JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq -- The United Service Organization, which has been supporting service members since 1941, first opened in Iraq at Joint Base Balad, Feb. 7, 2008.
The USO at JBB, which is now one of the last USOs in Iraq, is scheduled to close, Sept. 15, as JBB prepares to transition to the Iraqi government.
"Our job was to meet the morale needs of everyone here," said Betty Stone, USO center manager. "When people come here, there is no rank, it is a relaxing atmosphere where everyone feels at home."
Some of the many things the USO offered at JBB were wireless Internet, Internet-ready computers, phones, video games and movies, couches, free toiletries and more.
The USO also hosted different activities like making survival bracelets out of parachute cord, a music room with guitars and keyboards, and the United Through Reading Program.
"The United Through Reading Program was a great way for parents to connect with their children and it took little effort on their part," said Stone, who is originally from Birmingham, Ala. "We provided the books and discs and we mailed it home for them."
The USO at JBB was also able to expand the United Through Reading Program to surrounding bases.
Additionally, the USO hosted various holiday parties and a contest that involved making rafts out of water bottles and parachute cord.
"I really enjoyed the companionship here," said Stone, who has been at JBB since May of 2010. "I have been able to take all the boys and girls under my wing, since many of them are young enough to be my children, and they helped so much around here."
"You don't realize how much the service members do until you are here with them," she continued. "Leaving them makes me want to cry, but I know they will be fine."
The USO was a place where thousands of volunteer hours were accumulated by service members.
"I like volunteering here and helping people. It provides me something to do with my time," said Senior Airman Stephen Moore, 332nd Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron Logistics planner, who is deployed from Atlantic City Air National Guard Base, N.J.
Although the USO is closing, its legacy will continue, as most of the supplies, including furniture, TVs, video game consoles and games and books will be forward deployed to other bases in Southwest Asia.