USO Supports Visiting Soldiers at Camp Natural Bridge

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When summer rolls around, you will find most school-aged students enjoying the weather and having fun. But for cadets at the U.S Military Academy at West Point the summer means 12 weeks of intense field training that will shape them into the military leaders of tomorrow.

Each year, the Army assigns a command of seasoned soldiers to Camp Buckner and Camp Natural Bridge to assist in the Cadet Summer Training. The 82nd Airborne Division was tapped for this year’s trainings. Starting in May, different brigades traveled from Fort Bragg in North Carolina to West Point to spend weeks in the mountains working with the cadets on military tactics from basic marksmanship to patrolling.

1st Sgt. Nathan Lenartowicz, who has been in the Army for 18 years and is a member of the 1-508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, was one of the hundreds of service members stationed at West Point these past few weeks.

“We’re having a blast,” he said.

Nathan and his fellow service members were grateful to not only share their knowledge with the cadets, but also get the opportunity to improve their skills and train at their own level. Over the past month, he has been able to answer questions posed by cadets and help guide them in their military journey. Through interacting with Nathan and the rest of the 82nd Airborne Division, cadets were presented with the various job opportunities that await them after graduation and learned about the different branches they could explore.

“It is a great opportunity to inspire and communicate with the future officers of the United States military,” said Nathan of the training program.

Trainings take place every day but if the service member is off, there is not much around to keep the service members occupied. This is where the USO comes in.

How did the USO become involved?

In 2021, West Point Army Community Services informed the USO there were service members in need of a morale boost at Camp Natural Bridge. Surrounded by natural parks, Camp Natural Bridge does not offer soldiers a lot of options for rest, relaxation and fun. Not to mention, many of the soldiers are living in structures that have been around since WWII or relegated to camping in tents.

The USO was more than willing to lend a hand to those service members and showed up at the camp with refreshments and entertainment. The program has evolved since its inception and the USO tries to make it out to the camps at least once a month, if not more, to support the visiting soldiers.

The USO will also come out for special events, including the Army’s birthday, and to execute video game tournaments. On each visit, the USO will partner with different organizations, such as Paws for a Cause, to best meet the service members’ needs.

“Coming to this remote location, some service members do not expect the programming that USO brings out,” said Joshua Thomas, regional operations manager for USO Northeast. “It is great seeing the surprise and smiling faces while we are visiting!”

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