Military Alliance Council holds quarterly meeting to address town, base issues
Closing of USO remains hot topic
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.