LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Soldiers at Forward Operating Base Shank gathered on May 27 for the dedication of the first "USO in a Box," sponsored and erected by the United Service Organization.
The facility was dedicated to the Soldiers who serve, have served and to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Soldiers from the 710th Brigade Support Battalion, Task Force Spartan, hosted a formal ceremony for the grand opening. Guest speaker and special guest was Col. Marcus Cochran, personnel assistance officer in charge, Combined Joint Task Force - 101.
"The USO is a place where any Soldier can go and it feels like home," said Cochran. "It's a place that offers a break." The new USO facility is small and enclosed within a metal container, but it comes with all amenities included, making it an oasis for Soldier relaxation and fun.
The facility includes a large screen television, two phones for morale calls, two computers for personal e-mail access and three video game consoles.
"This facility is the first-ever to be established anywhere in the world," said Capt. Pena De Lucia, CJTF 101 personnel office, who also had a large role in planning the event. "The facilities were originally slated to make their debut in Iraq, but once President [Barack] Obama shifted our focus to Afghanistan, the facilities shifted to Afghanistan as well."
"We saw the need for a facility in this area," said Kevin Meade, vice president for USO facilities throughout Southwest Asia. "We did extensive research and this is where our research showed we should establish the first center."
Establishment of the first portable USO will soon be followed by several more. Two other units have already arrived at Bagram Air Field and await transport to destinations in Kunar and Paktya provinces.
"We plan to have 10 facilities set-up across Afghanistan, including this one," said Meade. "Ten facilities will be set-up here and 10 will be sent to Iraq."
The facilities are part of what Meade refers to as a "three-prong effect," which includes the portable USO facilities, Mobile Entertainment Gaming Systems or MEGS and "USO to Go."
"We will be donating gaming systems to Soldiers like PlayStation 3s and Guitar Hero," said Meade.
"USO to Go" is a program that focuses on sending Soldiers kits of pre-packaged goodies, such as clothing, board games, guitars and other musical instruments.
"What we want is to provide outreach to those Soldiers that are out on the more obscure FOBs," said Meade, "which is why we have made these portable USO facilities so durable, compact and easy to set-up."
After the ceremony, Soldiers were given the opportunity to tour the facility. Without a word, Soldiers settled down in front of the large TV, dialed-up their families or sat down to compete on the gaming systems. None had to be asked; they all knew what to do - come in, and put their minds at ease for a moment as they found "a little piece of home" in the middle of their dusty FOB.