USO Opens 'Oasis' in Basra Desert
(July 2, 2009)
Army 1st Sgt. Larry J. Clatt, senior enlisted leader of 34th Red Bull Infantry Division Band, makes a morale call at the United Service Organizations area at Contingency Operating Base Basra, Iraq, June 24, 2009. The USO is cooperating with Morale, Welfare and Recreation to provide a place for soldiers to briefly escape the pressures of deployment operations.
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA, Iraq, June 26, 2009 – The
familiar refrain of “There's nothing to do around here after work” will
hopefully be a thing of the past here with the opening of a new center for rest
The local United Service Organizations office and the Morale, Welfare and
Recreation coordinator for 34th Red Bull Infantry Division are teaming up to
create an oasis in the middle of the Basra desert for servicemembers and
civilians to escape the pressure of operations.
Sarah McConnell, USO director here, said the center, housed in a former dining
hall, already has undergone a “soft opening,” meaning there are some services
“We have 13 Internet stations set up already, along with 18 phone lines for
people to call home,” McConnell said.
“Both services are free of charge to anyone who uses them.
“We wanted to get something started for the troops here right away,” she
continued. “We're not fully functional yet, but we got the computers and phones
set up so we could at least offer some services.” |
The USO center is designed from the same template as a similar facility that
opened recently at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, according to Army Col. Ronald
Albrecht, deputy chief of staff for the 34th Infantry Division.
The USO will share the space with MWR, Albrecht said.
The fitness center is under construction now and has a target opening of July 1,
said Army Sgt. 1st Class Deborah Allen, MWR and event coordinator for the 34th
In addition to cardiovascular machines already in place, the fitness center will
feature Nautilus equipment, free weights and ample space for aerobic training
and various self-defense classes, including Modern Army Combatives, she added.
“We will be putting padding on the floors and walls in one of the large rooms
for combatives training,” Allen said. “We will still have a large amount of
space on the other side of the room for additional fitness machines.” Albrecht
said the fitness center will be an important part of the division's emphasis on
“We wanted to create a clean environment for soldiers to work out,” Albrecht
said. “We'll have all new machines in place for them to train.”
Though the USO and MWR areas will be separated by a wall, extensive cooperation
between the two has marked a positive beginning for the cohabitants.
“Cooperation with [the USO] has been splendid,” Allen said. “I really look
forward to working with them in this building.”
McConnell added that she is appreciative of the help she has received from the
military in making the USO presence a possibility here.
“I am very grateful to the military leadership here for the generous space
allotted to the USO,” she said. “Thanks to them, their soldiers will have a
place to escape when they are able.”
Soldiers who are interested in volunteering with the USO may sign up at the
center, McConnell said.
“The USO thrives on volunteers,” she said. “They are the backbone of everything
Article and photo by Army Sgt. Frank Vaughn
Multinational Division South public affairs office
American Forces Press Service
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