Recently, I spoke to Doug Bradford, Center Director for the United Services Organization (USO) when we attended the Defending Freedom Memorial at Red Rock Canyon.Â Bradford is the Center Director of the United Service Organization Las Vegas Center at McCarran International Airport â€“ acclaimed to be among the finest facilities of its kind and is just one of 160 USO Centers world-wideâ€”including 10 in Afghanistan.
Doug invited me to the local USO, located conveniently near the A and B security gates, just above the Delta ticket counter at McCarran. I also met Vern Garman, one of approximately 170 volunteers who each work four-hour weekly shifts. Â With only two paid employees, the volunteers perform the vast majority of the day-to-day operations of the Center.
I was surprised at the range of amenities offered to the myriad of military travelers â€” including military spouses, and sometimes children.Â There are desktop and laptop computers, a comfortable television room, and a convenient arrival/departure schedule board; a place to store your gear, a well-stocked library, video games, free toiletries for those who may have forgotten to pack a razor, toothbrush or whatever; lots of snacks, soft drinks, coffee â€” even light prepackaged meals and a â€œspecial of the dayâ€.Â In the lounge area, newspaper racks features a variety of papers, including, I might add, the Nellis Bullseye, right along with the New York Times, and the Las Vegas Review Journal.
The Center, which opened in November 2010, will soon host its 50,0000th visitor.Â Approximately 2,800 â€œcustomersâ€ a month utilize the USO facility.
As McCarron expands, so will the USO, said Bradford. A satellite USO facility is planned for the new Terminal 3.Â It is predicted that without the new satellite facility, USO business would decrease by about 25 percent.
McCarran recently announced that its traffic volume increased by 2.7 percent in April 2012 â€“ the sixteenth straight monthly increase.Â Last year 41.5 million passengers passed through McCarran.Â With Terminal 3, the total capability is expected to reach 53 million passengers annually.
According to Bradford, approximately forty-five percent of the Centerâ€™s business comes from Nellis and Creech, especially during their major exercises.Â He noted that Allied military personnel are also welcome to use the Center.Â Many participants in joint exercises with Fort Irwin and Twenty-Nine Palms also patronize the Center.
The scope of the USO programs and sponsorships are amazing, including everything from â€œWelcome Homeâ€ celebrations like the return of Nellisâ€™ Red Horse Squadron, to care packages, Wounded Warriors programs, Outreach programs and services for families, the Red Cross, Operation Enduring Care, and of course, USO shows for the troops in the field.
My prior experience with the USO was limited to the â€œDonut Dollysâ€ and free phone calls home at Cam Rahn Bay (Southern Vietnam).Â We didnâ€™t qualify for â€œWelcome Homeâ€ celebrations in those days.Â The USO has come a long way since then.
Hats off to Doug Bradford and his staff of volunteers.Â Thanks for your efforts on behalf of our troops and their families.