Friday, February 05, 2016

From World War II to Afghanistan: USO Marks 75th Anniversary

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, February 5, 2016 — Talk about the United Service Organizations and people think it is some holding company. But mention USO, and all Americans know it is a way for them to connect with service members.

Retired Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the chairman of the USO Board of Governors and former Army chief of staff, estimated that the USO has served more than 35 million Americans over its history.

The USO marked its 75th anniversary yesterday at a gala here. Medal of Honor recipients, USO volunteers, active duty personnel, veterans, members of Congress, and stars of stage, screen and music gathered to mark a milestone for an organization founded as America geared up for World War II.

Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, called the group a family that stretches around the world. J.D. Crouch, the organization’s chief executive officer, thanked the celebrities for joining in the celebration and for entertaining American service members around the world as ambassadors from the American people. “You light up our service members’ lives,” he said, “and you remind Americans of the debt of gratitude that we all owe to those who serve.”

Founded at a Dark Time in History

The USO came into being during a dark time in history. The United States was not at war, but the rest of the world seemed to be. Hitler’s troops stood on the English Channel and launched nightly air raids against London. In the Pacific, Japan eyed the colonial possessions of France and the Netherlands – two of the countries Germany had conquered in its 1940 blitzkrieg.

In face of such threats, the United States instituted a military draft, calling hundreds of thousands of men to the colors, and Americans wanted to reach out to their young men. President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked charitable organizations to band together to provide morale and recreation services to service members.

Six civilian organizations answered the call: the Salvation Army, the Young Men’s Christian Association, the Young Women’s Christian Association, the National Catholic Community Service, the National Travelers Air Association and the National Jewish Welfare Board. These organizations chartered the USO in New York on Feb. 4, 1941.

Japan attacked the United States on Dec. 7, 1941, and America entered the war. The Army, Navy and Marine Corps grew, with more than 12 million men and women in uniform by 1945. And the USO grew as well; by the war’s end, about 1.5 million Americans had volunteered for the USO.

Actor-comedian Bob Hope – a man who would be virtually synonymous with the organization – held the first camp show in 1941, and for the next five decades, he was the face of the organization.

Changing as America Has Changed

The organization changed just as the American military changed, and it is continuing to change. And wherever the military went, the USO went, too. There were USO centers in Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Somalia, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The USO also has centers at most major airports that provide a place for service members and their families to gather their wits as they travel, and the organization also helps service members as they transition out of the military.

The USO has grown to the extent that today, just a small portion of its budget goes to entertainment. But that aspect is still there.

First-Hand Look by Joint Chiefs Chairman

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, led the annual USO Holiday Trip to Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy; Camp Lemmonier, Djibouti; Naval Support Activity Manama, Bahrain; Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan; and Ramstein Air Base, Germany, in December. He told the crowd at the anniversary celebration that the trip opened his eyes on what the organization provides the men and women of the U.S. armed forces.

The general said he would talk to the troops after the show and ask how they liked it. “They’d say, ‘You know what, sir, for a few minutes, I forgot I was here. I felt like I was home.’” Dunford said. “That’s actually why President Roosevelt started the USO.”

But it is even more than that, the general said, and it goes to the heart of why the USO is important to America and its fighting forces. The country has asked a lot from its military since the attacks of 9/11, he noted, and the troops have performed magnificently. “I think it’s exceeded any of our expectations, and there’s a lot of reasons for that,” he said.

One of the reasons the young men and women who have deployed forward have performed so well, the chairman added, is that they “have gone forward knowing that they had the support of the American people.

“And certain organizations deliver that message,” he said. “Certain organizations are the physical manifestation of the support of the American people, and I don’t know an organization that does it any more than the USO. The USO is actually what delivers that message to them.”

Military Units to Contribute to Super Bowl Pregame Ceremony

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, February 5, 2016 — The Defense Department will provide ceremonial support to the pregame ceremony for Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, Feb. 7, Pentagon officials said.

-- The Navy’s Blue Angels will provide a six-aircraft F/A-18 Hornet flyover at the end of the national anthem.

-- The Armed Forces Color Guard from the Military District of Washington will present the national colors, flanked by drummers from the U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own."

-- A joint chorus made up of 50 service members representing the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard and from the premier military bands in the nation’s capital will sing "America the Beautiful."

The National Football League’s championship game historically attracts one of the largest television audiences of the year. The telecast will be shown around the world in more than 170 countries and territories and will be available in seven languages, according to the NFL’s website.

Defense Secretary talks budget, readiness with Nellis community

by Staff Sgt. Siuta B. Ika
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

2/4/2016 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited on Feb. 4, during the last leg of his defense-budget installation visits.

After meeting with service members at the California-based Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Carter spoke to Nellis Air Force Base Airmen to preview the fiscal year 2017 defense budget and discuss its impact on the Air Force.

"The key is readiness; that's the key to the Air Force today and tomorrow, and it happens here," Carter said. "What I'm asking the Air Force to do ... is maintain a very high level of readiness, and that you get from Nellis.

"This is the only test range where you can bring it all together -- not only all the kinds of aircraft you see on the ramps out there, but the satellites you don't see and the cyber (activity) you don't see. In today's world, all of that is brought together only here at Nellis, so it's an enormously important installation. That is reflected in our budget, where we're adding $1 billion more for training of this kind over the next five years. That's going to support no fewer than 34 major exercises."

The defense secretary spoke about attaining a lasting defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, while also ensuring the department is ready for potential conflict with higher-end adversaries and more technologically-advanced threats in the future.

Carter said the men and women of the Air Force -- like the ones he visited earlier in the day at the 66th Rescue Squadron and 823rd Maintenance Squadron -- will be the keys to the direction the Defense Department plans to take the service in the future.

"We are adding funds to the Air Force budget to grow manpower in the maintenance area because we need more maintainers, given the high-operations tempo, to keep our aircraft ready," Carter said. "We're doing all this at the same time that we are modernizing the Air Force, so you'll see in the future new aircraft here on the ramp.

"You'll see, shortly, the KC-46 and one day maybe you'll see -- but maybe we won't show -- a new bomber, and there's other things you also won't see because we like to have some surprises for potential adversaries."

On his way to depart the base, Carter noticed a C-5 Galaxy unloading precious cargo -- Airmen returning from deployment -- so he took a 20-minute detour to personally welcome home every returning Airman.

"It's indicative that at his last moment on the ramp, when he realized there were Airmen returning, he delayed his departure and said let's go meet those Airmen. Those Airmen had no idea, they just flew back from their (area of responsibility), climbed off the plane, and here's the secretary of defense welcoming them back," said Maj. Gen. Jay Silveria, U.S. Air Force Warfare Center commander. "As he said, he supports us 1,000 percent."

Defense Department Extends Armed Services YMCA Contract

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, February 5, 2016 — The Defense Department recently announced a one-year extension to the Armed Services YMCA Military Outreach Initiative, DoD officials said today.

The contract with the Armed Services YMCA was set to expire in March 2016 and will now continue until March 16, 2017.

“We are thrilled our service members and military families will continue to have this important resource for another year,” said Rosemary Williams, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy.

“The Department of Defense is steadfast in its commitment to support all military service members and their families, in particular to those who serve in geographically dispersed assignments,” she added.

The partnership between DoD and the Armed Services YMCA offers no-cost memberships and respite child care services to eligible service members and their families during times of deployment and to those geographically dispersed, officials said.

The Defense Department’s contract with the Armed Services YMCA for the Military Outreach Initiative will continue to offer access to no-cost fitness and child care, Williams said. These services, will remain uninterrupted for eligible members and families until the new contract end date, she noted.
“This initiative is especially valuable for those living in areas distant from a military installation, allowing them to access services in their own communities,” Williams said.