FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHARANA, Afghanistan - The United Service Organizations center on Forward Operating Base Sharana held its closing ceremony, Sept. 11. Having provided a ‘home away from home’ for over 92,000 customers in 2012 and more than 50,000 in the short nine months it was open in 2013, the FOB Sharana USO will be missed.
“The USO on FOB Sharana was one of the biggest motivations for our Soldiers here during combat,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Ernest Warner, of 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment. “It gave them a taste of home with all the activities the USO provided.”
The USO could not have been possible without both the leadership of DJ Stanhope, the USO center manager on FOB Sharana, and the volunteers who gave their time and talents to serve their fellow Soldiers. For them, the closing of the USO is truly a bittersweet occasion.
“For my part it has been a wonderful privilege to serve this community, and in many ways this parting is bittersweet because I have come to view this place as home,” said Stanhope in her farewell speech. “My heart is at Sharana not because I am so selfless or so special, but because you are and you have welcomed me and made me feel as though I am a part of your family.”
The USO depends upon a symbiotic relationship with the FOB command team; the more they are supported, the more support they can give, in turn.
“From our president on down we are committed to serving our troops,” said Bruce Burda, USO Regional Vice President, Southwest Asia. “We are as committed to them as they are committed to us, and so we were able to stay almost to the final closure date.”
The relationship between 2-15 FA, who ran the FOB mayor cell in conjunction with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, and Stanhope, remained strong until the end.
“We were asked by the command to stay as long as possible,” said Stanhope. “Typically we would leave 90 days out, but we decided to stay to support the troops as long as we could.”
The Soldiers on FOB Sharana were glad to hear that the USO stayed. Being close to the time of FOB Sharana’s transfer to multiple units within the Afghan National Security Forces, life on the FOB is getting tougher.
During this time of hardship Stanhope opened ‘DJ’s Combat Kitchen,’ making use of all available food items donated to provide Soldiers a hot meal at least once a day.
“I go to the USO for a home away from home,” said Pfc. Xavier Clayton, of 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, “and to hang out with DJ.”
For Stanhope’s services to the soldiers on FOB Sharana, she received the Patriotic Civilian Service Award, which was presented to Stanhope during the closure ceremony.