Mil­i­tary Al­liance Coun­cil holds quar­terly meet­ing to ad­dress town, base is­sues

Clos­ing of USO re­mains hot topic

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By CHAR­LIE WRIGHT cwright@somd­news.com

The Charles County Cham­ber of Com­merce Mil­i­tary Al­liance Coun­cil (MAC) held its quar­terly meet­ing Tues­day morn­ing at the In­dian Head Vil­lage Green Pav­il­ion with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from both state and lo­cal gov­ern­ment as well as Naval Sup­port Fa­cil­ity In­dian Head to ad­dress busi­ness re­lated to the town and the naval base.

Capt. Michael O’Leary, the new com­mand­ing of­fi­cer for Naval Sup­port Ac­tiv­ity South Po­tomac (NSASP), opened the pro­ceed­ings by shar­ing his back­ground and his plans for con­tin­ued progress be­tween NSASP and NSF In­dian Head. The event marked O’Leary’s first visit to the town, and the New Jersey na­tive praised its pic­turesque ap­pear­ance and looked for­ward to work­ing closely with his In­dian Head coun­ter­parts.

Di­rec­tor of the En­tre­pre­neur & In­no­va­tion In­sti­tute at the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land Tommy Lug­in­bill fol­lowed O’Leary and pro­vided an up­date on the Ve­loc­ity Cen­ter, an in­no­va­tion lab that could pro­vide an eco­nomic boost to the town. The cen­ter would in­clude a Ve­loc­ity Lab, CSM class­rooms, com­put­ers and a leasable area of­fered at a monthly rate to sub­tenants.

The project re­cently re­ceived a $500,000 en­dow­ment from CSM, which was matched by the state of Mary­land through the Mary­land E-No­va­tion Ini­tia­tive Fund (MEIF). MEIF en­dow­ments ac­crue an av­er­age of 6 per­cent in­ter­est each year, and the cen­ter is awarded that sum

to use how it sees fit, Lug­in­bill said.

The bulk of the meet­ing fo­cused on the re­cent clos­ing of the United Ser­vice Or­ga­ni­za­tions (USO) chap­ter at NSF In­dian Head. Cit­ing fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties, the USO of Metropoli­tan Wash­ing­ton-Bal­ti­more shut down the brick-and­mor­tar op­er­a­tion last month. The base will be vis­ited a few times per year by the Mo­bile USO Pro­gram, con­sist­ing of

a 34-foot-long trailer that pro­vides sim­i­lar com­forts al­beit far less of­ten.

Chem­i­cal Bi­o­log­i­cal In­ci­dent Re­sponse Force (CBIRF) Chap­lain David Fer­gu­son took the podium to speak about the clos­ing in search of sup­port for a po­ten­tial re­open­ing of the USO in In­dian Head.

“Our goal has been and is still to try to get them to re­con­sider this de­ci­sion,” Fer­gu­son said. “The USO is a great out­let for these young Marines and sailors. To lose that was dev­as­tat­ing.”

Fer­gu­son pointed out that

within a sin­gle fis­cal year, USO Metro in­creased the hours for cen­ter su­per­vi­sor Bar­bara Locke from part-time to full-time only to close the branch for fi­nan­cial rea­sons. The cen­ter pro­vided spe­cial monthly lunches for the troops and free gro­ceries at the Su­per­mar­ket Sweep, both of which served a com­mu­nity that doesn’t have ac­cess to a gro­cer y store.

“All the Marines have come in and out of my of­fice ex­press­ing their con­cern of not hav­ing [the USO] as an out­let,” said First Sgt. Collin Barry. “Given

the ru­ral com­mu­nity of In­dian Head and the lack of trans­porta­tion [for] 300 Marines that re­side in both bar­racks, given those two vari­ables alone it’s an awe­some as­set to In­dian Head.”

Betsy Bos­sart, district di­rec­tor for Rep. Steny Hoyer (DMd., 5th), ex­plained her staff had spo­ken to USO of­fi­cials and the de­ci­sion was strictly fi­nan­cial. This sug­gests that if the town and the naval base can gen­er­ate enough fi­nan­cial sup­port then USO Metro would con­sider re­open­ing the NSF In­dian Head branch.

“If we can say there are some com­mu­nity re­sources that would help fill the cost, that’s an op­tion,” Bos­sart said. “If we can ac­tu­ally have some tan­gi­ble spon­sors, that we could help with some of the re­sources, that might be an op­tion.”

Fer­gu­son said USO Metro of­fi­cials in­formed him it would take $100,000-$150,000 to re­open the In­dian Head lo­ca­tion. He added Mayor Bran­don Paulin is cur­rently search­ing for spon­sors and the Ve­loc­ity Cen­ter could at­tract will­ing donors to the area.

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