By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice
Active-duty servicemembers, Reservists, Guard servicemembers and their families have access to one of the largest military support organizations, the United Service Organizations (USO). According to its website, this nonprofit has over 250 locations and uses over 30,000 volunteers.
Founded in 1941, the USO is dedicated to serving the military around the world. It is funded through individual donors, grants and corporate sponsors.
USO Airport Lounges Provide Comfort for Military Travelers
One of the biggest benefits for servicemembers is the USO lounges located at airports around the world. These lounges range in size and the services they offer, but they commonly provide servicemembers and their families with free drinks, food, and entertainment during layovers.
The goal of these lounges is to make traveling servicemembers and their families as comfortable as possible, so they are often located before or after the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint at airports. In addition to food and drinks, most lounges offer televisions, free Wi-Fi, video game systems and comfortable seats. Some airport lounges even have beds where traveling servicemembers can take a nap between flights. These beds are especially helpful for people who travel long, international routes and have long delays or layovers during their trip.
Some lounges are open 24/7, and some have daytime hours. Servicemembers and dependents can search the USO website to determine if the airport that they will visit has a USO airport lounge and its hours of operation.
Many of the airport lounges are located at airports with high numbers of servicemembers traveling through them for deployments or basic training. Servicemember dependents, such as spouses and children, can also use USO airport lounges by showing their current military ID. This ability to use these lounges is convenient for military spouses who travel with children and want a safe place to rest with family members between flights.
USO Locations Aside from Airports
While over 50 USO facilities are located at airports, many more USO facilities are available worldwide. In addition to the United States, USO centers are in Afghanistan, Djibouti, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Germany, Italy, Japan, Iraq and South Korea. These centers are popular with people of all ages. In 2019, these USO centers – which are commonly located on military bases – were visited 8.1 million times by military members and their families.
The centers offer special programs for military families that enable them to connect with loved ones, games for children, and other services.
In addition, the USO offers Mobile USO centers. USO staff takes trailers and other vehicles to large events and military exercises to provide servicemembers with the opportunity for relaxation during their downtime. Mobile USOs offer laptops, large televisions, video games, Wi-Fi access, refrigerators and movies.
The centers also host events for servicemembers to boost their morale. These events include concerts with celebrities and performances by comedians.
Overall, the USO offers useful services free of charge to servicemembers and their families and various scholarships to eligible servicemembers. Ideally, all servicemembers should explore the resources available to them and their families at a nearby USO center.