To some, the slogan “Until everyone comes home” may seem a little cliche, but to members of the Ramstein Terminal United Service Organizations, they are truly words to live by.
The Ramstein Terminal USO is the busiest of its kind in the world, but this does not stop the staff from offering round-the-clock care of servicemembers and their families.
The mission of the USO is to provide morale, welfare and recreation services to servicemembers and their families while in transit, during changes of station, temporary duty, deployment or vacation.
While the mission of the terminal USO represents a bundle of things to take care of the troops, the most prominent aspect is the servicemembers who are going to and from the area of operation.
“Our primary emphasis is the transiting troops – the ones going to and from downrange to the Baltimore Washington International Airport,” said James Christian, Ramstein Terminal USO manager.
Approximately two flights from Baltimore come in daily, and this is the time when the USO shines.
“Each flight averages 250 troops per rotator,” Mr. Christian said. “They stay in the terminal for about two hours. We get the chance to offer a little taste of home if you will.”
With many amenities at the terminal, the USO is top of the line for many passing through.
“We have a 26-seat theatre, AFN and local German television stations, internet cafe and computers with printer capabilities,” Mr. Christian said.
The biggest thing to remember about the USO is that it is a completely non-profit organization.
“Everything we do is by donations or gift sales,” he said.
Many of the servicemembers are young men and women on their way to war, and they don’t know what to think, but the USO is there to comfort them before their long journey.
“Some have the deer in the headlight look,” Mr. Christian said. “Basically, it is their first time away from home, and they are in a foreign country going to a war. To be able to give them a phone card to call back home just warms your heart.”
The main component of the USO is the volunteers, and they are what adds the taste of home for the troops.
“The USO is all about support and giving good service to the troops – this terminal especially,” Mr. Christian said. “We have a long list of volunteers who are very supportive. They provide cookies, conversations, coffee and cleanup once the troop leaves.”
While the USO is completely voluntary, some might wonder why they commit so much of their time.
“The best part is the people contact,” said Laura Oxendine, the Ramstein Terminal USO assistant manager. “It is good for the troops passing through to see smiling faces, and every worker at this USO offers nothing but happy faces for people passing through the terminal.”
Not only do the volunteers offer their time, but many bring in other items, such as baked goods.
Ms. Oxendine, best known for her colossal cookies, said she can remember her most memorable moment while working at the USO.
“When the troops pass through, I always give them the cookies I have baked,” she said. “When the same troops came back through after their deployment, they remembered me and asked for some more cookies. It is such a great feeling knowing you helped someone, and it is something just as easy as cookies.”
While many military members and their families just pass through for a couple of hours, some of the unlucky end up getting delayed, and that is where the USO comes in handy.
“The USO is very nice here,” said Capt. Brandon Pablo, 352nd Special Operation Group navigator, Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England. “The staff has been extremely friendly and nice. I have been stuck at the airport all day, but it has been made bearable because of the workers here.
“If you are going to get stuck, it is nice to know you have some place to turn to get some rest and, of course, wireless Internet,” added Captain Pablo, who was on his way to a six month deployment.
The USO has more than 30,000 customers who pass through its doors, but this does not stop the staff from offering the best quality service for the troops and giving them the chance at a little glimpse of home.