The United Services Organization
The United Services Organization has shifted and evolved throughout its inception on February 4th, 1941 in New York City. The USO, as it came to be known, was made up of six different civilian service organizations following the recommendation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt: the Salvation Army, the National Travelers Aid Association, the National Catholic Community Service, the National Jewish Welfare Board, and both the YMCA and YWCA (History, 1).
According to their website, www.uso.org, the USO functions as a nonprofit, congressionally chartered, private organization.
It depends upon the contributions of individuals, organizations and corporations in order to carry out their wide-ranging services. Beginning with President Roosevelt, the President of the United States has acted as the honorary president of the organization; however they also have an official CEO to run the day-to-day operations out of their world headquarters in Washington D.C. Today the President and CEO of the USO is Mr. Sloan Gibson, a graduate from the United States Naval Academy at West Point.
In addition, Mr. Sloan is also the Chief Financial Officer for AmSouth Bancorporation, a fifty-four billion dollar banking company (Gibson, 1).
As I mentioned earlier, the USO is a non-profit organization which means that it relies on financial contributions from the public to carry out it’s wide-ranging services. Individuals support the USO, but the biggest donations come from what the USO calls their ‘Strategic Partners’, companies such as ClearChannel, Blackwater, Lockheed Martin, and Coca-Cola (Welcome, 1). You can donate directly through their website, or you can submit a proposal in order to organize a fundraising event in support of the USO. As you can imagine, servicing over 2.6 million armed forces personnel takes a well-organized and well-funded organization, and the USO prides itself on being able to deliver.
Currently the USO maintains over 130 service centers worldwide, with over 240 paid employees and 30,000 volunteers, however at its height following World War II, the USO operated more than 3,000 centers (Chawkins, 1). They have an operating budget of over 140 million dollars (Company, 1). Again, according to their website, the mission of the USO is “to boost the morale of service members and serve as the link between them and the American people” (Welcome, 1). They accomplish this mission in a variety of different ways.
One of the most visible ways the USO supports the troops is by offering their famous USO tours with entertainment celebrities as diverse as Bob Hope, John Wayne, Aerosmith, Jessica Simpson and the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, Chuck Norris, Jennifer Lopez, John Elway, and Lance Armstrong, among many, many others that you often see highlighted in the news and at sporting events worldwide. Right now, and for the past forty years, the USO is partnering with the NFL to bring some of the biggest names to places where our service members are stationed. Most recently NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, and New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora went on a USO Tour to places as diverse as Kabul, Afghanistan and to the country of Kyrgyzstan. Service members and the public can even follow the USO-NFL Tour on a blog sponsored by the NFL (Commissioner, 1).
Other interesting services the USO provides are airport welcoming centers in airports throughout the world. These centers offer a place for service members to relax, get on the internet, and to meet with other service members whether they are coming back from service, or about to leave for service. The newest airport welcoming centers are in Afghanistan, Iraq, are related to Operation Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, and the War on Terror, as well as a new center located in Denver, Colorado where many Air Force personnel are trained.
Aside from just helping active-duty members, the USO offers a variety of services for veterans such as information referral services, employment assistance, transition services for members just getting back from war, and health and housing help (Services, 1). They also provide services for family members of active duty members, with relocation counseling and housing assistance. The USO also recently implemented a program to encourage the American public to send care packages to troops stationed overseas, conveniently named, “Operation USO Care Package.” This program has been a huge success since its creation in 2003 at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom sending out more than one million packages with items such as food, music, pre-paid phone cards and the like (Operation, 1). The program has had to tweak its system recently due to heightened security. In the past you were able to send packages directly to service members with personal notes, but now you have to sponsor a pre-approved package in order to maintain a safer program for everyone involved.
A popular service among military members inside the United States is the USO Mobile Fleet. This is a tour bus with three compartments: a lounge, an internet and gaming café, and a canteen in the back. There are flat-screen TV’s, an X-Box 360, four laptop computers, a couple coffee machines, a refrigerator and freezer and seating for ten people (Mobile, 1). The main objective for the USO Mobile Fleet is to raise awareness of the USO program initiative and to provide a relaxing and entertaining environment for domestic service members.
One of the most touching and personal service offerings of the USO is its sponsorship of the United Through Reading Military Program, you may have even seen it profiled on the CBS Evening News or in USA Today or at halftime of major sporting events. This program offers service members an opportunity to film a video of them reading books or recording messages to send to their families back home. It also allows the families to do the same, effectively creating a dialogue between the families even though they are thousands of miles and oceans and deserts apart. Charles S. Thompson III, a member of the Marine Wing Support Group 27 supports the program and echoes the mission statement of the program. He raves, “A child has a hard time understanding that mom or dad is okay from an e-mail or a letter. A video image reassures the child that his or her parent is doing well. To me, the reassurance of the child is the primary benefit of the UTR program (United, 2).
Overall, the USO is a valuable and inspirational service organization helping out the people who deserve it the most, the service members defending our country both here and abroad. Their aims are direct and creative, with a variety of service programs that try to stay positive and engaging. In this way, they do a great job of staying true to their slogan, ‘Until Every One Comes Home,’ hopefully this will be sooner rather than later. Thank you.
Chawkins, Steve. Airport USO Offers Troops a Bit of Home. Los Angeles Times. March 23, 2003, pp. B1, B10. Online. http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/United-Service-Organizations-Company-History.html. 10/24/2008.
Commissioner Goodell, Brees, and Umenyiora to go on USO tour. http://www.nfl.com/news/story?id=09000d5d8092ee4b&template=without-video&confirm=true. 10/24/2008.
Company Info: United Services Organization. http://www.answers.com/topic/united-service-organizations. 10/23/2008.
Gibson, Sloan D. http://www.zoominfo.com/Search/PersonDetail.aspx?PersonID=301392433. 10/24/2008.
History of the USO. http://www.uso.org/whoweare/ourproudhistory/historyoftheuso/. 10/24/2008.
Mobile USO Program. http://www.uso.org/whatwedo/specialprograms/mobileusoprogram/usomobilefleetfeatures/. 10/24/2008.
Services Provided by the USO. https://www.uso.org/whatwedo/usoservices/. 10/24/2008.
United Through Reading Military Program. http://www.uso.org/whatwedo/specialprograms/unitedthroughreading/. 10/24/2008.
Welcome to the USO. http://www.uso.org/. 10/24/2008.
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