2008: A new morale building effort, for U.S.
troops overseas, comes in the form of a suitcase size box containing a portable
projector and screen, an Xbox video game, DVDs, magazines, snacks and a
satellite based high-speed Internet hook-up. This box is for remote bases in
Iraq and Afghanistan, manned by fewer than fifty troops. If the "USO In A Box"
works, it will be distributed to small navy and marine contingents at sea.
is, in fact, another effort by the USO (United Service Organizations) to cheer
up the troops in wartime. The USO was formed in early 1941. The "services"
don't refer to the army and navy, but to the YMCA, YWCA, National Catholic
Community Service, the National Jewish Welfare Board, the Traveler's Aid Association
and the Salvation Army. All these organizations wanted to make life easier for
all the young men and women joining the armed forces in anticipation of
American entry into World War II. So they formed a separate organization, the
USO, to coordinate their efforts. Now, 67 years later, the USO is still at it.
For example, in addition to the traditional live shows, the USO has distributed
hundreds of thousands of "Care Packages"
to troops headed to Iraq and Afghanistan. The contents (prepaid international
calling cards, disposable cameras, toiletries, snacks and playing cards) were
selected based on what the troops wanted most.
addition to "USO In A Box", a trailer size version is also being developed,
with many of the same goodies, but for a larger audience. The box costs about
$5,000 each. The trailer about $100,000. The USO finds that it can raise
contributions for these efforts from defense related firms. Blackwater USA, for
example, was the principal sponsor of "USO In A Box."
also opened information/assistance/rest
centers for troops in Kuwait, Qatar and Vicenza, Italy. Similar centers are
also found in 125 locations worldwide, including mobile canteens that always
show up where American troops are concentrated during wartime.
most people remember about the USO is the "USO Shows." Over half a million of
these have been put on, many with major entertainment talent. Bob Hope
regularly went off on these tours for half a century. They are still popular
with the troops, as the shows are put together based on the kind of music and
entertainment the audience wants. The USO is a uniquely American organization.
Most of its staff are volunteers (95 percent, or 12,000 people). And all the
money is donated. No government bureaucrats in sight, which is probably why the
USO has lasted so long.