By Barry Morris
When underway, a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier is home to as many as 5,000 personnel – the size of a small city.
Living aboard roughly 4.5 acres and 60,000 tons of floating structural steel for eight months at a time, with very few port visits, leaves little space to get away and find time to yourself. These conditions can be stressful and isolating for sailors who are separated from their family and friends.
That is why the USO and the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush leadership recently held a ribbon-cutting ceremony officially opening the very first aircraft carrier-based USO center on June 6, 2023.
By expanding support to those serving in remote and distant locations, with no access to a traditional, brick-and-mortar USO Center, the USO is helping sailors out at sea feel closer to home.
It is vital to keep service members connected to home, as well as to maintain and boost the morale of the people who serve, especially during long deployments, such as the recent 8.5-month-long deployment experience by the sailors and other military personnel on board the USS George H.W. Bush.
“The USO is a lifeline when deployed,” said Chief Petty Officer Bill Noddin, an aviation electronics technician stationed on the USS George H.W. Bush. “This last deployment was pretty monotonous, but this new USO Center will provide some great options for our sailors to unwind and have fun during their downtime while underway.”
The new USO Center – which will be open while ashore and at sea, includes many of the same amenities as a land-based Center, such as comfortable seating, TVs, video and board games, USO program kits and snacks. The Center is also outfitted with computers and phones to give sailors another way to communicate with their families to further enhance their morale and keep them connected to home.
“Today we celebrate – as a team – the opening of the George Herbert Walker Bush USO Center in our Dorothy Bush Koch library. This is the first USO Center in the Fleet.” said Capt. Dave Pollard, commanding officer of USS George H.W. Bush. “This Center is the latest example of the awesome support the USO provides service members around the world and the impact of the USO on Team Avenger.”
For more than 80 years, the USO has served the men and women of the U.S. military, and their families, throughout their time in uniform. From the moment they enlist, through their assignments and deployments, the USO is always by their side.
“We operate in more than 250 locations, but this one is special,” said Dr. J.D. Crouch II, USO chief executive officer and president. “We are honored to cut the ribbon on our inaugural ship-based USO Center aboard George H.W. Bush. The USO goes where the men and women of the military go. Now, we can add ‘at sea’ with this center.”
On top of the new USO Center being opened on board the USS George H.W. Bush, the USO hosted a family day, in the hanger bay of the carrier for thousands of sailors and their families to reconnect and enjoy time together. Activities included USO Gaming, axe-throwing, arts and crafts, as well as plenty of snacks and refreshments.
“My family and I are grateful for the USO,” said Noddin. “The USO has always been a great place to go for our children to feel like kids again and interact with other families; the concerts, entertainment and all the programming both virtual and in person helps us to feel like we are normal and not cut off from the rest of the world.”
While the USO does not carry out its mission for the gratitude, these words of thanks emphasize the importance of the support of a grateful nation and its positive impact on service members’ morale and well-being.
No matter where their service takes them – from the front lines in the Middle East to our NATO allies in Eastern Europe, to the wide-open seas – the USO is always by their side.
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