The United Service Organizations has connected men and women in uniform to family, home, and country for more than 75 years. And with the launch of its new mobile app, the USO is doubling down on its promise to bring a slice of home to service members and their families, no matter where they are stationed.
While the USO may be a home away from home for service members, the nonprofit’s army of volunteers does more than just trot out entertainers like Bryan Cranston and Scarlett Johansson. The organization has expanded its offerings to troops and their families beyond entertainment, from career counseling and support to delivering bare necessities when you need them. After all, every warfighter knows just how important that last-minute resupply can be.
Below, a brief list of useful USO services you may not have known existed — your family will thank God they do at the end of a long day.
1. Roll deep with the Mobile USO Center.
With more than 200 locations — including exclusive airport lounges — the USO can be a crucial oasis amid the unfamiliar surroundings of a foreign posting, but the organization wants to make access to the comforts as easy as possible.
That’s where the Mobile USO vehicles come in. The specially designed USO RVs look like something ripped out of a rock star’s contract, decked out with a 60-inch exterior TV, Wi-Fi, XBox One gaming stations, and a variety of amenities to bring a taste of home to service members far from the nearest base. It may not have the versatility of a JLTV or the endurance of the M1 Abrams, but it’ll still bring a tear to exhausted troops’ eyes when it appears on the horizon.
2. Resupply with a USO2GO kit.
Even when a physical location isn’t nearby, the USO can deliver the comforts of home to troops serving in remote locations. USO2GO customizable kits come with a cornucopia of goodies, from essentials like toiletries, furniture and snacks to musical instruments and video-game consoles. The USO has sent some 1,500 care packages to more than 800 remote areas — yes, including Iraq and Afghanistan — to bring some of the bare necessities of comfortable living to even the most inhospitable corners of the globe. And yes, they come with extra Tabasco for your MREs.
3. Navigate freely with the new USO mobile app.
Part guidebook, part map, the USO’s brand new mobile app makes it easy for service members and their families to locate the nearest USO facility or program, no matter where they are. Even better, the app provides detailed information about the amenities awaiting service members when they show up and gives them an “express lane” for fast check-in. If the USO is a home away from home for American service members, then consider the organization’s mobile app your passport, but without getting held up at customs and frisked by the TSA.
4. Get a helping hand during transition.
While troops tend to think of the USO as a familiar face abroad during their service, you don’t have to leave the organization behind when you transition. The USO Pathfinder transition program offers a broad range of useful services to active-duty service members and recently separated veterans planning for the future. Pathfinder not only provides one-on-one assistance — both physical and virtual — with expert employment scouts at 13 sites around the United States, but also helps build strategic connections with some of the best employers in both the private and public sectors. Finally, no more struggling through bizarre interviews and byzantine paperwork — or, at least, you don’t have to do it alone.
5. A friend of the family.
The USO isn’t just a safe haven for service members and their dependents. It’s also a support system for military spouses and families across the world. Like a camouflaged Santa, the USO can and will swoop in with a helping hand in the form of baby showers, reading programs for military kids, and even couples counseling for those families facing particular challenges during a deployment.