USO Opens New Center in the Heart of Poland’s Premier Training Area

On a sunny Thursday April 20th, USO staff, volunteers and Polish and U.S. Army leaders gathered to cut the ribbon on a new USO center in Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area, Poland.

Dubbed the “USO that Soldiers built,” this new Eastern European Center opened its doors with a lot of help and teamwork from our USO service member volunteers.

In her address during the ribbon cutting ceremony, Lisa Nichting, Center Manager, said “The day I arrived at DPTA, we had a ping pong table and a few sofas. The boss said ‘Lisa you need to install wifi and have walls built.’ I’m thinking ‘I don’t know anything about those things,’ but I found someone who did.”

As she developed connections with service members in the local community, Lisa was introduced to various tradesmen who knew how to work on and complete the tasks she needed done. She said “so when I say this is the USO the troops built—this really is the USO that the Soldiers built. They built the walls. They built the furniture. They stained the walls and then painted them…”

Center Manager, Lisa Nichting, pulls her ‘welcome wagon’ full of chips for hungry service members. | Photo credit Brittany Laursen

“My team tries to make it very homey inside,” said Lisa. “We provide cookies and board games and lots and lots of love hoping that this USO that our troops built will fill the void until they can return home to their loved ones.”


DPTA staff and volunteers made sure service members celebrated in a big way with deep fried Oreos, music, and over 300 hamburgers and hot dogs cooked fresh in EEV, the USO Mobile Vehicle. Buddy, a four-year-old golden retriever, also made an appearance—providing a morale boost and lots of love for service members in his USO bandana. By the end of the day, Buddy’s vest was covered in combat patches as service members approached to say hello and leave him a piece of flair.

Service members that attended the ribbon cutting or stopped by to have lunch, had nothing but positive things to say about having a staffed USO center available to them.

Sfc Wayne Shoemaker, one of the service member volunteers that was integral to the completion of the center, commented “This is my fourth deployment. I didn’t have a USO available during my first deployment. It’s always been nice to have—gives you a place to get away and forget about your day-to-day work. This is also my first time to volunteer during a deployment, helps make time go by. And as a senior NCO, I enjoy giving back to the Soldiers.”

Spc Mykenna JohnsonFenech, who also volunteers with the DPTA USO, said “My first deployment, I was also taking college courses. I would always go to the USO to use the internet. Eventually, I started to get a lot of fulfillment from volunteering and helping my soldiers. It’s definitely a morale booster.

Spc Mykenna JohnsonFenech prepares delicious fried Oreos for her fellow service members.

It’s an escape from the harsh reality of being away from your family and loved ones. I don’t know where we would be without the USO.

Drawsko Pomorskie becomes Poland’s second staffed center—its’ counterpart is in Powidz. A staffed USO center means there are USO employees and volunteers that plan events and programs, prepare food or snacks, and ensure service members have a place to relax and recharge.

“It is incredible to see the dedication our center teams and volunteers put forth into making these austere locations a home away from home” said Casey Pizzuto, USO Area Operations Manager for Eastern Europe, “As military operations continue to grow in Poland, team USO will remain the force behind the forces.”

USO staff that made the DPTA center possible through hard work and team effort.

Upon seeing the center and observing service members filter in and out, use the free wifi, grab a coffee and a snack; it’s easy to see they feel comfortable in this home away from home. The chairs are comfortable where service members can play a video game or watch a movie. Near the back of the center, there is a dart board on one wall and board games like Risk, Monopoly, and Clue stacked tall on the other. Service members can sit and chat, talk to loved ones, or just relax with a bottle of water.


U.S. Army and Polish Military leaders gather to cut the DPTA cake.

“Over the past year, the USO has been working hard to push all the way to the edge of NATO’s Eastern flank,” said Tom Blakely, Area Director Eastern Europe. “This new Center, and the ones that will follow, are positioned to directly support service members where we are needed most. USO Drawsko Pomorskie is located in the heart of Poland’s premier training area and the team is more than ready to bring that little bit of home to every service member who passes through here.”

USO centers across Eastern Europe deliver on the promise of support daily. Not only do USO employees and volunteers offer help and comfort in our centers, but also during expeditionary missions to support service members wherever they may be deployed.

Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Cistaro, USAG Poland, commented:

Anywhere the USO goes, is always a force multiplier. Everyone in the military knows what the USO does. They provide so much—I think it will be well-received from the troops here. We consider ourselves very lucky the USO has set up shop here to support Poland.

Drawings displayed in DPTA USO center reminds service members their work and effort is appreciated.

U.S. Army and Polish military leaders all gathered to show appreciation for the USO’s newest footprint. From the ribbon cutting to touring the center, leaders were full of gratitude for the USO’s unwavering support.

“The opening of a staffed USO center at DPTA is a huge win for the Soldiers and service members stationed there,” said Col Jorge Fonseca, Commander– US Army Garrison Poland. “As the USAG Poland commander, one of my top priorities is Quality of Life services and activities for our mission partners and having this beautiful center there will greatly enhance and contribute to the overall readiness of our forces. USO is a great partner and I look forward to the continued relationship.”

The USO’s ability to be flexible and adaptable is exemplified once again by the opening of a new center in DPTA. We are committed to boosting morale wherever it is needed most, as evidenced by our upcoming centers in Zagan, Romania and Bemowo Piskie Training Area. As military operations continue to expand throughout Eastern Europe, the USO remains dedicated to supporting our service members every step of the way.

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