You will certainly find veterans giving back by serving their fellow service members through the USO. It is rare, though, to see a USO team member join the military themselves. Rebecca Womack broke the mold, not just once, but twice. Not only did she make a career change from USO employee to 1st Lt. in the U.S. Army, she is also number 70 of the 100 women who have graduated from the U.S. Army Ranger School as of 2022.
Army Rangers stand among the Armed Forces’ elite forces, including Navy SEALS, Marine RECON and Air Force Special Tactics, all working in enemy territory on high-stakes missions. To prove their worth, Army Ranger candidates must complete a rigorous program of physical and mental toughness.
Just a few of the requirements include a five-mile run in under 40 minutes, a 15-meter swim in full uniform and a 12-mile march with a 35-pound rucksack. Candidates must master skills in land navigation, medical treatment, direct-action combat, explosives and marksmanship and other skills that prepare them to excel in combat missions.
Now on the other side, as someone who went from serving members of the military as a USO employee to serving her country in the Army, Rebecca stays connected to the USO.
“When I was coming out of my National Training Center rotation in California, USO volunteers were there to give us goodie bags and coffee. It made us very happy because we hadn’t had real food in 30-plus days, so they were amazing,” Rebecca said.
Rebecca now visits USO airport centers regularly in her position as the aide-de-camp to Brig. Gen. Niave F. Knell, the Deputy Commanding General for Support of the 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley. Traveling frequently with Gen. Knell, Rebecca takes advantage of USO center amenities like snacks and drinks, comfortable chairs, televisions and Wi-Fi.
Rebecca first learned about the USO as a military spouse while her husband was stationed with the U.S. Army in Vincenza, Italy.
Rebecca wondered what kinds of job opportunities there may be for a spouse in a foreign country. Many military spouses have trouble finding meaningful employment due to frequent relocations. She describes herself as very fortunate to find a position with the USO as a center operations manager of USO Vicenza in 2015.
That is where Rebecca met Alicia Wease, who joined the USO as the Vincenza center manager just a few weeks after Rebecca came aboard. The two became fast friends and were a great pair for creating a positive environment and memorable events for service members and their families.
“The best event we did for the USO in Vicenza was a Halloween event called ‘Spooktactular,’” Rebecca said. “Alicia really wanted to do it, and we made it big! I think we had 2,000 people come through.”
Rebecca’s other favorite occasion was a USO Special Delivery: Presented by Johnson’s event — a treasured USO program with events throughout the year to host baby showers for military members and their families.
“That was a really fun event,” Rebecca said. Although not everyone at the event was pregnant or an expecting spouse, “they told us what a great opportunity it was to meet other people.”
Rebecca and Alicia remained a dynamic duo when Alicia became the center manager at the USO Incirlik Center in Turkey and Rebecca decided to join her three months later as the senior center operations manager. In what became the turning point in Rebecca’s career journey, she was assigned to housing in a building that civilians and U.S. Army Black Hawk Pilots shared.
“I lived by myself, with first infantry division soldiers to the left and right of me. They were the ones that inspired me more so than anyone to join the Army, because it was a very tight-knit community, and I learned a lot about the Army through them.” She also admired their enthusiasm. “They were very ‘hoorah.’”
Ultimately, it was this experience of living alongside Army soldiers, witnessing their commitment and way of life, that inspired Rebecca to join the Army.
Alicia clearly remembers when Rebecca shared her plan to enlist.
“She told me, ‘I’m going to join the Army. I’m going to do it!’” Alicia said. “It’s so cool to see this person go from one end to the other, and be really successful.”
Rebecca reflected on meeting the rigorous standards required for U.S. Army Ranger School graduation, and how her experience with the USO led her to joining the military.
“I think that was a huge accomplishment. And I would like to say that the USO had a part in what pathway I chose and where I am now.”
Today, Rebecca serves as an infantry officer assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion of the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division.
Whether she is supporting our nation’s service members or joining their ranks, Rebecca has demonstrated the true meaning of service to the nation and the people who make sacrifices on our behalf.
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