Retired U.S. Army Gen. David A. Bramlett is president of the USO in Hawaii.

Hawaii USO leader
looking for more
local involvement

David A. Bramlett

>> Post: The retired U.S. Army general has been named president of the board of directors for the United Services Organization (USO) in Hawaii

What is the USO?

It's is an organization that provides support to the men and women in uniform and their families. It is a private organization, not a department of the military, but it is congressionally chartered. That means the armed services can all help us, but they cannot provide us money. You remember when Bob Hope was the world USO ambassador and did all those overseas shows? Well, the military provides transportation for the entertainers and other support. Those shows are what the USO is really known for. Its mission is essentially to enhance the quality of life for our servicemen and women and their families, but not to duplicate government services. By the way, Wayne Newton is the current USO ambassador.

How is it changing?

In the World War II era, they provided entertainment and the USO canteen, the home of the famous USO dances. But that was a different military. Today, most U.S. soldiers are married. We recognize the importance of families more than perhaps 50 or 60 years ago when the USO began. The airport centers like the two we operate in Hawaii are not just for soldiers, but their families.

How did you wind up being president of the board?

I always respected the USO and what it's done around the world. I've been on the board since I retired and returned to Hawaii in 1999. The nominating committee recently asked me to serve and I was honored.

What are your goals as president?

I intend to continue the work of my predecessor in looking to expand our relationship with USO world, exploring opportunities to provide entertainment and other expanded support to arriving and departing troops, and renovating the airport centers.

What are the primary functions of the USO in Hawaii?

We have two airport centers, one at Honolulu International and one at the Hickam Air Mobility Command Center. They are sort of like one of these frequent flier clubs. It's not as luxurious at what you'd find at the commercial airlines. But they offer cookies, coffee and a place to rest for our men and women in uniform and their families, and retirees as well. All you need to get in is your military ID. The centers are staffed 100 percent with volunteers. We also have started providing some encouragement and best wishes to send off troops being deployed. When we go down there we're able to give them pizza and drinks and say "Thanks, guys and gals, we'll see you when you get back." That's especially important for folks without families here. And when troops recently returned from Bosnia, we met them with our pizza wagon and drinks, just to say thanks from the community for the job they'd done.

The Hawaii USO, then, is not really focused on entertainment?

No, we haven't done that yet. That is the traditional role of the overseas USO, but we're working on our relationship with them.

So local entertainers haven't been very involved with the USO?

They haven't, yet. We'd like to look at our local entertainers and see if there are some programs we can promote. We'd need them to donate their time and talents. We have a very small budget that basically supports a staff of one and a half. The ships have asked for some sort of welcome that says we are in Hawaii. Sailors and everyone who comes here see hula as so ideally Hawaiian, so that is a popular idea. But we're just starting to look into that. We're not sure of the reaction we're going to get from the local entertainment community.

What is the involvement, if any, of the local business community in the work of the USO?

The business community has been very supportive when asked. Our one fund-raiser each year is the Base Race Series, a 10K-5K run-walk. The businesses we've approached as sponsors for that event have been gracious. But we've got to do a better job of letting the community know what we do and how they can help. Anyone who wants to support the work of the USO can call our executive director, Connie Kraus, at 836-3351.

Does the Hawaii USO's function change much in a time of war versus peacetime?

The flow through the two airports is continual. Men and women are coming through with their families on reassignment all the time. We're very busy here.

There's been speculation that North Korea is the next battleground for the United States and Hawaii troops are being largely held in reserve for that conflict. Is the Hawaii USO doing anything to gear up for that possibility?

Not in particular, because that is speculation. We wouldn't want to add to the anxiety raised by that kind of speculation.

Inside Hawaii Inc. is a conversation with a member of the Hawaii business community who has changed jobs, been elected to a board or been recognized for accomplishments. Send questions and comments to:

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