In November, our good friend Captain Jack Ahart took on a new assignment.  He's the retired Navy man who started the Charlotte USO office and quickly built it into a huge success.  Jack's in Dubai now, starting up USO Chapters in the Gulf region.
 
Before he left, he asked me to join the advisory board of the Charlotte USO.  We've got our first meeting tonight and I'm excited and honored to be part of this great group.
 
Jack agreed to stay in touch with us through my blog.  I sent him a few questions earlier this month (you'll notice a little bit of dated info), so here we go:
 
How did you spend Christmas?  The aircraft carrier Teddy Roosevelt was in port at Dubai and I had Christmas dinner with the Troops on board the carrier.  I was able to raise some money and with the Director of USO Dubai, we bought a number of WIIs and PlayStations, games for them, and some Ipods.  The ship then put the names of all of the enlisted personnel, E-6 and below, in a hopper and during the day names were drawn for the prizes.  The ship was at the pier where the USO Dubai is located and besides having some Carolina sailors on your show, there was a live band for the Troops, cell phones to call home, and computers to e-mail home.  It was a great day watching everyone having fun and enjoying the holidays.
 
How did our Troops spend their holiday time?  Those in Dubai were able to go golfing, to the Malls, and just sight see.  I called all 8 of the USOs in Southwest Asia to wish them a Merry Christmas and each of them had a turkey dinner for the Troops and a place for them to relax.  
 
Are you settled in yet?  I am still apartment looking and living in the hotel, but hope to get an answer on an apartment I like this week-end.  Once I am all moved in, I expect all of you to come visit.
 
What are you eating?  The food choices here are pretty global.  There are the local choices, which are not bad, plus Indian food, Pakistani food, and a number of American restaurants, such as TGI Fridays, KFC, McDonald's, Taco Bell, and Tony Romas.  I have had to try them all so that I will know where to take Al when he comes over.

What has surprised you so far in Dubai?  The first thing that jumps out is the amount of construction going on.  There are large cranes everywhere.  The second thing is hearing English and Arabic being spoken at the same time at meetings or while shopping.  Dubai is a very interesting city and I am enjoying myself here.  I also think that I will be able to accomplish a lot here for the Troops.

Are our Troops talking about the change coming in Washington?  What seems to be the feeling as the Obama administration comes in?  When I visited the Troops at the 3 USO Centers in Kuwait last month, the underlying concern was pulling out of Iraq before the country is truly democratic and capable of defending itself. Many of them that I talked to fear that all they have done and sacrificed would end up being in vain.  Having been in Viet Nam, I certainly understand their concerns.  As for the Troops feelings about the Obama administration, I really did not hear it mentioned much, the big concern was for the Iraqi people and being able to finish their mission.  Having served under 6 Commander-in-Chiefs, I can tell you that the military will serve whomever it is to the best of their ability regardless of their political leanings or possible philosophical differences.
 
Are you following the Panthers?  Will you be able to watch the game Saturday night?  I am definitely following the Panthers and was able to see their last game.  With the 9 hour time difference, a 1:00 game on the east coast is on at 10:00 p.m. here.  What time do they play on Saturday?  If it is an 8:00 game in Charlotte then kickoff here would be at 5:00 a.m. Sunday morning, and indeed, if I can find a place to watch it, I'll be there!!  The problem is that for religious reasons, the week-end here is Friday and Saturday, so I would end up watching it a 5:00 a.m. on my Monday morning,  oh well, it is the Panthers and well worth it.
 
Anything you'd like to add?  I just wish to thank you, Al, Charles, and Jim for all you do for the Troops.  I would also like to thank you for agreeing to be on the Charlotte USO's Board of Directors.  I know that you will be a great addition.  Please give your family my regards and tell everyone hi for me.