USO Camp Schwab Opens Doors to New Center

Camp Schwab, Okinawa, Japan – For the last 46 years, USO Camp Schwab has proudly supported service members and their families stationed at Camp Schwab. USO Camp Schwab has welcomed over 2,000 service members, their families, and guests in just one month since officially opening doors to the new center at the recent Camp Schwab Exchange Complex. USO Camp Schwab is making history as the first of its kind in Okinawa to reside amongst other services to this magnitude. To commemorate the momentous occasion of moving into the new building, which has been ten years in the planning, the USO Camp Schwab team welcomed local military leaders, USO Indo-Pacific leaders, USO Okinawa area staff and volunteers, sponsors, community partners, and guests to tour the new center and celebrate their longtime commitment to serving Camp Schwab. The celebration began with an invocation by Lieutenant Commander Benton, 4th Marine Regiment Chaplain, Camp Schwab, then proceeded with a presentation from Colonel Clark, Commanding Officer of 4th Marine Regiment and Camp Commander, Camp Schwab, remarks from Brigadier General Fridriksson, Deputy Commanding General, III Marine Expeditionary Force, and Commanding General 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade, and recognition from J. Phil VanEtten, USO Okinawa Area Director. The ceremony included a ribbon-cutting ceremony, an Okinawan-themed lunch, and a special appearance from Tamagusukuryu Gyokusenkai, Okinawa shisa dog performers.

In planning for the grand opening ceremony, it was essential to bring both cultures together, as done for many years, signifying the unity and commitment to serving Camp Schwab on the beautiful island of Okinawa, Japan. To accomplish this goal, USO Camp Schwab’s center featured an array of tropical plants native to Okinawa; they served Japanese curry and yakisoba to all guests and hosted a shisa dog performance. Shisa dogs are known in Okinawa as mythological guardian lions that stand watch and protect. USO Camp Schwab presented the shisa to share a promise to Camp Schwab that they would watch and support the camp when and where needed. In concluding the ceremony, all guests had an opportunity to tour the new center and see firsthand how hard the team has worked over the years. “Many people and organizations participated in the design, construction, outfitting, and opening of this great center,” said J. Phil VanEtten, USO Okinawa Area Director. “It would not have been possible without the support of our USO Okinawa sponsors and USO Camp Schwab staff and volunteers. Special thanks to Matson for their help with providing in-kind shipping for all the furniture and furnishings from the United States, MBC for providing high-definition television and high-speed internet throughout the entire facility, American Engineering Corporation, a USO Okinawa sponsor for over 50 years, for assembling the furniture and installing our commercial-size oven/stove, and Maria Paige, USO Schwab Center Manager, and her team, Meghann Blochowski , Abbie Matherne, and USO volunteers for making certain our service members and their families always had a place to go by never closing during the transition from old center to the new center. We cannot thank them enough for what they do every day.”

In designing the new USO Camp Schwab center, many factors were considered. As a center providing over 80,000 service instances annually, USO Camp Schwab is a fast-paced, high-foot-traffic center. Considerations in the design included being able to support the growing needs of the camp in a new complex style format, providing state-of-the-art amenities, meeting the interests of the service members both stationed and deployed to Camp Schwab, and having the ability to host an array of celebrations for the camp’s continuous achievements. “The furniture design and color scheme were different from anything we’ve done at our USO centers in Okinawa,” said Ashley DeBerry, USO Okinawa Area Programs Manager. “With limited space and increasing foot traffic, our goal was to create a modern, island-inspired design with interchangeable furnishings to increase flexibility in day-to-day operations, including center programming, unit support, and educational training, which will remain relevant today and for years to come.” At USO Camp Schwab, our service members and their families can expect instant hospitality, warmth, and welcome from all staff and volunteers when visiting our center. “Expect a place where you can feel free to hang out, have a snack, and enjoy our amenities,” said Abbie Matherne, USO Camp Schwab Center Operations Specialist. “Come in and enjoy our theatre, music & stage room, video games, pool, ping pong, darts, board games, computers, and an overall lounge to sit back and relax. USO Schwab is forever excited to meet and greet you as soon as you enter.”

USO Camp Schwab serves over 80,000 Marines, Sailors, and family members aboard Camp Schwab annually through engaging programs and meaningful connections. “We are so excited to share and bring new and enhanced programs to our service members,” said Meghann Blochowski, USO Camp Schwab Field Programs Manager. “Service members can expect plenty of movie marathons in our state-of-the-art movie theatre, home-cooked meals in our new kitchen, fun-flavored coffees with yummy pastries, and gaming tournaments with our new jumbo yard games on the patio.”

USO Camp Schwab is now located at Camp Schwab, building 3000, on the 2nd floor. Hours of operation are Monday through Sunday from 10 AM – 7 PM. To learn more about other USO Camp Schwab hosting events, visit Okinawa.USO.Org or find them on Facebook at USO Schwab.

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