USO EMEA Sets Sail: Providing Mobile Support for the USS Mount Whitney
Amidst the vast expanse of the sea, the USS Mt. Whitney stands tall, serving as the critical command ship of the U.S. Sixth Fleet. But life aboard this mighty vessel isn’t all smooth sailing— imagine being deployed for months on end, far from family and friends, with limited space and resources. This is where the USO comes in.
Our newest center promises to make a big difference for the over 300 sailors and civilian mariners who call the USS Mt. Whitney home. With the unveiling of a new unstaffed USO center, sailors on board this ship now have a dedicated space to unwind and recharge, complete with the latest gaming gear, plenty of snacks and a welcoming atmosphere.
When U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa Fleet Master Chief Johannes Gonzalez heard that the USO was aiming to provide more support to Navy ships, he immediately knew his sailors could benefit from the same. Through extensive planning and collaboration between the USO Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region’s leadership, the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet and Mount Whitney’s Triad, the USO center on the USS Mount Whitney became a reality.
“The USS Mount Whitey’s First-Class Petty Officer Association in collaboration with the Merchant Mariners also played a crucial role in the realization of the center,” said USO Area Operations Manager, Luisa Mazzella. “Over 120 hours were spent on the realization of this project, including the coordination of all logistics, pick up, and set up of furnishings and gaming equipment. The efforts of these groups were crucial to the success of this project.”
This innovative USO center is designed to uplift spirits among sailors deployed aboard the ship, providing a haven filled with comforting amenities. Although space is limited on the ship, the area is equipped with TVs, gaming chairs, latest-generation video games, and couches.
“[This center] provides a much-needed opportunity to unwind during those long deployments, let off steam, and form connections among each other,” said Luisa. “American snacks and board games are also included for all to enjoy. The selection of snacks includes popular treats such as candy, chips, and cookies, as well as healthier options like granola bars, which help provide a taste of home.”
On May 11th, USO and Navy leadership gathered on board the vessel to celebrate the grand opening. The USS Mt. Whitney Triad, USO Italy and Spain Area leadership, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa Executive Director, Ms. Juliet Beyler, and U.S Naval Forces Europe-Africa Fleet Master Chief Gonzalez were present to cut the ribbon along with the red, white and blue cake.
Often, we find obstacles that keep us from doing things that can have impact for our teams,” said Fleet Master Chief Gonzalez. “Each of you removed them and found ways to make this a reality and create a place for our teammates to enjoy a little bit of ‘home away from home inside of a warship!’
The joy and anticipation radiated from service members’ smiles as they tested out the new gaming consoles and comfy couches in the USO center. With its mobile presence, the facility promises to cultivate a sense of camaraderie and enhanced morale, serving as a vital source of support during long journeys.
IT1 Byron T. Robinson, First Class Petty Officer Associations, reflected: “I think that our new USO center will be a great morale booster not only in port, but underway as well. We give Sailors another means of spending off-duty time that promotes safe and cozy living, as well as more interaction between Sailors who otherwise don’t have a lot in common.”
“This is another exciting milestone in expanding our quality-of-life support for Naval operations throughout our region,” said Grant McCormick, USO EMEA Regional Vice President.
As we forge ahead in our mission to amplify our support for deployed service members, USO EMEA remains committed to providing a comfortable presence, sense of unity and home. With multiple mighty ships now carrying a USO presence, we are not just building a foundation; we are charting a course toward an extraordinary era of USO support at sea.
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