USO MCAS Futenma celebrates Grand Re-Opening

by Kayla Stamey
USO MCAS Futenma

Futenma, OKINAWA, Japan – USO MCAS Futenma is here to stay! The center completed an 18 -month renovation of its 12,000 sq ft center celebrating with a grand re-opening on Thursday, Jan. 16. More than 150 guests attended the multi-cultural celebration including contractors, sponsors, USO staff members, Japanese nationals, and service members.

“We’re not going anywhere,” William Stanley, USO MCAS Futenma and USO Kinser Center Director, said. “We’re here to stay. We have to meet the needs of our service members here on Futenma as long as this base is operational.  We are their home away from home. They need a place to forget about the stresses of the day and relax.”

Thursday’s grand re-opening program began with a blessing by Robert Hecox, MCAS Futenma Command Chaplain, William Stanley provided the welcome and background, followed by a speech by guest speaker, MCAS Futenma Sgt Maj. Jason Kappen. Recognition to the American Engineering Corporation President, Ken Exsterstein, representatives from MCIPAC Facilities Maintenance branch, Gerald Lavin and Timothy Walton, MCAS Futenma Installation Logistics and Services, Howard Myrick, and the USO MCAS Futenma team were given with presentation of plaques. The grand re-opening of USO MCAS Futenma concluded with a symbolic cutting of the ribbon. Following the ceremony seven Okinawan women, ranging in age from 30 – 95, a presentation of the traditional Okinawan Bukubuku Cha Tea Ceremony

“We are truly grateful to the USO, for it’s the consistent support of our armed forces,” Chaplain Hecox said. “We are especially grateful for this facility here on Futenma, a renovation that has been long awaited and is truly worth celebrating. But it takes more than a building to accomplish USO’s mission. Without the dedication of the USO staff led by Will, and without the tireless hours of volunteers, this would be merely a building but with their efforts it will undoubtably be a home away from home for many marines and sailors. It is our prayer that every marine, sailor, soldier, airmen, civilian, and dependent that enter these doors feels they are welcomed, loved, and cared for. May it become a respite in an often-chaotic world.”

USO MCAS Futenma was established in 1991, supporting service members on MCAS Futenma for 29 years. Roughly 30 volunteers and three staff members serve 56,000 service members yearly.

The new renovated USO MCAS Futenma facility has a wide variety of amenities including a main lounge, eight computer work stations, 11 laptops for check out, a small theater with 20 leather recliners, a gaming room with seven individual gaming stations and a 75 inch multi-player gaming station, a fully AV equipped conference room which seats 20 people, ping pong tables, billiards, outdoor patio, fire pit, BBQ, and lawn. Nobu’s Curry restaurant and GEA Insurance are also within the center. The services available include high speed internet provided by MBC, NFL Game Pass, Disney Plus, Netflix, UFC Fight Pass, charging stations and free printing. Snacks and fresh coffee are always on deck at no charge.

Programs include weekly Wednesday Meals at 5 pm, Late Night Meals on Fridays and Saturdays 10 pm.  The USO hosts cultural activities like Japanese cooking classes and temple visits twice a month. Holiday and military spouse programming are also offered periodically. Operation Birthday Cake is also available for families in the states who would like to request cakes be delivered to service members on Futenma.

The goal for the remodel of the USO MCAS Futenma was to upgrade the 12,000 square foot space to modernize it, making it more usable and applicable to our service members. For example, several casual and professional work spaces were created for marines and sailors to accommodate play as well as career development to mirror their lifestyles.

“The renovation of USO MCAS Futenma will provide our service members and their families a better venue for them to feel connected to family, home, and country,” Phil VanEtten, Okinawa Area Director, said.  “USO staff and many from other organizations put a lot of planning and effort into this project, which started in April of 2018.  Our USO leadership, MCAS and MCIPAC leadership, our official sponsors, and the good people of the U.S. who donate to the USO and our mission made this renovation possible. We cannot thank them enough!!!”

The five-month construction period, which started in September of 2019, presented several difficulties to staff and patrons. USO MCAS Futenma combatted their limitation of space by utilizing outdoor spaces, the mobile unit, the MCAS Futenma Chapel, and outreach programming and events to complete their mission.

“I was impressed that they were not going to close while the work was taking place,” MCAS Futenma Sgt. Maj. Jason Kappen, said. “I thought they would be out of commission for several months but in true character they kept it open for the marines and sailors. This is a testament to the level of service the USO offers. No matter what is going on here they are going to take care of us. And for that we are very appreciative. This is truly a home away from home.”

USO MCAS Futenma’s grand re-opening provides service members and families a world class facility to learn, collaborate, relax, and create a home away from home. USO MCAS Futenma will evolve with every patron that walks through the doors while continuing to be true to its mission of connecting America’s service members to family, home, and country.

To find out more about what is happening at USO MCAS Futenma look it up at USOFutenma Facebook, Okinawa.USO.org, or call the center 636.2113.

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