18th annual USO Service Salute

 IS3 Kevin Mullins is a Personnel Security Specialist at U.S. Africa Command. He was recognized on October 15, 2010 during the 18th Annual USO Europe Service Salute, which recognizes junior enlisted service members from U.S. and German Armed Forces.

Hello all, my name is IS3 Kevin Mullins and I wanted to write a quick blog on my trip to the 18th annual USO Service Salute as the representative for US AFRICOM. I’m here at AFRICOM as an activated reservist. I’ve been here since February and will be here at least through October of 2011. I work in the SSO in as a Personnel Security Specialist.

The USO Service Salute is an event put on each year by the USO where they recognize junior military members from both the U.S. and German militaries. I was really surprised when I first heard I was selected to represent AFRICOM. I’m still rather new to the military and I haven’t gone to the African continent yet like many of my AFRICOM counterparts. Although, since arriving, I’ve tried to use my time as best as possible both at work and in my free time. I currently serve as Master at Arms for the AFRICOM Blue Jackets. I’m the command advocate for the local Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions and try to help volunteer with various command activities. Needless to say being selected was a great privilege and honor, and I had a lot of fun at the event.

The event was two days for all the honorees, starting on Thursday with a tour of the Lichtenberg castle and dinner, and followed Friday by a formal awards ceremony. After arriving Thursday afternoon to Ramstein Air Base, where the event was held, I checked into my hotel room and walked into an awesome surprise. The USO had filled the room with various things from different sponsors for the event. There were a lot of different things but some of the things were: A nice bottle of champagne, a cell phone from TKS, a free airline ticket from Lufthansa, two free business class upgrades from Delta, a ticket to a car race next year, and a ton of food given by Hostess. It was all really awesome and very cool.

The Lichtenberg castle tour was also exceptionally cool. It was a private tour given by two very nice German ladies. Much of the castle had been burnt down from a fire long ago but large parts of the main structure were still standing and there was an incredible view from the top of the castle. The USO had also arranged to have a medieval type band accompany us and played some pretty interesting songs.

After the tour we had a champagne toast where all the honorees were presented with a plaque with all the coins from the honorees’ senior enlisted leaders.

Fleet Master Chief Maddox was one of the leaders presenting the gift and I had fun speaking with him afterwards. Once everyone had a couple glasses of champagne to smooth the nerves we went to the castle restaurant where we had a delicious four course meal and heard several more songs from the band. I was able to get to know some of the honorees a little better at that point and everyone was really nice. There was a little language barrier between myself and a couple of the German honorees because none of us studied quite as hard as we should have during our language classes but it actually made for quite a few laughs and at the end of the night we had pieced together our general backgrounds using our broken English and German.

The next night at the award ceremony, you could tell right from the start the USO spared no expense. Arriving at the hanger where the event was taking place, there was the new NATO joint fighter plane with its crew parked outside waiting to field any questions we had about the aircraft. It was very impressive. Walking inside the hanger, the room had been decorated very extravagantly with a royal red carpet down the center of the room, a large stage in front, and fine dining tables throughout. The Air Force Tops in Blue provided the entertainment and there were a number of very prestigious guest speakers to include: Fleet Master Chief Maddocks (Senior Enlisted Leader, EUCOM), Herrn Professor Doktor Hans-Jurgen Seimetz, U.S. Ambassador Philip Murphy, Germany Lieutenant General Hans-Lothar Domrose, and the senior officer of the event, our Commanding Officer, General Ward.

There were numerous great moments during the evening, and I think my favorite would have to be the Lady Gaga set performed by the Tops in Blue, the speech given by Ambassador Murphy, and General Ward’s speech. Every time I hear one of his speeches I’m left with laughter and motivation. At the end of the award show the honorees were presented with a shadow box with all the challenge coins from the Commanding Officers represented by the honorees. It’s very cool, and the shadow box, along with the plaque, are both now proudly hung in my office. After the formal portion of the ceremony we had several drinks and fellowshipped once again with the German honorees to the wee hours of the night.

The event was so much fun and I was really honored to be a part of it. Looking back, all the hard work I’ve been putting in has definitely paid off tenfold and I feel more motivated than ever to be involved. The USO from start to finish was awesome in every way and I think it’s awesome they go out of their way to put on something like this. It’s a great organization for all military personnel. As for myself, I’ll remain very thankful for everything I’ve been able to be a part of here at AFRICOM and continue to do make my best effort to “Improve the foxhole”.

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