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Marines from 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, from Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, relax in the Palm Springs, Calif., United Service Organizations Tuesday at the Palm Springs International Airport. The USO is involved in many programs aboard the installation, to include Wounded Warriors.

Photo by Lance Cpl. M. C. Nerl

A home away from home

11 Feb 2010 | Lance Cpl. M. C. Nerl

The United Service Organization’s office in Palm Springs, Calif., is reaching out to the Marines and sailors of the Combat Center to accomplish their mission of improving morale and welfare by partnering with other organizations to sponsor multiple events aboard the installation this year.

The USO is contributing through their presence at events aboard the installation, proving it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog, said James K. Dowler, the USO’s hospitality liaison, and a native of Athens, Ohio.

“When we support the programs on base, we’d be there to show hospitality and provide in-time services,” Dowler said. “We’re not the kind of organization that writes a lot of checks. Money can be contributed through us, but for these events we take our few volunteers we have and lend a hand and make our presence known on the base.”

Richard Stelk, one of Dowler’s peers in the USO, said the organization is becoming even more involved with the installation to increase understanding of their cause and what they bring to the table as an organization.

“Our outreach to the base is meant to promote awareness of what we offer to the Marines and sailors,” said the Bayard, Neb., native. “We just want to make sure everyone on base knows who we are and where we are so we can help them, that’s what we volunteered for.”

Stelk elaborated on just how deeply the USO is going to be involved on the base.

“The USO has its fingers in a lot of pies in the community over there,” he said, referring to the Combat Center. “We just did an event with the Twentynine Palms Wounded Warriors and we’re planning one every quarter from now on.

“The USO enjoys playing a role in what’s going on on base,” he said. “Our volunteers will go out of their way to help the service members out.”

Stelk and Dowler, both former service members, said they know from first-hand experience how much of an impact the organization makes.

“It’s very rewarding to be able to give back to those who serve,” Stelk said. “We both did time in the military, and reaching out and helping service members is what we’re all about at the USO.”

Families are also welcome to enjoy the hospitality offered at the USO, said Stelk.

“Dependants can come in at any time when we are open,” he said. “All they need is their [identification] card. It’s a common misconception that you need the active duty military person there, but all dependants need is their identification.”

Sgt. Xavier Alvarez, a field radio operator with Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, from Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, testified to how much the USO helps out when traveling in the air.

“I’ve stayed at plenty of these places before,” said the Albuquerque, N.M., native. “Its always good to know that you have a place to crash when you’re on the road.”

According to the USO’s website, it is conveniently located facility (adjacent to the baggage claim) features all the amenities and comfort of a modern commercial airline lounge.

The hours of operation for the Palm Springs USO are 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. every day, and the staff allows people to stay overnight as well, for more information call 866-1100, or visit

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms