- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 27, 2003

Adrienne Trout’s energetic greetings to troops milling through Baltimore-Washington InternationalAirport on Wednesday morning make her seem more like a cheerleader than a nonprofit director.

Mrs. Trout, 35, heads the United Service Organization of Metropolitan Washington’s lounge at BWI’s international pier.

The 4,735-square-foot facility, which has a nap room, media room, computer room and nursery, was built in 1999, two years after Mrs. Trout joined USO’s Washington-area office as airport-services director for BWI, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Andrews Air Force Base.

About 20 men and women in khaki fatigues are watching TV, surfing the Internet or catching up on the last of their R&R; at the lounge that morning before heading out to Kuwait and Iraq on later flights.

BWI has at least one daily inbound and outbound Iraq flight and is one of the most frequented commercial airports by the more than 200,000 service members who have been called up to duty since the Iraq war began in March.

Foot traffic through the lounge is expected to pick up during the holiday season from Dec. 1 to Jan. 4. The USO office gets about 10,000 visitors each month.

In addition to making sure soldiers feel welcome at the airport, Mrs. Trout works to get more donations and sponsorships from corporations, such as AT&T;’s donation of calling cards to troops overseas.

“One of the most challenging aspects for us is getting people to understand that we are not a government agency and are not publicly funded,” she says. The USO was created by Congress in 1941 after President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s request for a consolidated private organization to provide morale, welfare and recreation activities for a growing military force.

Mrs. Trout gets all of her program funding from private and corporate donations, which are flooding in with the holiday season and with reports of attacks on troops in Iraq.

“It’s sad, but war is good business for the USO. The public generally doesn’t understand how our military must be ready to fight every day, and needs our support not just during times of war,” she says.

After checking in with two volunteers in the lounge, Mrs. Trout heads upstairs to the international concourse to hand out care packages to soldiers waiting for a flight to Iraq.

Most of the bags contain sunscreen, a calling card, energy protein bars, candy, sunglasses, disposable cameras and toiletries.

“Just a little something for all you’ve done,” she says repeatedly to troops as she hands out the bags for a half-hour. Mrs. Trout started the care packages, worth $50 to $100 each, as a temporary program for soldiers heading to Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks.

“It just started out as this little program, but now it’s a staple,” she says, adding the USO lounge has given out more than 200,000 care packages to soldiers at the airport.

Mrs. Trout hands out a few more packages to troops near the counter lines before heading back to the lounge, stopping on the way to talk with several Army soldiers in uniform.

“Most of these combat troops get 15 days’ [R&R;]. It’s just not enough time, especially for those with new babies,” says the Baltimore resident and mother of three, including infant twins born July 4.

Back at the lounge, Mrs. Trout spots a group of seven young Marines in uniform and immediately heads over to chat.

She informs the Marines, who are on their way to military occupational training in Aberdeen, Md., that the USO lounge will put on an all-day show for soldiers coming through the airport Dec. 19 to head out for holiday leave.

Mrs. Trout says she’s expecting about 15,000 soldiers from Aberdeen and Fort Lee, Va., to be bused to BWI, with the earliest troops showing up at 3 a.m.

“I do normally a 50-hour week. But on special days like the mass exodus on Dec. 19, I tend to get in here at 1:30 a.m. to start brewing the coffee,” she says.


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