USO: 'Force behind the forces'

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Jay Leno entertains troops during the Gulf War. Photo courtesy of USO
Jay Leno entertains troops during the Gulf War. Photo courtesy of USO

USO: 'Force behind the forces'

by: Paul Pisano, Director of Operations | .
USO Pacific Region | .
published: February 01, 2016

How the USO was formed

“Not by machines alone will we win this war.” With those words, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt forged the creation of the United Service Organizations for National Defense in February 1941, which he charged with strengthening the morale of America’s military men and women by keeping them connected the things the President knew they would surely become separated from in service to their country. The U.S. had not yet entered World War II, but in preparation for the inevitable, President Roosevelt challenged six private organizations – the YMCA, YWCA, National Catholic Community Service, the National Jewish Welfare Board, the Traveler’s Aid Association and the Salvation Army – to create an organization that would keep service members in touch with the bonds of family and the comforts of home, no matter where or under what conditions they served.

Roosevelt chose Thomas E. Dewey to serve as the first USO Campaign Chairman. Dewey resigned the post to become governor of New York and Roosevelt soon selected one of his political rivals as the second USO Campaign Chairman. This decision set a tone of nonpartisan unity that proudly persists to this day. Prescott S. Bush – eventual father of one president, grandfather of another – rallied Americans around the cause of the USO and raised millions of dollars to support its growth.

Since the USO’s incorporation in New York State on February 4, 1941, it has grown to what it is today – America’s vital bridge, connecting service members back to the nation and people they have signed up to serve. We operate USO centers and support programs across America and around the world, maintain a satellite communications system, and harness the collective energy of 30,000-plus volunteers who truly serve as the nation’s force behind the forces.

USO mission

The USO strengthens America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation.

Where the USO is located

With the support of 600 employees and 30,000 volunteers, the USO provides programs, entertainment and services at nearly 200 USO locations worldwide, including Afghanistan, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Germany, Italy, Japan, Guam, South Korea, Djibouti and the United States. The USO claims 19 USO Centers in the Pacific Region…specifically in South Korea, Hawaii, Guam, Japan and Okinawa. Three additional three USO Centers are scheduled to open in 2016. The USO in the Pacific Region also provides USO support to our deploying forces as well…Known as USO Expeditionary Support, the USO supports military exercises in Darwin, Thailand, Philippines, and the Pohakulua Training Area in Hawaii,  In 2014, USO centers were visited more than 7 million times by service members and their families. USO centers provide a warm and comforting place where they can connect via Internet or telephone, play a video game, catch a movie, have a snack or just put their feet up and relax.

USO plans during its milestone 75th Anniversary

To mark its anniversary, the USO is inviting Americans to get reacquainted with today’s USO, whose mission is to strengthen America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country throughout their service to the nation.  This mission cannot be accomplished by the USO alone.  All Americans can help their military neighbors, friends and relatives – and service members whom they’ve never met – by staying more closely connected to them as they serve the nation. Therefore, as we transition to the next 75 years, the USO is dedicating itself to making those connections easier to maintain.  The USO’s means of “connecting” is through Transition 360 Alliance.

The USO Transition 360 Alliance is an initiative to help U.S. military personnel and their families successfully transition into civilian life after their service ends. The USO Transition 360 Alliance leverages the USO’s global resources and the programmatic expertise of additional nonprofit organizations to provide a broader range of impactful programs and services to support troops and military families in developing a plan for the future, pursuing new career paths and strengthening their families and community networks.  

USO Transition 360 Alliance Partners currently include:

  • Rally point/6 (RP/6), an organization the helps servicemen and women develop plans for the future by connecting them to transition resources within their community.
  • Hire Heroes, USA, assisting service members and their spouses with pursuing new career paths.
  • Stronger Families and Comfort Crew for Military Kids, each helping to strengthen and support our military families.