JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash.— --
Since 1941, the United Service Organizations has kept military men and women connected to their families, homes and country no matter where they are, or under what conditions they serve.
The USO Northwest has been servicing the surrounding area since 1966 and continues to serve the men and women of Joint Base Lewis-McChord today.
The USO Northwest Shali Center, located near the McChord Field flightline, was remodeled and renamed in 2012 after the late Gen. John Shalikashvili, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Clinton and USO supporter.
Andrew Oczkewicz, director of operations for USO Northwest at JBLM, said the Shali Center and its volunteers do everything they can to support the service members of JBLM.
“Our staff and volunteers provide programs and services developed to meet the unique needs of today's military and their families,” said Oczkewicz. “We have about 120 volunteers on our staff and they are all here to help serve our service members, families and veterans.”
Oczkewicz said that most USOs provide the same services- a troop lounge, computer with internet access, games and meals- but the Shali Center is designed to support one specific mission.
"The Shali Center was designed to move massive deployments," said Oczkewicz. "We have made the commitment to serve military and their families and give back 100 percent to benefit units. Our record is 4,659 troops served in a 72-hour period. We are a troop-first USO.”
The Shali Center and its staff of volunteers stay busy throughout the year serving more than 48,000 troops annually.
"I think everybody should give back in some way,” said Wayne Jackson, USO Northwest Shali Center volunteer and retired Army staff sergeant. “The USO really benefits the troops here because they can get a free lunch and have a short break from work to socialize and eat.”
Oczkewicz believes that having the Shali Center located on base is a huge bonus for the troops because the USO is very accessible and close to the service members.
Senior Airman Ronald Shaw, 62nd Operation Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment technician, takes advantage of the services the USO provides and all it has to offer.
“Having the USO here on base is a blessing,” said Shaw. “Not only are the meals free, but it is a place where I can go for lunch and relax in a good atmosphere. I am forever thankful for all that the USO does for us [service members] and the support they give us for serving our country.”
For more information on the USO Northwest Shali Center, call 253-982-1100.
For more information about the USO or how you can donate, go to www.usonw.org.