New USO Fort Riley director has vision

Retired major hopes to bring growth to agency’s programs

“The USO, to me, is an organization that strongly believes in its mission to make sure the service members and their families stay connected to their home and country and, to me, they really close the gap in that emotional and communication connection,” said retired Army Maj. Scott Payne, the new USO Fort Riley director. Payne, a native of Topeka, Kansas, officially became the new director in January and has been taking the time to become acquainted with the staff, volunteers and Fort Riley community since then. While Payne had not previously volunteered with or worked for the USO, he has been a beneficiary of the programs and centers available through the USO from staff, volunteers, donors and sponsors when he was in the military. He said his experiences as a service member using facilities and programs helped contribute to his decision to join the organization after medically retiring after 14 years in the Army.

“When you’re deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, the centers that are located there, really, they’re a place you can go and it’s almost like walking into a different area,” he said. “It provides that sigh of relief and feels like home. It’s a place you can go relax and it’s a stress reliever.”

The relationship between the staff and volunteers at USO Fort Riley and the Fort Riley community has been one of the most impressive things he has encountered, Payne said, since coming aboard. He added he was surprised by how well staff and volunteers at USO Fort Riley work with personnel of other organizations on post, like the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation. “(I like) the interaction with the military and the support that we have,” he said. “We have several events that we conduct on a monthly basis that generate discussion with the spouses with Spouses Sip ‘n Chat or the No Dough Dinners at the end of the month for families. I just noticed there’s a lot of connection between the USO and its service members that I really wasn’t aware of until I became director and then we have a lot of close partnerships with garrison entities and organizations, like MWR … Learning about the relationships here on post and in the local community was surprising, but it’s great and to continue to build on those, it’s a great opportunity.”

Continuing that relationship with the Fort Riley community and personnel of other organizations on post is important to Payne and one of the major things he is worked toward now, he said. Recently, he met with Col. John D. Lawrence, Fort Riley garrison commander, to discuss Lawrence’s wants and ideas for Fort Riley. Payne added he has also been working with David Roudybush, director of DFMWR, to discuss creating large, annual events in conjunction with one another.

“Ultimately, what we want to do is synchronizing,” Payne said. “We want to maximize the activities available here at Fort Riley and to the surrounding community.” Payne said he also hopes to increase awareness about the USO throughout the region, from Topeka to Hays, Kansas, because the staff at USO Fort Riley extend their services to Airmen, National Guardsmen, Army Reservists and more in the area. By increasing awareness, they will be able to recruit more volunteers, donors and sponsors to increase the programs available at all locations in the region and potentially add additional ones.

“If we can increase the awareness, then we can increase the support we have which means we can grow the programs we have for our service members,” Payne said. Payne said he plans to bring new growth to USO Fort Riley and to himself by being the director. His military background also provides him a different perspective than other staff there, but they all share the same goal.

“I think, at the end of the day … the direction and the passion and the ideas are generated in the same form,” he said.

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