The USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore is renovating a building on Marine Corps Base Quantico with plans to open its first center on base in March to offer free programs for active military service members and their families.

The new center will be called Quantico Austin Hall and will officially open with a ribbon-cutting March 9, USO spokesperson Michelle Shortencarrier said. This will be Quantico’s first USO center.

The 6,000-square-foot office will be equipped with a TV room, computers, gaming systems, a movie viewing area, a small kitchen, a lounge and free Wifi, Shortencarrier said. The new center will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.  

“Many of these service members training at Quantico are restricted to the installation for the duration of their training,” she said. “The USO center will bring much needed comfort and connection to these Marines. In addition, core center operations and family outreach programming will provide a vehicle for family strengthening and connection.”

The nonprofit is renovating Austin Hall. Located near the Garrisonville entrance in Stafford County, the building was named after Oscar P. Austin, a Medal of Honor recipient who fought and died in the Vietnam War.

Quantico spokesperson Frances Seybold said the USO has been successful at supporting the military community. Quantico has 4,039 service members and family living on the installation, although many more live nearby, she said. Quantico employs 6,028 military personnel and has 3,100 military students. 

Seybold said many service members visit the USO center at Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County, typically a 40-minute drive. The USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir is the largest USO center in the world, boasting 22,000 square feet, according to the nonprofit. 

“We’re clearly very excited to have such a wonderful organization,” Seybold said. “It will be nice to have them right here at Quantico.” 

Shortencarrier said the large population of active service members means the organization may add a second USO center at Quantico in the future. “We’re hoping to open the second center on the main side,” she said, referring to base operations east of Interstate 95.

Shortencarrier said the center opening in March plans to offer programs for individual service members, as well as couples and children. She said the center will be walking distance from the Basic School barracks and a shuttle ride from the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group barracks.

The center will offer community days, holiday programs, youth enrichment programs, movie nights, game nights and emergency assistance to service members and their families, Shortencarrier said.

Programs to be offered include Y.U.M., a free meal dubbed Your USO Meal; Calling All Couples, a program for a date night; and Project Next S.T.E.P., which helps service members obtain certifications to prepare for finding a job after the military.

The nonprofit also will offer music and art programs and programs for wounded service members, Shortencarrier said.

Each year, the USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore provides services to more than 300,000 service members in the region and 150,000 members at airport lounges, Shortencarrier said.  “Any active duty and their dependents can come -- they don’t have to live on the installation.”

In order to open the center seven days a week, the nonprofit expects to need about 200 volunteers, she said.The USO plans to hire one supervisor, two staff members and a program specialist for the new center. 

Volunteers help in four-hour shifts. About 100 people have already signed up to volunteer, but the USO is still looking for more volunteers who are at least 18 years old, she said.

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