BY MAUREEN N. MARATITA
Journal Staff

The USO in Tumon opened Feb. 4 at the Plaza Shopping Center. Shown at the facility are (From left) Amanda Grozdova, manager of the USO Tumon Bay Center, Leigh Leilani Graham, area director of the USO Guam, and Jadine Lujan, area operations manager for the USO Guam.
Photo courtesy of the USO Guam

The Guam United Services Organization will soon become as familiar in other islands as it is in Guam.

Leigh Leilani Graham, area director of the USO Guam, said, “At the beginning of 2022 our official Area of Responsibility for the USO Guam expanded to include Saipan and Tinian and Palau.

The plan, she said is “to support Joint Region Marianas in whatever activities service members will be undertaking in those areas. While that may not mean USO centers at this time, we definitely know that exercises and training are taking place in those areas.”

The Guam USO is providing services that military personnel may need while deployed in the region through its outreach program, Graham said.

There are rotational activities on a regular basis for a small contingent in Palau and there are regular rotations happening on Tinian, she said.

“Regular training exercises will most likely take place out to Saipan and there is ongoing construction taking place in Tinian as well,” she said.

The group in Palau is the Civic Action Team Palau, which is headquartered at Camp Katuu in Airai and offers apprenticeships as well as undertaking community projects. 

“We have outreach visits planned at least twice a year to Palau, Saipan and Tinian to talk about the different ways we can support our military coming there, but any of their local residents that serve in the military might make those connections as well.”

The intent is to develop relationships, Graham said. “We get a lot of folks that enlist in the U.S. military and come through here; they come to Guam and go on to the U.S. — and they come to the Guam USO.”

Additionally, she said, “We can educate them about our 280 centers worldwide to support them as they embark on their military career.”

Graham said if family members want to talk to the USO, “We’ll be glad to meet with them and let them know when we’re coming.”

The first visits are planned before July, she said.

“For our military who are currently serving there – for any units who are planning to be there for 30 days or more — you can request what’s called a USO ‘to go’ package.”

Packages contain a variety of snack and hygiene products as well as games and more.

“We try and keep an eye on where our military is headed, so we’re ahead of the game …, she said. As an example, last Thanksgiving and Christmas we airlifted Thanksgiving Turkey and Christmas Turkey and all the fixings from Saipan to Tinian for the service members that were out there for those holidays and we planned in advance.”

Herman’s Modern Bakery supplied the holiday meals, at the recommendation of USO Council members.

The USO Tumon Guam re-opened on Feb. 4. “As much as we want our tourism markets to return and hope that we do return to that healthy market — we’re very blessed to have this military market. There’s an economic benefit to all of this,” she said.

Likewise, the Guam USO centers reflect the island’s culture. “You’ll see in our USOs that we’re very proud of the cultural heritage of Guam. … Sharing the beauty of Guam’s culture with the military that come here is an important part of what we do,” Graham said.

The USO receives support in Guam in cash and in-kind, from Pacific-wide sponsors to local businesses. (See “Corporate Giving”) mbj