“They can come in here, relax, kind of get away from the hustle and bustle of the airport. They can get free food, free beverages, we have Wi-Fi here. It’s a comfortable place for them to sit and relax while they’re traveling,” said Sherry Ems, executive director of the Central and Southern Ohio USO.
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The center also offers television and games, as well as a work center with a computer and printer.
There are about 200 USO centers worldwide, some in airports and others on bases. About 12,000 guests traveled through Dayton’s previous center each year, Ems said. Now the military members, their families and passersby just wanting to donate will have an easier time finding the center in its new prominent location.
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“We get a lot of traffic in here because of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and there’s a lot of airmen and service members that are traveling here for either training or duty at Wright-Patterson,” Ems said.
In central and southwest Ohio, there are USO centers at the Dayton, Columbus and Cincinnati airports as well as at Wright-Patt and the military entry processing station in Columbus.
All centers are staffed by volunteers, who can choose to work at one center, many centers or special events like deployment and welcome home ceremonies, Ems said. There are about 60 volunteers that will staff the center 24/7, including on holidays, most of which are retired veterans or military family members, said the center’s manager Yolanda Young.
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“I don’t think you need to explain to the city of Dayton or really anybody who lives in this community how important it is to have a USO at this airport because of that tremendous presence we have in the community of the military and the support that we get from the military,” said Terry Slaybaugh, director of aviation for the city and Dayton Airport. “Really we’re talking about our friends and neighbors when you talk about the military in Dayton Ohio.”
The airport previously had a smaller USO space, but renovated a new location right inside the terminal doors by the security checkpoint as part of the $25 million first-phase of airport’s terminal renovation.
The space is more visible, bigger and nicer than the old space, and it will provide more comfort to the military families, Ems said.
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