That's our good friend Captain Jack Ahart.  He's the outgoing director of the Charlotte USO, on his way to Dubai for a new assignment.  This in a career that includes tours of duty in Vietnam, at the Pentagon and in Desert Storm.  Captain Ahart has agreed to answer some of my questions before he goes.   I think this is a great opportunity to keep in touch with our service men and women overseas, so  I'm hoping to make this a regular feature.  Email me at staceysimms@wbt.com if you have questions for Jack!

Captain Ahart, Could you start by telling us a little bit about where you are going and what the mission is?

I will be based in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, which is in the Persian Gulf.  It is fast becoming the New York City/Las Vegas of the Middle East.  Dubai has the world’s tallest building, an indoor ski slope, a man-made island in the shape of a palm tree, another island under construction in the shape of the world, and a Tiger Woods designed golf course.

I will be the Director for Regional Development for USO Arlington and my mission is to raise money to improve/provide more things for the 8 USO Centers in the Persian Gulf, including Iraq and Afghanistan, which will better support all of the military men and women serving in the area.  My hopes are to get better communication lines between the service members and their families and loved ones back home.Have you spent any time in Dubai before this?

I have never been to Dubai, but during Desert Shield/Desert Storm, I flew a jet from an aircraft carrier in the Red Sea to an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, so I’ve been somewhat close.

3.     Where will you be staying? Curious if you'll live with a local family or on a military base as you get settled.

      I will be living in Dubai and hope to get a 2 bedroom apartment.  My wife will be joining me, hopefully, next May.  I also expect to do a lot of travelling to the other USO Centers to help them.

4.    What do you hope people in Charlotte keep in mind when they think about troops overseas? 

      I would like them to remember that today’s military is an all volunteer force and that many of them are going back to the conflict zones willingly because they believe in what they are doing.  Also, regardless of one’s political ideologies, the troops and the USO are non-political.  The troops are doing what is necessary to keep us safe and the USO is doing its part to make that job easier for them while travelling or during R & R overseas.  I hope that they keep the men and women in the military in their thoughts and prayers.

5.       What are you going to miss about Charlotte?

The things I will miss the most are all of the great people I have met and the great friendships I have formed since moving to Charlotte in September 1995.  This is the longest my wife, Susan, and I have lived in one place our entire married life, and we truly do consider Charlotte home. 

I will also miss the “what can I do” spirit of the people in Charlotte.  If anyone would have told me 28 months ago when I walked into an empty area at the airport that the Charlotte USO would have over 183,000 people pass through its doors and that the staff and volunteers would help another 3,000 in the local area, I would have thought they were nuts.  There is absolutely a synergistic effort between the Charlotte community, media, and the USO that has allowed us to be so successful and provide so much to those who truly deserve it and I am going to miss that relationship. 

I will especially miss all of my friends at WBT (Al, Stacey, Charles, Jim, Jeff and Brad) and 107.9 The Link (Matt, Ramona, Doc, Bandy, Matt, Jessica, Candy, Potter, Casey and Jon Wilson at both Fox and WBT.  I also wish to thank Mike Rucker, who has agreed to be the Charlotte USO Ambassador to the troops and their families.  I plan on keeping in touch, so missing you won’t seem as bad.

If I am allowed a request, it would be that all of the great support I have received from everyone continues for Sheila Waskow, the new Center Director, and that with everyone’s help, the Charlotte USO becomes even better and is able to provide services and support to all the troops and their families as they use the center.  I can not truly express how humble and appreciative I feel for all of your great support.  Until I get my own email, I should be able to be reached at usodubai@uso.org after 10 December and by then, I should have my own email.  I look forward to staying in touch with all of you through Stacey.

Love, Jack