Fort McCoy News June 26, 2015

USO Wisconsin at Fort McCoy opens locations at FOBs

USO Wisconsin at Fort McCoy held a grand-opening ceremony June 20 at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Freedom.

The ceremony was held to commemorate USO Wisconsin at Fort McCoy's first established presence at the installation. In 2015, two new centers were opened at Fort McCoy — one at FOB Liberty and one at FOB Freedom.

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Garrison Commander Col. Steven W. Nott (right) provides remarks during the grand-opening ceremony June 20 for the USO of Wisconsin at Fort McCoy station at Forward Operating Base Freedom. Photo by Scott T. Sturkol

Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. Steven W. Nott and USO Wisconsin Board President Dan Toomey of Milwaukee spoke during the presentation. Festivities also included a picnic-style lunch.

Nott said getting the USO presence at the post has been a three-year odyssey.

"It was an engagement that involved the entire garrison command group, including two command sergeants major, two U.S. Army Reserve ambassadors, and the civilian aide to the secretary of the Army," Nott said. "They all engaged over time in order to bring the message that Fort McCoy is the only federal installation within the state of Wisconsin, and (USO) really needed to have a footprint here."

USO Wisconsin Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. It currently operates four centers in Wisconsin that serve more than 25,000 military Families throughout the state. The USO has had a continuous presence in Wisconsin since 1943 through the global parent company, USO Inc. The two centers not at Fort McCoy are located at General Mitchell International Airport and the Military Entrance Processing Station — both in Milwaukee.

USO Wisconsin Director of Operations Elizabeth Hazlett oversees all operations in Wisconsin, including the two on-post centers. She said she's happy they are up and running.

"It's essential for us to provide services for Soldiers in our state," Hazlett said. "The fact that from here we are able to not only provide support for our service members here, but also for service members from all over the country, is wonderful."

In the future, a main center for USO Wisconsin also will be located within the cantonment area.

"Right now, we are waiting for approval of a facility on the cantonment area," Hazlett said. "Once that is approved, we will look at the location and what we can best do with it. We'll also have to look at the troop traffic through Fort McCoy, what are the high times and the low times, and then try to staff it appropriately."

Lt. Col. Laura Howell, commander of the 718th Transportation Battalion of Columbus, Ohio, who served as mayor at FOB Freedom during the Combat Support Training Exercise, said the USO station had an immediate effect at the FOB.

"On this FOB right now, we have about 1,100 (service members) who are now being served," Howell said.

"That includes Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, a British contingent, and a Canadian contingent. We also had some German soldiers here, as well.

"I want to say how much the USO means to Soldiers," Howell said. "This is supposed to be simulating an austere environment, and it's not a simulation. For most of us, our cellphones don't work out here … and our Internet does not work out here. So if a Soldier is here for three weeks for their annual training, this is austere, and the only way some of them can get a connection to home is through the USO. We appreciate that so much, and we, the Soldiers who train here, appreciate the USO and what they do for us."

Nott said the USO presence adds to great services already offered on post.

"This is going to be a great partnership," he said. "Fort McCoy already has (the Directorate of) Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation services that are recognized by the Installation Management Command as being some of the best in the Army.

"Thank you USO for coming and providing quality services in an area that is most in need — especially in this training environment," Nott said.

Toomey added, "The USO Wisconsin, now that we are on Fort McCoy, it just going to get better. I thank you so much for inviting us up here."

For more information about USO Wisconsin operations at Fort McCoy, contact Hazlett by calling 608-388-2126 or by email at ehazlett@usowisconsin.org.

   (Article prepared by the Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office.)