By Sandi Moynihan
Deployments are never easy. But for troops stationed at remote locations like Camp Buchanan, Liberia, they can be downright difficult.
While service members usually forgo some of the comforts of home during their tours of duty, troops at Camp Buchanan live and work in a rustic camp setting without basic forms of entertainment.
Army Staff Sgt. Randall Winsett, a chaplain assistant stationed at Camp Buchanan, says living in such stark conditions can take a toll over time.
“Deployed to the austere environment of West Africa in support of USAID, morale has been a consistent struggle,” Winsett said in an email.
Luckily, that’s where USO2GO comes in.
USO2GO delivers some of the USO’s most popular services to troops in remote and restricted areas like Camp Buchanan. Units can request anything from snacks, coffee and toiletries to board games, video game consoles and sporting goods.
Army Sgt. Renee Martin picks up toiletries donated by USO at the centralized distribution container at Camp Buchanan, Liberia.
Soldiers deployed to Camp Buchanan, Liberia, play on gaming systems donated by USO at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation tent.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Maurice Blackburn pick up snacks donated by USO at the centralized distribution container.
Soldiers play on gaming systems donated by USO at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation tent.
Soldiers pick up snacks donated by USO at Camp Buchanan, Liberia.
After putting in an initial request with the USO Southwest Asia in the fall of 2014, troops at Camp Buchanan received a USO2GO kit full of snacks, toiletries and entertainment items just in time for the holidays.
“This is the first deployment for many soldiers here,” Winsett said. “When the USO2GO items arrived, more soldiers came out of their [living quarters] and started acting more like a community during their limited downtime.”
With the added lure of gaming systems and new entertainment items, troops started to spend more time together at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) tent during their free time and less time alone in their bunks.
“It is a chance to bring soldiers closer together [and] allows soldiers to get out of the living tents and interact,” said Army Pfc. Andre Elliott, who’s stationed at Camp Buchanan. “I play one or two [video] games a day [at the MWR tent now]. It gives me something to do, so my mind isn’t occupied by the thoughts of what is going on in the rear, it helps a whole lot.”
While gaming systems might be some troops’ favorite USO2GO items, for other service members, it’s the simple things, like new toiletries or a cup of coffee, that do the trick.
“Personally, the vision of drinking coffee from a Dunkin’ Donuts cup brings me back home away from the hectic chaos of daily operations,” Winsett said.
So far, more than 1,440 USO2GO kits have been delivered around the world since the program was launched in 2008.
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