By Trey Smith
With summer officially in full swing and temperatures on the rise, service members stationed around the world are sweltering in the heat while also serving their country — oftentimes, far from home. From the deserts of Kuwait to the shores of Guam, here are 5 ways the USO helps service members in warm weather duty stations beat the summer heat.
1. Mobile USO
For many Americans, the start of summer marks the beginning of warm weather, vacation time and the end of the school year. It also means the beginning of what can be a turbulent hurricane season for those living on the East and Gulf Coasts of the United States, where storms typically cause devastation and challenges for many in their path, including the loss of power, destruction of homes and difficulties finding shelter.
Thankfully, our National Guard is always ready to respond to natural disasters that affect their local communities. National Guard members are often mobilized to provide relief for those in need, however, due to the nature of hurricanes, they often provide relief to areas that have lost electricity or even reliable plumbing, leaving these service members to work long hours in the summer heat with little respite from rising temperatures.
Then, the Mobile USO Team arrives. Mobile USO vehicles, designed to be a “USO center on wheels,” will drive miles to support service members who are mobilized in the wake of natural disasters. These vans are equipped with everything needed for service members to relax during downtime on their mission, including climate-control to escape the summer heat, ice-cold snacks and refreshments such as popsicles and water, and Wi-Fi to phone home to family or friends.
Aside from the welcomed relief from the hot weather and lack of air conditioning, providing service members with services such as free Wi-Fi and computers ensures that our troops can stay connected to loved ones even in areas where internet and cell phone towers might be down.
The Mobile USO team also supports service members stationed in warm weather, southern duty stations such as Texas, where units partake in long days of grueling training – often while carrying 60-80 pounds of military gear. Mobile USO vans also visit service members carrying out high-stress tasks such as changing the nuclear codes of our nation’s ballistic missile defense system in undisclosed locations throughout the Midwest.
These service members often have nowhere to go in between shifts, and with the everyday stress that comes with their job, our Mobile USO vans provide relief and entertainment, from water balloon fights to a game of cornhole. These efforts play such an important role in improving the lives and duties of our nation’s service members.
2. Expeditionary Support
With over 275 locations around the world, service members and military families know that they can always turn to the USO for a place of rest and refuge from their everyday duties and the challenges of military life.
However, there are some locations that even the USO cannot reach. For service members stationed in locations and military outposts that are too remote or too dangerous for the USO to build a brick-and-mortar USO center, access to some of the USO’s more traditional programs and services can be limited.
However, at the USO, we mean it when we say, “we go where they go,” – and that includes USO teams traveling in the sweltering heat to these remote locations that do not have a traditional USO center. Our USO expeditionary teams, which visit undisclosed locations in places such as the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa, are responsible for meeting the needs of these service members deployed to areas that often experience a very intense and hot climate.
Service members at these duty stations are often excited when they see these USO expeditionary teams arrive at their duty post, as USO programs and events offer a welcome change and break from the stress of their daily duties. USO teams provide service members with everything from homecooked meals and gaming equipment to USO2GO kits, which are essentially build-your-own-USO kits, outfitted with everything that helps keep our service members relaxed and revitalized, such as extra toiletries, snacks, games, comfy chairs and other necessities.
Our expeditionary teams not only play a key role in keeping these service members refreshed and recharged, but also in boosting morale and providing them with a way to take their minds off the high-pressure mission at hand.
3. USO Activities and Events
Many USO centers that are located in warm weather duty stations host events geared toward keeping service members cool and refreshed – thereby boosting morale and performance in the field. These events can include everything from “Frozen Fridays” at USO Incirlik in Turkey to “Cool Down Tuesdays” at USO El Paso, Texas, providing service members with cool treats such as ice cream sundaes and root beer floats.
Meanwhile, service members deployed to Jordan have beat the heat by jumping into USO “Water Wars” – elaborate water fights involving water guns, water balloons and kiddie pools to stay cool and entertained in the summer temperatures. These water balloon fights were especially crucial during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, when USO centers were temporarily closed, leaving service members deployed to the Middle East with few places to relax with air conditioning.
Events like these have a major impact in promoting comradery among troops while also keeping them entertained.
4. USO Centers
USO centers play a major role in providing service members with a place of respite, especially on bases and installations located in regions with extreme temperatures. Several of these centers are in locations such as the Middle East or the Pacific, where everything is new and unfamiliar to service members.
From the intense climate and landscape to the realities of living in a foreign country very different from their own, arriving in these locations can be a jarring experience, as not only are the temperatures intense, but so are the unfamiliar surroundings.
In these locations, USO centers offer a home away from home – often with air conditioning – for service members to escape these hot and humid climates, where they can kick back to watch TV in comfortable chairs and sofas, call loved ones back home, play a video game with a friend and much more. USO centers are also often stocked with refreshments and ice-cold treats, offering service members plenty of ways to recharge.
USO centers are also a place where troops can participate in the many USO programs and events that are geared towards encouraging service members to have fun and bond with one another, as they take refuge from the hot climates of many locations. From board games and trivia nights to arts and crafts activities, there are endless ways for troops to relax and spend time together – all in the cool respite of air conditioning, in a place that looks and feels like home.
5. USO Care Packages
Another way the USO helps service members beat the summer heat is with our USO Care Package program. These care packages, funded by generous donations from military supporters, come in a few varieties, including the Snack Pack and the Toiletry Pack. The Snack Pack is assembled with a mixture of healthy treats, drink mixes and water, and the Toiletry Pack comes equipped with a wide range of travel-sized hygiene products, both of which come handy for service members who are working long hours in the field.
At the end of a shift running drills out on the front lines in extremely hot temperatures, something as simple as a drink mix it can make all the difference.
These care packages not only provide support to service members protecting our country on the front lines, but also a way for them to feel connected to family and home when stationed far from loved ones.
Regardless of the location or just how hot the temperature is outside, thanks to the support of our generous donors, the USO is always there by our military’s side, ready to keep them cool during the summer heat – but most importantly, to show our appreciation for their service and sacrifice.
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