USO of North Carolina

25 Jan 2019

The local support arm for Fort Bragg and those families living in Moore County, it provides more tools and programs for the military life than ever imagined


USO of North Carolina Fort Bragg NC

The young military family was winding their way through airport security, volumes of baby gear in hand.

Naturally, their water bottles were confiscated, something the new parents hadn't quite thought through. Their four-month-old infant needed formula, and clean water was necessary to make it.

"I was at our Fayetteville Regional Airport center when they came through," recalls Renee Lane, the Sandhills area director for USO of NC. "Since you can't bring bottled water through security, we got them what they needed, water for making formula for their long trip to California."

If they had needed an extra diaper or two, the USO of NC had those too. But say "USO" and what usually comes to mind? Diapers? Probably not.

If you're older, perhaps you think of Bob Hope, or even Al Jolson. A little younger, and perhaps Bette Midler and James Caan in the 1991 film, For the Boys ― Hollywood celebrities on the move, entertaining the troops abroad.

"That is exactly what people think," says Lane. "Entertainment. They think Bob Hope and Vietnam and shows when you mention USO. But entertainment is such a small part of what we do."

Instead, she says, think comfort―daily or weekly or as needed. Think support, simple or detailed. Think tools and classes and programs for families coping with military life. The USO - United Service Organizations, Inc - is a connection to that which gives meaning to one's service: family, home, community, country.

Here in the Sandhills, that USO support shows up as three fixed centers: a travel comfort area at Fayetteville Regional Airport, and two centers on Ft. Bragg, in the Soldier Support Center and in the Warrior Transition Battalion Complex. "We serve Ft. Bragg and Pope Army Airfield, and the eleven surrounding counties, along with guard and reserve units from those counties," says Lane. "We can meet, greet and serve over 10,000 service members and families in a given month."

At its most basic, the support at area USO centers ranges from "a warm smile and a hello, to making our centers feel like home, a place where someone can come in and get coffee and a bite to eat, play a game, get a book, scan a document, make a phone call. Their children can watch a movie or play with toys on site, take a book home," says Lane. "We offer places to go and kick back" ― and score that emergency diaper, if needed.

The Fayetteville Regional Airport center, for example, is open seven days a week and sees over 3,000 visitors there a month. 

Bridget Williams of Aberdeen uses the USO every time she flies. Growing up, Williams always volunteered at the USO, as her grandfather was a career Navy officer. "My mom made sure we wrote cards, made goodies and greeted our military in the airport during the holidays." Today the shoe is on the other foot. With her husband active military and now stationed at Ft. Bragg, Williams has sought USO Centers when traveling to Georgia or Kansas to visit family during deployments. "I cherish my quiet space in the USO. A friendly face greeting me, food to enjoy and a comfy chair until my next flight," she says. "Meeting others who were doing the same, bonding over our "normal" way of life... Attending USO tours of different artists, resting in airports and receiving a warm meal over a holiday are all things I am extremely grateful for."

On another level, support might look like the large computer center on Ft. Bragg, used by 4,000 military members a month. "Everything is here to do what they need done," says Lane of the center, housed in a nine-story, former hospital. "If a service member needs a document printed or scanned, they can. If they don't have a computer, they can complete a class online there. We have a phone where a service member can call anywhere in the 50 states at no charge, because believe it or not, not everyone has a cell phone."

At its most complex and organized, USO of NC offers an assortment of resiliency programs throughout NC. Such programs might deal directly with military personnel, helping them improve relationships with work peers, subordinates and families, or might help them move and/or transition back into and succeed at civilian life―at no cost, due to generosity of donors.

There might be programs for spouses and families: classes on managing finances, say, or improving the marriage bond in the face of long deployments and other military challenges.  Support for parents might look like a holiday surprise: Partnering with a local agency, the Sandhills area centers gave 15 struggling military families an abundant Christmas with donations of $100 in gift certificates and new bikes (and helmets) for parents to gift to their children on Christmas morning, as well as a big bag of pantry supplies.

Support for the children of military members might look something like last summer's new STEAM program - Science, Tech, Engineering, Arts and Math - where for a week, middle-school kids built working robots. "It was a great learning experience," says Lane. "That age is too young to work and too old to go to some of the camps that are out there."

At its most intense are the Reset programs, designed to support many aspects of military families. The Warrior Reset Program, for example, is a detailed, integrative workshop for military personnel. "Spouses are allowed for parts, but a lot of it is one-on-one for service members, helping them handle stress, interact with peers and subordinates, improve family relationships," says Lane. "We have a similar program for spouses, and also a program for families."

Of a recent Spouse Reset program, one partner wrote: "Being a military spouse can be very isolating, especially when your significant other is deployed. It’s hard to relate to my daily struggles and concerns with lifelong friends who aren’t military spouses. Not only did the reset provide me with helpful tips to bring a little peace to our hectic lifestyle, but the program also provided me with a network of acquaintances who could directly relate to the triumphs and struggles associated with being an active duty military family."

Rich and useful programming and comfort costs lots of money, which is raised through donations.  Lane's parent organization, the USO of NC, is a charter of USO, Inc. But, she stresses, USO of NC operates independently in the raising of funds. "That's quite a big difference, because there is no sharing of funds," she says.  "We're a self-sustaining, non-profit operating in the state of NC, serving almost 600,000 service members and families here in NC."

USO of NC must raise all necessary finances from the community at large, to offer support programs to what is arguably "the largest military installation in the country, and possibly the world, based on the numbers of servicemen and families here," says Lane. "The interesting thing about us is that NC is home to the longest serving and continuously operating USO in the world, the center in Jacksonville, NC, since 1941."

 About 150 volunteers dispense comfort and joy, although the USO of NC "is always looking for more volunteers," says Lane. "It takes a lot of donations and resources to cover the ground we do. Financial resources are key to this support.  We are always open to donations. Volunteers make it run, financial resources make it happen."

Her special vision for the Sandhills? "I would love to have a team of volunteers and supporters in Moore County who would enjoy hosting events and fundraisers there. We'd love for people to step up," says Lane. "That's my dream for Moore County.

"The USO should be applauded year-round for what they provide for our military and their families," says Williams. "The military disperses us all over the U.S. and even the world, and the USO provides a home base, a station to recharge and refuel as we travel to be with our loved ones."

Those wishing to contribute in some way to USO of NC should contact Renee Lane at or phone 910-495-1437, or online at You can specify Ft. Bragg, if you wish, or make a general donation.

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