By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (April 23, 2009) -- A vehicle recently donated to the United Service Organizations here will help the volunteer-driven group better serve military members and their families.
"This is truly going to change how our USO works," said Elaine Rogers, president, USO of Metropolitan Washington. "We have 13 locations around the metro area, all in airports and enlisted housing areas -- but we haven't been able to go out to the troops."
The donation, a large van dubbed the "Mobile USO," is essentially a mobile kitchen and entertainment facility with the capacity to serve up to 500 people at once. It has two ovens, a triple sink with running water, onboard generators, a refrigerator, flat-screen television sets, a sound system, videogame consoles and a well-stocked food pantry.
The idea is to roll into an active training area at an installation not currently served with a permanent USO facility, and bring some cheer to the servicemembers training there, Rogers said.
Rogers spoke during a celebratory ribbon-cutting in the parking lot of the Pentagon April 23. There, USO officers, service members, and representatives of the Boeing Company gathered to officially hand over the donation from the Boeing Company to the USO of Metropolitan Washington.
"This gives us the mobility to go to all the bases in the area," Rogers said. "It's going to be able to provide so many services."
Rogers estimated that USO Metropolitan Washington, armed with the Mobile USO, will be able to increase the service it provides by as much as 30 percent.
Sloan D. Gibson, president and chief executive officer of USO, said he's impressed with the work the USO of Metropolitan Washington does, saying it is the "flagship" region of the USO. He said the Mobile USO will help the Washington region of the USO better carry out the mission of the larger USO.
"It's great to get out to where troops can't get to a USO center," Sloan said. "Their faces just light up. What we try to do is find ways to serve more and do it better -- this provides that capability -- it grows capacity."
The USO supports Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen around the world by providing morale, welfare and recreation-type services. The USO of Metropolitan Washington focuses on those military installations in and around the National Capitol Region, to include installations in Maryland, in the District of Columbia, and military installations as far south as Richmond, Va., said Rogers.
The USO also provides "homecoming" services to Soldiers returning from overseas through its USO facilities at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.