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Home away from home

U.S. and other service members relax in the USO, Nov. 13, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. The USO offers free food, events and amenities to help service members stay connected to friends and family back home. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Mann)

U.S. and other service members relax in the USO, Nov. 13, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. The USO offers free food, events and amenities to help service members stay connected to friends and family back home. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Mann)

Located in Patriot Village, the USO is open to all U.S. and other service members, Nov. 13, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. The USO offers free food, events and amenities making it easier for service members to stay connected to friends and family back home. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Mann)

Located in Patriot Village, the USO is open to all U.S. and other service members, Nov. 13, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. The USO offers free food, events and amenities making it easier for service members to stay connected to friends and family back home. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Mann)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Shayla Irtegun, 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron materiel management supervisor and USO volunteer, prepares waffle batter for the USO’s weekly Waffle Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Irtegun is a frequent volunteer and patron at the Incirlik USO and takes every opportunity to give back. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Mann)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Shayla Irtegun, 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron materiel management supervisor and USO volunteer, prepares waffle batter for the USO’s weekly Waffle Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Irtegun is a frequent volunteer and patron at the Incirlik USO and takes every opportunity to give back. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Mann)

Fresh fruit is presented for waffle toppings during the USO’s weekly Waffle Wednesday event, Nov. 13, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. The Incirlik USO offers free waffles on Wednesday mornings as a part of their many routine events. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Mann)

Fresh fruit is presented for waffle toppings during the USO’s weekly Waffle Wednesday event, Nov. 13, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. The Incirlik USO offers free waffles on Wednesday mornings as a part of their many routine events. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Mann)

Holly Finneran, USO staff member, instructs U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Devin Luckett, 39th Force Support Squadron Patriot Village contingency lodging representative, on how to make waffles during Waffle Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. The Incirlik USO hosts over 30 events a month including free waffles on Wednesday mornings. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Mann)

Holly Finneran, USO staff member, instructs U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Devin Luckett, 39th Force Support Squadron Patriot Village contingency lodging representative, on how to make waffles during Waffle Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. The Incirlik USO hosts over 30 events a month including free waffles on Wednesday mornings. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Mann)

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey --

When service members are deployed, there are not many places that have relaxing couches, football and the smell of fresh waffles all under one roof.

This hidden gem is filled with cheering fans and dozens of people discussing the first thing they’ll do when they get home. Until then, the USO is their home away from home.

Incirlik’s USO prides itself on upholding the organization’s honorable mission of strengthening America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country throughout their service to the nation.

“We are a morale booster and have the ability to connect people back to the states,” said Mr. Matt Millen, the USO center manager. “Whether it is through phones, computers, technology or just providing good food and a good environment, our purpose is to make separation easier.

“I love it! I’m all about serving and giving back. I can’t see myself doing anything else or being happy doing anything else,” added Millen, retired U.S. Army field artillery officer. “Some people have their callings--I can help people here who were in my shoes by making it a little bit easier for them.”

Many service members at Incirlik Air Base frequent the USO on a regular basis, whether they’re deployed here or permanent party.

“I can get away at the USO, enjoy snacks and just relax,” said Tech. Sgt. Shayla Irtegun, 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron materiel management supervisor. “Incirlik is a restricted environment, so there is a strong need to find a positive means of relaxing.”

Irtegun doesn’t just enjoy the amenities the USO offers, but also is a routine volunteer.

“I’m deployed with the 22nd EARS and wanted to volunteer on my deployment to support a cause,” added Irtegun. “I needed to fill my time with a meaningful activity. My volunteering at the USO provides support for regular programs such as Waffle Wednesday and Trivia Night.”
Despite the disadvantage of not being able to solicit volunteers from the civilian, retiree and spouse population, Incirlik’s USO never has a shortage of volunteers.

“We’re completely run by volunteers. So here, it’s just me and my staff, three civilians. Everything else is ran and staffed by service members who volunteer when they aren’t working,” Millen said.

Incirlik Air Base’s USO center, located in Patriot Village, is one the busiest centers in the region, providing over 30 events per month, free food, Wi-Fi and amenities, which aren’t just limited to U.S. service members. All Department of Defense civilians and other countries’ service members are welcome to visit, as well.