Alum, faculty member chronicles USO tours

Award-winning photojournalist Steve Manuel retired as a major in the Marines 13 years ago, but he continues to make regular tours to combat areas in the Middle East as a photojournalist for USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tours.

In the past three months, Manuel has spent nearly two weeks overseas, first chronicling an April trip to Afghanistan that included actors from the CBS-TV drama “The Unit” as well as legendary Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda and NBA star David Robinson.

He returned overseas June 5-11 and followed actor/comedian Stephen Colbert for a week. Colbert taped his popular Comedy Central television program, “The Colbert Report,” from Baghdad.

Later this month, Manuel will leave for the Persian Gulf, accompanying five current and former NFL coaches participating in the inaugural NFL-USO Coaches Tour. Active coaches making the trip include Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants, Jeff Fisher of the Tennesee Titans and John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens.

The retired coaches making the trip both have a Super Bowl victory to their credit: Bill Cowher, formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and  Jon Gruden, formerly of the Tampa Bay Bucaneers. Both now work as television analysts, Cowher for CBS and Grurden for ESPN.

Manuel, a senior lecturer in the College of Communications, teaches photojournalism and public relations at Penn State.

A former public affairs officer for the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Marine Corps spokesman, Manuel has traveled as a photojournalist with the USO regularly in the past. He has chronicled tours to the Balkans, Japan and South Korea that included comedian Dane Cook, country music legend Charlie Daniels, the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders and the cast from “JAG,” among others.

As Department of Defense spokesman before he joined Penn State in 1996, Manuel’s primary duty, when not responding to media queries, was writing public affairs guidance for field commands of all the military services for response to any questions from the press on exercises, operations and specific events. He served in many locations throughout the world, including Vietnam, Hawaii, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Manual, who was commissioned as a major before leaving the Marines, earned both his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from Penn State.

Conceived in 1941 in response to a mandate from President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a coalition of six private organizations -- the YMCA, YWCA, National Catholic Community Service, the National Jewish Welfare Board, the Traveler’s Aid Association and the Salvation Army -- the USO (United Service Organizations) works to bring a touch of home to members of the U.S. armed forces across the world.

The USO is not a government agency. It is a non-profit, charitable organization and relies on donations from private citizens and corporations.

As part of its morale-boosting efforts across the globe -- which include entertainment tours as well as things such as orientation programs, family events, travel assistance and recreation services -- the USO operates more than 130 centers in nine countries and 21 states. More than 25,000 volunteers donate their time and talents to the organization, and service members and their families visit USO centers 5.3 million times each year.

For photos, visit http://live.psu.edu/stilllife/2083 online.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010