FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Throughout the week, Sgt. Keven Smith, Warrior Transition Unit, is busy with his military schedule, which he said leaves little time to spend with his wife, Tabatha. When the opportunity came up to spend a day in North Carolina, enjoying a cruise on Lake Norman, visiting a racing garage and savoring free food and drinks, Smith and his wife didn't hesitate to sign up.

Smith was one of about 300 service members from the Carolinas, including Soldiers from Fort Jackson, who embarked on the trip to Cornelius, N.C. Saturday. The trip was sponsored by the United Service Organizations, or USO, and local volunteers who donated their services and time to create a memorable experience for the troops.

"I think it's great that they try to give a little bit back," Smith said about the volunteers. "These guys donate their time and didn't have to. That means a lot."

The Soldiers had a chance to tour Raceworld USA, the garage of NASCAR's Michael Waltrip Racing team before embarking on a cruise on the lake, which featured entertainment by local and national artists.

Sheila Waskow, vice president of operations with the USO North Carolina, said the event allows residents of the Charlotte area to express their support to the military.

"This area is not a (military) community," Waskow said. "This community and the USO of North Carolina want you guys to know how much we care about you. Even though you're not our neighbors, we're certainly your biggest fans."

Col. Kevin Shwedo, Fort Jackson's deputy commanding officer, said the trip is a good example of the relationship between the post and outside communities.

"We really appreciate the support of the greater Columbia and Carolina communities. They band together to provide opportunities for our Soldiers and family members to attend events they would not normally get to see," Shwedo said. "These activities significantly enhance the quality of life of each of our Soldiers, especially those that have recently redeployed or have been notified they will soon deploy. No other community has so much to offer."

For Smith, who recently redeployed from Afghanistan, the day was a success.
"My wife and I spending time together was worth it," he said.