By Daniel Drummond
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, thousands of U.S. troops have been deployed throughout Eastern Europe in support of our NATO allies. As the conflict continues and tensions throughout the region rise, deployed American troops can always turn to the USO for support in countries such as Germany, Poland and Romania.
Because, thanks to the generosity of the American people, the USO is – literally – always by their side, even if that means going to conflict zones.
Here are brief snapshots from the field of life on the front lines for U.S. troops in Eastern Europe. Specific locations of these Tactical Assembly Areas (TAA) have not been identified for security purposes.
American Troops Keep Mission Front-of-Mind While in Poland
In the “Mayor Cell” at this Tactical Assembly Area (TAA) in Poland, the so-called “mayor” of the 82nd Airborne Division, U.S. Army Spc. Pedro Quinones, manages to balance both his official duties as a soldier, as well as coordinating logistics activities for service members through organizations such as the USO. Providing his fellow paratroopers with a chance to get their minds off where they are, if even for just a moment, is crucial to keeping morale high and their moods upbeat as they stand ready near the Ukraine border in support of NATO allies.
“It’s ‘hurry up and wait’,” Quinones of Puerto Rico said. “You don’t know when you are going home.”
A mayor’s cell assists service members during a training rotation or deployment with everything from lodging issues (for example, ensuring clean barracks) to boosting morale. In doing so, “mayors” help alleviate stress so that service members can remain resilient and focused on the task at hand.
To help alleviate the stress of this particular deployment in which soldiers left home with only a rucksack on their backs and no cell phones were allowed, Quinones has been working closely with the USO to help improve the soldiers’ situations.
This included arranging the logistics for the USO to visit the TAA, and from there, supporting their morale through USO programming, providing USO Care Packages and delivering exercise equipment and books. Quinones is charged with looking after the troops’ well-being, and what better way to do so than with a little help from the USO, an organization quite literally made to boost military morale?
In a stressful and tense deployment such as this one, in which conditions in Eastern Europe are constantly changing, a large part of Quinones’ responsibility of keeping spirits high includes reminding his fellow service members that they are a part of a larger cause.
Staff Sgt. Ryan Bittinger of Youngstown, Ohio agreed, noting that the soldiers of the 82nd and the U.S. military are “a beacon of hope.”
“We’re giving people an opportunity to have a better life,” he said whenever the military can be part of a mission, noting that it’s imperative for all of the soldiers to “understand that we are here to support our allies.”
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