USO airport lounges: An oasis for military personnel

The USO began just prior to America's involvement in World War II when President Franklin D. Roosevelt and it is still supporting our Troops here and abroad

Volunteer leading arriving troops - Image courtesy USO.ORG

CHARLOTTE, N.C., August 14, 2017 –  Business travelers, frequent fliers, and even the occasional airline passenger are familiar with special lounges at airports that provide quiet, comfortable surroundings for travelers who have long lay-overs.

But did you know that many American airports have similar special services for military personnel that provides travel support, drinks, snacks, meals, newspapers, internet access, and telephones?

Most people in uniform are aware of such lounges in facilities near their base, but today, many airports that have no proximity to a military installation also offer such services.

These airport centers are operated by the United Services Organizations (USO) which is a private, non-profit group with a mission “to support the troops by providing morale, welfare, and recreation-type services to our men and women in uniform.”

In addition to the basic services, some, but not all, USO centers also have sleeping rooms, showers, and laundry facilities.

Troops who have time to sleep need not worry about missing their flights. Just request a staff member to wake you up, much like a wake-up call at a hotel, and they will make certain you are ready to make your connection. If by chance, someone does miss their flight, the service personnel will assist in making other arrangements.

Most staff members are volunteers, though there are some paid personnel at various centers. In fact, sometimes the staff will even escort service members to their gate and ask civilians to wish them a hero’s farewell along the way.

Over the years the number of USO centers has grown and a full list of the domestic airport facilities around the country can be found on the USO website. To gain access you need to be an active-duty service member.

Though they vary widely in accommodations and services, one common denominator is that they are all staffed by enthusiastic, caring people, many of whom are family members of troops already serving in foreign lands.

The USO has been the leading organization in the US serving the men and women in the military and their families for more than 75 years. The USO is not part of the federal government. It was chartered by congress as a private organization and, therefore, relies on contributions from individuals, organizations and corporate sponsors to support its activities.

The USO began just prior to America’s involvement in World War II when President Franklin D. Roosevelt sought support from several organizations to provide support for the military. Among those groups were the Salvation Army, the YMCA, YWCA, National Catholic Community Services, National Travelers Aid Association and the National Jewish Welfare Board.

Once united into a cohesive team, the organization became known as the USO.

Currently, there are about 160 centers which extend to countries on every continent except Antarctica.

Overseas military personnel should check at commercial airports during their travels to see if there are lounge facilities available. With the growth of the domestic USO centers, there have been additional lounges popping up at major airports throughout the world. It’s worth the time and effort to check because you may be surprised at the bonus of having a comfortable place to rest before embarking on the next leg of your journey.

Most service people are aware of domestic discounts at hotel properties in the United States, but there are also hundreds of hotels in Europe that also provide savings to the military.

Sometimes it can be a “crap shoot” when it comes to meeting a traveler’s standards though usually, the bargains are good ones. The best way a traveler can be guaranteed to get suitable accommodations is to spend a little time on the computer, and then call, or email, and ask.

With the proliferation of hotel discount websites, the savings may not be as great as they once were, but the system does exist for military personnel which means it might be worth a few extra minutes to find out.

The one common factor is that there will be a monetary savings one way or another.

Members of the armed forces should be aware that there are services out there that cater to their special needs, and that USO airport lounges can be a haven that is “far from the madding crowd.”

About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.

Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (

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