members might see at a brick-and-mortar USO. Typical Mobile USO vehicles offer hot and cold beverages, snacks, Wi-Fi and more.

“The excitement comes when we can [offer service members] something as easy as a hot cup of coffee when it’s 20 degrees or an ice-cold bottle of water when it is 90,” Hazlett said.

“It sounds goofy to say that a hot cup of coffee or a bottle of water will make that much of a difference, [but] it does.”

Photo credit U.S. Army/Spc. Salome Denoon

Judy Adank, a volunteer with the Fort McCoy USO, hands a bottle of water to a soldier while distributing drinks, snacks and hygiene products to soldiers in the field.

In the years since 2016, the USO has expanded its support on Fort McCoy to include a slew of other programs and activities for the entire family.

“Each month, military members and their families can take part in several events offered by the USO — whether virtual programs or in-person events,” Hazlett said. “Seasonally, we offer at least one family event. On site [at our USO center], we offer board games, DVD movies, sporting equipment and Wi-Fi, [among other amenities].”

The continued growth and success at USO Fort McCoy is largely due to the dedication of the volunteers who support the nonprofit organization.

“Volunteers are needed to help the USO plan and host events and operate our centers,” Hazlett said. “All it takes is a willingness to be available for at least two hours a week.”

-This story was a combination of two stories originally published on DVIDSHub.net here and here. They have been combined and edited for USO.org.

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