By Rebecca Hertz
Killeen Daily Herald
The Fort Hood USO received the Standards of Excellence Award, the highest award given to USO centers, on Friday at the USO facility at Fort Hood.
Col. Bill Hill, garrison commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Donald Felt were on hand for the presentation.
Hill commended USO Director Robin Crouse, referring to her as "Rockin Robin," for her hard work and devotion to the organization.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the USO as a congressional charter in 1941 at the onset of World War II to take care of the needs of the soldiers, Crouse said.
Today, USO centers are located throughout the world to provide recreation and support to the men and women who serve and protect our country, according to the USO Web site. The USO is a private nonprofit organization.
"When offering services, we focus the programs on our customers and they come in abundance," said Clyde Glosson, Fort Hood USO advisory council member.
In August, about 6,600 soldiers utilized the facility.
The cheerful, welcoming environment of the USO offers soldiers a wide variety of leisure activities ranging from arcade-style video games, separate lounges with Wii, Xbox 360 and big screen televisions. There is also a 24-seat theater with 500 available movies. In addition to 24 computer stations and wireless Internet access, the center provides fax and copying services. The facility is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on weekends and holidays from noon to 6 p.m.
"This is a home away from home provided by the generosity of the American people," Crouse said. "There is no charge for any of the services."
The snack bar, open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., is a popular stop for the soldiers. Soup, chili, light snacks and 10 varieties of soft drinks are available, but the weekday specials of burritos, corn dogs and nachos are especially popular. There will be a line down the stairs for nacho day on Friday, Crouse said.
The USO facility is only one part of the organization's commitment to our men and women in uniform.
United Through Reading is one of the programs provided by the USO. Prior to deployment, soldiers are videoed reading a book for their children. The DVD and book are given to a caregiver to be shared while the parent is away.
"In some cases that DVD is all the child has to remember that parent," programs manager Deanna Sump said.
The program for deploying flights sets up tables offering snacks, drinks and conversation to soldiers as they depart. Staff members and volunteers hand out phone cards and USO care packages. Often it is the last friendly face the soldiers see on the civilian side, Sump said.
The center hopes to expand and has been approved for a permanent facility at North Fort Hood for about 30 hours per week, Glosson said.
"We want to bring a taste of home to them," Crouse said.
In a second presentation, the USO received an award for its participation and support of Earth Day festivities presented by Christine Luciano, Fort Hood Directorate of Public Works-Environmental outreach coordinator.
Contact Rebecca Hertz at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7469.