Connection and Community
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- For more than 75 years the United Service Organizations has worked to support U.S. service members and their families throughout assignments, deployments and transition back to civilian life, while bringing them the comforts of home. Whether it’s USO airport centers located around the world providing directions and a place to rest or one of the trademark USO tours where celebrities travel to meet and entertain service members assigned overseas. With more than 160 centers located throughout countries on every continent, with the exception of Antarctica, one could ask ‘do we need another one?’
At Yokota Air Base the answer to that question is a resounding yes. For a brief period of time in the 1990’s the USO had a center located in the Air Mobility Command passenger terminal. It was determined that the location was not ideal in terms of accessibility for resident service members or their families, so it was closed in late 2003. With the headquarters for USO Japan at Yokusuka Naval Base, many of the programs, events and services were reduced to a quarterly basis because of the three-hour and sometimes longer drive between the two installations. Well now they’re back and better than ever.
“It’s so exciting to be here on Yokota knowing that here’s a population that has really been looking forward to having a USO,” said Juliet Bucayo-Domingo, USO Japan director. “The feedback that we’ve been receiving has been nothing but positive and we can’t wait to support the community.”
The USO has been in the process of establishing a permanent center for more than a year which will be located in the Yujo Community Center but the completion date for the facility’s renovation project has been pushed back to late 2017. Refusing to leave the base populous wanting for the better part of another year, the USO has opened a temporary facility in building 2080 next to the Yokota Community Center.
“This temporary location is kind of like us planting our flag and showing everyone that we are here to stay,” Bucayu-Domingo said. “We will be here, we want to be integrated as part of the base and we want to be the first place you think of when you think about connection and community.”
According to Bucayo-Domingo, despite constantly evolving to meet the needs of the military community, the heart of the USO mission remains the same; to provide service members and their families with a connection with their home, loved ones and the country they defend. The focus on connection is clearly shown through the services that will be immediately available at the temporary facility which include free Wi-Fi, free international phone calls and online gaming systems.
“The USO is here to provide a little bit of that comfort of home and help people stay connected with their family wherever they might be,” Bucayo-Domingo said. “We’re the one brand, the one place where people know they can stay connected with not just their families but the community as a whole.”
She also mentioned that Yokota’s USO would be looking for volunteers to help them support the base through family events, programs such as ‘Operation Birthday Cake’ and ‘United Through Reading’, or simple day-to-day operation of the center. With a worldwide volunteer force of over 30 thousand, in comparison to the approximately 500 paid staff members, it’s clear that volunteers form the backbone of the organization and the USO wouldn’t be able to complete their mission without them.
“It’s a good way to give back to our service members and show our appreciation to them,” Bucayo-Domingo said. “And for those service members who are looking to be engaged in the community, they can spend some time in a positive atmosphere while building up volunteer hours and forming connections with our cadre of volunteers at the USO.”
So take some time to stop by USO Yokota, embrace the friendly atmosphere of home and get connected.