USO Team rolls into Sioux Falls
By Staff Sgt. Trisha Smeenk, 114 Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 26, 2012
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- As the heat index soared above 100 degrees at Joe Foss Field July 21 and 22, members of the South Dakota Air National Guard worked tirelessly to host over 100,000 people during Sioux Falls Airshow 2012.
Military members were working hard to ensure the show went off without a hitch and they had someone on their team working hard to support them and their families as well.
For the first time ever, the South Dakota Air National Guard was supported by a mobile United Service Organization, or as its better known, USO. Most people think of the USO as a stationary support center, but there are a few women out to change that thinking. Leigh Edmonds is the mobile USO Program Manager.
"We can go anywhere there isn't a real USO," explains Edmonds. She says the USO is no longer restricted to only providing support in the previous USO locations. "Now that it is mobile we're unlimited to the support we can provide" she said.
Working in a two person team, Edmonds works with Eva Gonzalez, mobile canteen and volunteer coordinator. After a blown tire and several hours of delay, the mobile unit arrived in South Dakota July 20 all the way from Texas.
There are only three mobile USO's in the country. This unit offers military members the same type of support as a stationary center. As the truck sits peacefully on the side of the flight line, it stands out amongst the other vehicles due to its green and tan camouflage paint. It resembles a giant recreational vehicle with slide-outs and an awning. An oversized USO symbol is painted in bright red, white, and blue on the side of the unit sprawling from the roof to the tires.
The inside has three compartments: a lounge, internet and gaming area, and canteen in the rear. There are two 46-inch televisions mounted on the exterior of the vehicles for outside entertainment.
It takes special people to drive a huge mobile USO center all over the country. When they pull into town and arrive at a location, their work is far from done.
"We set up the mobile unit and usually are up at 4:30 in the morning doing breakfast," says Edmonds. "I love my job. We travel all over the country."
She has worked with the program since 2006 and is the only one left of the original six people hired to undertake the mobile unit project. Edmonds is the adventurous type. She will stay in South Dakota after her partner Gonzalez takes the mobile unit back to their base station in Virginia. She is renting a car to tour the state for a few days.
"It is our mission to lift the spirits of the United States troops and their families," said Edmonds. The USO does this through special programs, targeted services, and entertainment tours in more than 140 USO centers around the world.
The mobile USO saw a lot of traffic during each day of the Airshow. On the hot days the air conditioned unit was an oasis. It was much appreciated by South Dakota Air National Guard members Staff Sgt. Alon Sorenson and Tech. Sgt. Kyle Sorenson, both from the 114th Logistics Readiness Squadron.
"It was a nice place to sit down, rest and grab a quick drink," said Staff Sgt. Sorenson. The two enjoyed a cool place to take a break at the Airshow during their family day.
The goal of this mobile USO was reached in Sioux Falls. They were able to show support to the troops and their families on a couple of days that saw many working long hours in the hot sun. The unit will leave South Dakota to return home on July 23.