Five thousand soldiers from the Michigan National Guard and four other states have been at Camp Grayling since July 12, participating in artillery training. Now that the hard work is done, it's time to relax with the help of the United Services Organization.
The USO is going on 75 years of supporting our troops. The soldiers training at Camp Grayling are getting the same services that those overseas are tapping into.
â??It's great,â?? said First Lieutenant Joseph Locklair. â??It's always great to have the USO, someone supporting you unconditionally.â??
After two weeks of intense battle simulations, the soldiers have earned a little bit of rest and relaxation.
â??You get to take a break after working so hard,â?? said Brendan Dodd, PV2 Private in the 10th Mountain Division. â??It's definitely the hardest training I've done in my military career.â??
â??The mobile canteen is the big draw,â?? explained Courtney Anderson, the USO Mobile Program Manager. â??It has four Xbox stations, three large TVs, Wi-Fi, outdoor gaming, and they haven't put down the corn hole or footballs at all.â??
â??We had a football game going on the past two days, ultimate Frisbee. There is a soccer ball, we played kickball,â?? said Locklair. â??We're usually not allowed to do sports for physical training so this is kind of a break for us. It's pretty nice.â??
It's been a few years since the USO has made it to Camp Grayling.
â??It's huge because National Guard troops don't always see us. If they deploy or if they travel theyâ??ll see us and in the airport or a deployment center, otherwise they're very hard audience to reach,â?? said Anderson.
The USO takes soldiers back to its early days with a Broadway styled show.
One of the performers says her job is rewarding because she gets to interact with the troops on a different level.
â??We will try our hardest to make people smile and enjoy it,â?? said Larissa Klinger, USO show troop member. â??It's really cool to connect and hear people stories and hear why they're grateful we're there. You can really notice the impact that you're having.â??
Klinger has been part of the troop for five years.
â??This is so perfect. I can do what I love, but I can also give back and sort of honor my father and the service he gave to our country and carry the tradition of the USO providing entertainment,â?? Klinger added.
The USO does its best to honor the organization's history, taking soldiers back to the Bob Hope days, but they also take pride in providing for the troops in new ways as culture changes.
â??We always want to honor our history, but we want to show that we've come into the new age,â?? said Anderson.
The mobile canteen is on the road more than 220 days a year.
Anderson says they've already started talking about coming back next year.
â??This is a great chance to support them and show them they are being supported whether they're in civilian attire or in a uniform and not just when they're deployed,â?? said Anderson.