By Zachary Fingerle
I had the opportunity to sit down with two members from the United Service Organizations (USO) and discuss how exactly they are using gaming and other avenues to connect service members with their friends and family! The USO is serving over 5 million: Active Duty, Guard, and Reserve service members alongside their families! They connect with and serve the members through 250+ locations worldwide, all 7 continents, 15 countries, and 32 states!
Even as an active esports follower, a lot of things slip through my hands. I have not heard much of what the USO was until I started talking with Scott Kelly. I can read all I want about what the USO is doing but I would love to hear what you specifically do and why you choose to work for the USO
The USO has a respectable mission, it allows me to support our men and women, and their families that are in service. Through a channel that I have found extremely personal and useful in my upbringing. The opportunity to give back through gaming is something special.
I am the Director of Global gaming, we must approach gaming organically and I must approach these events and make sure they are authentic and genuine. Something that benefits our service members and it is something that they genuinely would enjoy
What are your thoughts on the different branches of the military streaming on twitch and even competing in esports events?
Gaming is a platform that is for everybody, it always has been for everybody. I don’t have an opinion on any of these teams or organizations but I am thrilled that gaming is accessible!
I think a big part of what the USO is doing, is reminding people that military members are regular people just like us. I am still in contact with a lot of friends from high school that are in the military. And to be honest, they are just as silly, childish, and dumb as I am WHEN they are off-shift and playing games with me.
I believe Tik Tok is also bringing new light to military members as the general populace is getting to see service members goofing around just as much as an average adult or college student does.
There is something to be said that the military is strong, the service members and their families are making a sacrifice a lot of people are not willing to make. We are proud when we look upon our service members. When we are looking at service members in their off time, and I am excited that gaming is a way to break down the military and civilian divide and allow them to connect with their neighbors, friends, and old high school friends. I think gaming is a way to keep our service members relatable and connected!
On the flip side, what is the goofiest or funniest moment you have had while working within the USO?
I’ll be honest with you but I have not had a specific “goofy” moment as I have been here for only 2.5 months. I would like to shift it to a proud moment instead!
We built up a popup gaming activation for the national guard around the capital during the inauguration. We had a lot of national guard members in the area performing their duties. We mobilized a gaming center and create a consistent gaming/LAN center for our service members where they can connect with their friends and family through the computers and Xbox. Even the people who are simply on break for a short time and we created a space for them to relax and play some games. It triggered a thought process of how we can assist these members in a more rapid and changing environment.
They have busy and long days if we can create the support structure for them to take advantage of breaks and relax when they have the events. The USO keeps them connected to family, friends, and country!
What is one specific memory that you remember helping someone and it just made you feel like the happiest person in the world?
I think everybody in the gaming community has had the opportunity to connect with somebody, whether it be a friend from high school or someone they meet online that lives across the company. I have a good friend who I won’t name, but he struggles with depression and gaming is the way we connect. We have known each other for 17 years but only met in person once. We don’t do phone calls or video calls but rather we hop on and play League of Legends. The ability to be there for friends and family through gaming. The realities of today do not exist because we are in our world of the game.
I couldn’t seem to find information about future events for the USO, do you have a calendar where I and others can find your future events?
One of the things that have been on my list of priorities is to create a central hub for all things gaming. I can guide you to USO.org, we will have the gaming portion of the website active very very soon. We will be able to promote events and we have a full calendar year planned out, they are open to civilians and service members. If we can immerse both civilians and service members together that would be amazing. We are constantly live streaming on our Twitch page. We also have another handful of activations that will be creating content on both youtube and twitch. We have had Rocket League events and will have more coming up through the year!