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USO takes to the road in new mobile canteens

Members of the Michigan Air National Guard and other visitors to the base exchange at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., stop by the Mobile United Service Organizations' station Aug. 11. The canteen is one of three such vehicles the USO began using this year to bring the USO to servicemembers who may not regularly come in contact with the organization. There are no USO facilities in Michigan. The mobile center offers a TV lounge, wireless Internet access and other recreational offerings. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Samara Taylor)

Members of the Michigan Air National Guard and other visitors to the base exchange at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., stop by the Mobile United Service Organizations' station Aug. 11. The canteen is one of three such vehicles the USO began using this year to bring the USO to servicemembers who may not regularly come in contact with the organization. There are no USO facilities in Michigan. The mobile center offers a TV lounge, wireless Internet access and other recreational offerings. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Samara Taylor)

SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. (AFPN) -- One of three United Service Organizations' mobile canteens spent Aug. 11 here during drill week as part of an effort to reach out to servicemembers who are not often exposed to the USO. 

The USO, famous for taking the show on the road, is using the new set of wheels to help the agency travel to military installations around the country.

"Part of this program is to create an awareness, particularly for the National Guard and Reserve who may not often come in contact with the USO, about the services that the USO provides," said Tamra Birchfield, the manager of programs and events for the Mobile USO, Central Region.
 
The Mobile USO is a specially outfitted recreational vehicle that includes a TV lounge, five Xbox game-playing stations, and set up outside the RV, various goodies, snacks cold drinks and coffee that are the hallmark of any USO location.
 
The USO may be best known for sending comedian Bob Hope and other entertainers around the world to raise troop morale during World War II and subsequent conflicts. That tradition continues today with regular USO entertainment programs in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Ms. Birchfield said the USO is -- and always has been -- about much more than just big-name entertainers. The organization sponsors several programs to support U.S. servicemembers at home and abroad to include providing phone cards and care packages to deployed troops, lounges at various airports frequented by military travelers, and support programs at major military medical facilities.

A new program, United Through Reading, lets deployed servicemembers record themselves reading a children's book. The book and the recording are then sent to the servicemember's child. 

The Mobile USO recently spent several weeks at Camp Grayling providing these services to Soldiers from both the Michigan and Ohio National Guard who were training at the base, including some units who were conducting premobilization training. 

For more information on USO programs and services, visit www.uso.org.

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