The thousands of military service members and their families who pass through San Diego International Airport every year now have a new place to call their “home away from home.” USO San Diego, in partnership with the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, recently opened the doors of the new USO Neil Ash Airport Center — the largest USO airport center in the world.
The grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony took place on June 26 in the new facility located in Terminal 2 at San Diego International Airport. The facility spans nearly 10,000 square feet.
“This is a fantastic facility to support San Diego’s military community. The Airport Authority has been an exemplary partner. Millions of active military and military family members will be more comfortable during their travels due to the vision of Mr. Ash, the generosity of the Airport Authority and San Diego’s many donors,” said USO San Diego President/CEO John T. Dooley.
Open 365 days a year from 6 a.m. to midnight, the new airport center will provide support and services to well over 125,000 military service members and their families annually. The center delivers a variety of services, including a friendly and comfortable place to relax, high-speed wireless Internet, free phone access and complimentary refreshments. The new center also features contemporary furnishings and an expansive outdoor courtyard, including BBQ grills to be used for special activities such as USO San Diego’s Feed Our Troops program.
The center is named in honor of Neil Ash, a longtime Rancho Santa Fe resident and dedicated supporter of San Diego’s military community. Ash was the visionary behind the creation of the first USO center at San Diego International Airport in 1990. During World War II, Ash was commissioned as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy and served in the Pacific. He was later called back to active duty during the Korean War and earned the rank of Lieutenant Commander. His decades-long support of troops in the San Diego area and his admirable leadership resulted in the opening of the first USO airport center in San Diego in March 1990 and now this cutting-edge facility 23 years later.
“My time has been well spent in this most worthy cause of establishing and maintaining the high stature of a San Diego USO airport center. It is wonderful to be in an organization where you have a lot of competent people who know the USO mission so well. I can relax, and I can rest assured that our troops will have a home here in San Diego for a very long time,” said Ash at the June 26 ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The center’s dedicated volunteers also offer a warm welcome for returning troops, act as kind hosts to incoming recruits and deploying units and provide support for families of the fallen while traveling through the airport. In 2012, more than 100 volunteers gave approximately 22,000 hours of their time to support USO San Diego’s efforts at the USO Neil Ash Airport Center.
Thella Bowens, president/CEO of the Airport Authority, shared that, “we are proud to support the USO and our military families. San Diego’s airport is often the place where service members and their families say hello or goodbye, and it is our pleasure to provide them the facility to make their meetings special.”
USO San Diego is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization funded primarily through the generosity of individuals, businesses, organizations and foundations within the community. Donations directed to USO San Diego are used to support programs and vital services for San Diego’s military community and those traveling through the USO Neil Ash Airport Center. For more information about USO San Diego and how you can get involved, visit www.usosandiego.org.
Look for more photos of the ribbon-cutting ceremony on this web site as of July 3.