The United Service Organizations (USO) has been serving military service members and their families for more than 75 years. In recent years, the USO has placed a stronger focus on military wellness to ensure active service members and their families can thrive in their day-to-day lives, while also coping with serious matters such as injuries and overseas deployment. The USO has opened wellness and fitness centers around the U.S. to support the physical, emotional, and mental health of its military service members.
What is the USO?
The USO’s mission is to strengthen America’s military service members by helping them stay connected to family, home, and country throughout their time in uniform. The USO operates more than 200 centers on or near military bases around the world, including in combat zones and dangerous sites occupied only by combat troops.
This congressionally chartered, private organization supports service members from the moment they enlist, through assignments and deployments, and during their transition back to their communities and everyday lives.
Services Provided by the USO
The USO is fondly remembered for hosting entertainment tours made famous by legendary performers such as Bob Hope, Marilyn Monroe, and the Andrews Sisters. Over the years, the USO has added several other services and programs to further support military service members and their families.
Some of the programs and services available from the USO include:
- Couples seminars
- Family connection events
- Military spouse networking events
- Bob Hope Legacy reading program
- Operation Phone Home®
- Entertainment tours
- Support for families of the fallen
- Housing for wounded troops
- Transition services
- Care packages
Why is Military Wellness Important?
Military service members have unique responsibilities and challenges and cope with several stressors that are vastly different than the civilian population. Deployment, combat, injuries, and time away from home and family can take a major toll on the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of military service members and their loved ones.
The need for the services provided by the USO is clear. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports that between 11% and 20% of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom suffer from PTSD. According to the journal Depression & Anxiety, nearly 5% of military spouses suffer from major depressive disorder.
Military wellness encompasses a wide range of factors, all of which play important roles in overall livelihood and well-being. Military wellness addresses fitness, relationships, stress, PTSD, mental illness, and resiliency, just to name a few.
Military service members who focus on holistic health – an approach to health that considers the whole person and the condition of mind, body, and spirit – can benefit from a greater quality of life during and after their time in uniform. Military wellness services provided by the USO help men and women in uniform achieve and maintain overall wellness, so they can stay healthy and balanced for years to come.
USO Wellness Centers Opening Across the US
In 2010, the USO spent nearly $50,000 to equip the Warrior Transition Unit gym in Fort Hood, Texas with adaptive exercise equipment designed to help soldiers recover from injuries. The fitness center also provides military troops with access to physical therapists who develop individualized exercise programs tailored to each soldier’s unique recovery needs.
In February 2016, the USO opened its first wellness center at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. The USO Alaska center offers traditional USO amenities including a 24/7 commercial-grade fitness facility, comfortable couches, video games, cable TV, Wi-Fi access, and snacks. The wellness center also has a multipurpose room with a big-screen TV that is used for USO programs and events, including meetings and training sessions. Airmen living in nearby dorms can walk a short distance to the facility to socialize and engage in fun activities, rather than retreat to their rooms during the dark, cold days that characterize Alaska for days on end.
In November 2016, the USO opened the state-of-the-art USO San Antonio wellness center on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston. The center is open to all branches and all ranks at Joint Base San Antonio and offers many of the same core services provided at other USO locations.
All USO Wellness Centers offer programs focused on exercise, movement, and stress relief. Additional centers include:
The USO’s focus on physical resiliency compliments military fitness goals and provides service members with a greater number of options and healthy outlets. The USO plans to open additional Wellness Centers around the world to continue its holistic support of the well-being of our military fighting forces and their families.