USO Camp Walker Delivers Mission Essential Programs in Daegu, South Korea

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USO Camp Walker delivers "Frito Pie" at the housing towers

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Supplies are collected for soldiers working in the quarantine area

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The USO delivers snacks to medical staff conducting medical checks at the gates

Daegu, South Korea. (March 24, 2020) Daegu, a city in South Korea roughly the size of Chicago, was the first epicenter outside of China where the virus erupted. The Health Protection Conditions, State Department Travel Advisory levels, and infection counts changed daily. Daegu, was designated a “Do Not Travel” location by the Department of State. The response of US Forces Korea and the South Korean government was immediate, and the Installation Commander quickly implemented HPCON Charlie, severely limiting activity on the base. All schools, recreational activities, and non-essential services were suspended at Camp Walker…except for the USO.

Luis Freyre, the Center Manager for USO Walker, is a 30 year Army veteran. Luis brought his vast operational experience to USO Walker and His innovative approach to programming and engagement with military leadership immediately increased the reach and impact of the center, doubling the TSI from the previous year.. Luis similarly emphasized the importance of outreach, wherein USO Walker staff and volunteers bring programs and offerings to service members in remote locations, to include the sustainment troops at Camp Carroll, Airmen at K-2 Airbase, air defenders at the THAAD Site, Marines at Camp Mujuk, and Sailors at Chinhae and Busan Naval Bases.

Based on these achievements, Camp Walker’s Installation Commander knew the positive impact of USO Walker and called upon Luis and his team to provide USO Support to Camp Walker as the dynamic Coronavirus pandemic emerged. Luis responded, “we can support,” and immediately began to deliver innovative programs under strict parameters established by the US Government, the South Korean Government, the CDC, US Forces Korea, and Installation.

Doug Boltuc, USO Korea Area Director, said the Team at USO Walker has been successful in their outreach programming because Luis maintains regular contact with instillation leadership. They moved their programs outside, capped the event attendance, and went to the housing areas. One of the best received programs was the “Frito Pie” delivery at the housing towers. “If our regulars can’t come to the center, we will go to them.” Freyre said. He is excited for his next Coffee Connection. The plan is to hold it outside at a park in order to maintaining proper social distancing. It will limit possible virus exposure and get military spouses outside of their homes. Additionally, Luis and the Team coordinated with the installation safety office to ensure that USO was delivering this programs within the established parameters and guidance regarding the COVID-19 outbreak.

Luis could not do any outreach without the help of two volunteers. Eddie Major and Megan Lucas. Megan helps Freyre at the outreach locations, and Eddie walks 2.5 miles from his off base home each day to volunteer at the Center. Major knows the staff at the center and how to operate in a restrictive customer facing environment. He doesn’t have any reservations about volunteering at the center.

USO Walker as an integral part of the installation team has contributed to limiting the spread of the virus on Camp Walker while ensuring individual and family routines are as “normal” as possible. When asked what made USO Korea and USO Camp Walker successful despite the challenging environment, Boltuc offered the following:

We dialogue with the military instillation leadership. What works on bases in Korea may not work on other Installations. We asked what the leaders need, and applied those requests to develop innovative programs. From this dialogue comes ideas and opportunities to make a positive difference in the lives of our service members and their families—precisely what the USO is all about. Secondly, we looked after our volunteers. The active duty service members are going to be busier and the spouses are staying home. We have come to depend on our staff and volunteers who are still able to work in the center. We need to make sure they stay healthy and know how important they are to our operations.

USO Korea and USO Camp Walker have been a great resource to their teammates in the Pacific. As we look for ways to make a difference in our region, we hope to learn more from other centers and regions throughout the USO. To learn more about the programs at all USO Korea locations, visit their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/uso.korea/

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