FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Aug. 24, 2021) -- USO Experience concluded a three-day festival of fun activities and entertainment Aug. 22, at RiverSport in Oklahoma City.
The event included a military village that opened each day with the Black Daggers Parachute Demonstration Team from Army Special Operations Command delivering the American and POW/MIA flags. The village offered static displays of weapons systems from the Fires Center of Excellence at Fort Sill as well as those of other military services along with information booths from veterans’ organizations.
Service members and their families enjoyed whitewater rafting, surfing, zip lining, and other events along with evening concerts at nearby Scissortail Park.
Jennifer Kirby, USO Oklahoma executive director, came up with the plan, and with assistance from USO Central Region personnel, furthered the USO’s efforts to support military members and their families.
“The USO Experience provided the public with a touch point to our military that they might not normally have through the concerts and military village,” said Kirby, who intends for the event to be held annually. “For service members and their families, it was just a great weekend of fun provided by the USO.”
Staff Sgt. Zeke Sandoval and Sgt. Brandi Broadus, Air Defense Artillery instructors with 2nd Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery, introduced visitors to the Avenger Weapons System parked in the military village. Sandoval, a native of Tucumcari, New Mexico, said he spoke to many veterans about their experiences as well as updated them about upgrades to ADA systems in recent years. He said adjacent Patriot and High Mobility Artillery Rocket systems displays were drawing more attention, but he was still able to talk about ADA opportunities with several people.
Broadus, who calls Charleston, South Carolina, home, could interest people with a more direct value of military service. With just five years of enlisted service, Broadus will sew on staff sergeant Sept. 1.
Recruiters from all service branches were also on hand to inform people of military service opportunities.
Staff Sgt. James Kuss from Fort Knox, Kentucky, lives life on the road as an Army recruiter. The former 88M Motor Transport Operator found the perfect second MOS as a recruiter where he drives the Army’s Mobile Exhibit semitractor-trailer from one event to the next. Filled with video games and interactive devices, the recruitment tool seeks to catch the interest of today’s computer savvy youth.
“I’m on the road all year traveling around the country; It’s a great job,” said the father of four.
He said family quality time often occurs when he will be passing close to home. A call to his wife alerts her of his next destination so she can pack up the family and book a motel room to catch up with her husband.
Staff Sgt. Charles Campbell works local recruiting for the Oklahoma City East Company. He acknowledged the event was less about recruiting and more about showing support for the veteran community in and around Oklahoma City. Still, recruiters did get a few leads and benefited from Kuss’ high-tech attractor.
“We had a lot of younger folks go through there, and it was great to see that because it helps up spark that interest,” he said. “Any time we can engage with younger folks it’s something we appreciate and really enjoy doing.”
But this was a USO event, which was about giving back to service members, and one way that was accomplished was through filling and boxing care packages that will be sent overseas to U.S. service members. Kristen Baxter, USO Operations and Programs vice president, oversaw volunteers and various dignitaries who assembled 2,000 care packages. She said the USO has an online program where service members can request care packages.