By Staff Sgt. Robert McIlrath
Serving in the military overseas comes with its own set of challenges, from the pang of being far from your family and loved ones to adjusting to new and unfamiliar surroundings. However, for over 80 years, the USO has aimed to ease the pain of those challenges by providing service members and their families stationed overseas with a place of refuge while traveling or while off duty at their duty station.
Whether that’s keeping them connected to loved ones back home or providing them with a place to recharge, USO centers play a large part in boosting the morale of our nation’s Armed Forces.
However, for service members stationed Moron Air Base (MAB), Spain, the location is so remote that it comes with its own different set of challenges. Service members stationed here have no commissary or Exchange, meaning that service members and their families have limited access to basic American foods and resources – particularly around the holidays, a time when it is so important to keep morale high and for service members to connect to home.
Until recently, the only presence the USO had at MAB was at a few temporary locations or pop-up events. But on April 8, 2022, after a ribbon-cutting ceremony, their USO officially found a permanent home, and service members stationed at MAB now have a place to connect to loved ones, attend events or just put their feet up and relax.
“The USO has been moved around in the building a couple times,” said Lt. Col. Mark D. Nexon, 496th Air Base Squadron commander. “I can’t see it getting moved again, this is the home now.”
Before this opening, the closest permanent USO was located about 80 miles - or an hour drive - south in Naval Station Rota, Spain.
“So much time, effort and energy went into making this feel like a home away from home,” said Kayla Clark, NAVSTA Rota USO center manager. “We are so excited to have a USO presence in Marón.”
The process for establishing a permanent USO location at MAB began in the late summer of 2021 and had its share of challenges along the way.
There was a need to get furniture, snacks and outside vendors to fill some of the other needs that a new USO center would require.
“Initially the logistics of acquiring items from other locations as well finding room for a USO here was a challenge,” said Staff Sgt. Erika Sidari, 496th ABS air transportation function supervisor and primary POC for the USO at Morón AB. “Typically USOs are near the passenger terminal anyway and we had the space for it.”
With the official ribbon-cutting ceremony completed and the new USO open for patrons, Sidari commented on the overall success leading up to that.
“We did a soft opening last month, so far I’ve seen people in there all the time, people reading, people taking snacks,” Sidari said. “I’ve had some of the deployers come up and say that they enjoy being there and it’s somewhere nice where they can relax and that makes me happy.”
-This story was originally published on DVIDShub.net. It has been edited for USO.org
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