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As Tensions Rise, USO Pacific Stands Alongside Troops

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

By Christian Pelusi 

American troops are nimble, ready to respond to any event that would require their presence and expertise. In that vein, so, too, is the USO. With over 160 centers located around the world, service members can count on the USO, poised to provide the necessary support that helps them accomplish their mission.

When events such as the current situation in North Korea capture the international community’s attention, the U.S. military’s preparedness and the USO’s ability to support our troops come into focus.

“None of us can predict what will happen in the days ahead and all of us hope for an easing of the tension,” said USO President and CEO Sloan Gibson. “But, whatever happens, we need to make sure our troops serving in this difficult situation know that they are in our thoughts and prayers.”

The USO operates 17 centers in the Pacific Region including six centers throughout South Korea. The centers of USO Pacific provide assistance to more than 30 U.S. military installations and 100,000 troops, spread across four areas: Korea, Japan, Guam and Hawaii. In 2012, the 17 Pacific centers supported nearly 647,000 visits by troops and military families.

"Our centers provide a home away from home for both troops and families," said USO Senior Vice President of Operations Alan Reyes. "For unaccompanied [younger] soldiers, we provide a wholesome environment for them to connect with family members back home and to relax after a long day of training. For families who spend two or three years away from the 'normal' U.S. environment, we give them a sense of community."

But as is the case with most every USO center, it is the caring, hard-working corps of staff and volunteers that keeps the USO centers buzzing. Last year, more than 1,500 active individual volunteers donated their time to USO Pacific centers with over half of those volunteers being active-duty military currently serving in the Pacific region. The camaraderie and shared goal of keeping their USO center successful is a common thread that runs through so many USO centers.

"[Centers] are also an important bridge between the troops and families and the communities that host them," Reyes said. "Through classes, free tickets to cultural and sporting events, etc ... we promote a stronger understanding between people from very different cultures."

As the world continues to closely monitor events in North Korea, deployed servicemen and women and their families can be assured that the USO will continue to provide the valued services and programs that our troops have come to know and appreciate. Whether it is time spent creating a recording through United Through Reading’s Military Program or enjoying a complimentary free hot dog lunch with their family, our nation’s finest men and women know that the USO is always by their side.

“These are uncertain and frankly, scary, times for troops and families there," Reyes said. "USO centers are places where they can feel comforted and supported, which we hope reduces that tension ever so slightly.”

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Photo caption: Serving up a USO Payday Picnic at USO Camp Kim, Seoul, Korea, last year. (Photo courtesy of USO Korea) 

* Shop USO Wishbook to donate funds that helps more troops and families enjoy the programs and services that the USO offers worldwide.     

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