USO Okinawa Bike-Share Program Solves Troops' Local Transportation Issues
There aren’t many convenient transportation options for unaccompanied Marines and sailors stationed on the 400-square-mile island of Okinawa.
“They can take the bus that travels from base to base, they can take a [taxi], or they can try and figure out the local bus system,” said Will Stanley, center manager at USO Camp Schwab. “Most of the Marines don’t have cars or that much money to spend, so it can be a challenge to get off base and see the local sights.”
Stanley, who was stationed on Okinawa during his time as a Marine, understands the challenges Marines encounter on the island.
In 2012, he requested grant money from the USO to start a bike-share program on Camp Schwab, where most of the unaccompanied Marines stationed on the island live. Bikes are checked out for four hours at a time, giving a Marine more than enough time to ride into town, do some sightseeing, and come back.
USO volunteer and Marine Lance Cpl. Costel Outlaw maintains the bicycles and oversees the program, which has grown from seven to 12 bikes in just one year. He says he’d like to expand the program to nearby Camp Hansen.
“We wanted to find a way for people to be able to get out, have fun, but still be able to do that without having to walk extremely long distances,” Outlaw wrote in an email.
“I personally decided to join this program because the USO is my home away from home,” he wrote. “It is a great place to go to when you are not at work and just want to relax. I actually prefer to be there than in my own barracks room!”
With soaring summertime humidity, Outlaw stays busy keeping the bikes rust free and operational. He says the program has gained so much popularity that some Marines who own bicycles have donated those bikes to the USO as they rotate off the island.
“The word about the bikes have increased by quite a bit,” Outlaw wrote, “mostly because the USO is something we all care about here on Schwab, so we get a lot of support from the Marines stationed here. What started out as a few new bikes has multiplied into a dozen or more box bikes, street bikes, and mountain bikes. Most of them get used every day!”