ONTARIO, Calif. — USO Ontario was unexpectedly shut down Friday morning after its center manager was abruptly fired, locking out volunteers and any military personnel looking for assistance.
Gail Oyler confirmed that she was let go Friday morning after serving as the center’s manager for the past three years, but she did not want to discuss the details.
However, Oyler said she was most appalled that USO Greater Los Angeles Area decided to shut down the center for five days instead of allowing volunteers to continue operations. The Ontario center is chartered and operated by a board of directors, which also operates facilities at Los Angeles and Palm Springs airports.
“It defies what the USO is about, which is being there for the troops,” Oyler said. “Our motto is ‘until everyone comes home,’ right now they are certainly not coming to the Ontario USO. I’m astounded.”
Officials with the USO Greater Los Angeles Area referred all media calls to USO personnel headquartered in Washington D.C.
Gayle Fishel, spokeswoman for the USO, said it does not comment on personnel matters.
On the USO website, it states the Ontario center which is located in the original terminal at LA/Ontario International Airport is “closed until further notice.”
“The USO was notified today about a personnel action taken by the USO - Greater Los Angeles Area, Inc. at their Ontario Airport Center. The USO does not have a role in Chartered Center personnel actions. We were informed that there is a temporary closure of the Ontario Airport Center and we are working directly with the USO - Greater Los Angeles Area, Inc. to ensure that plans are in place to fulfill our mission to our troops and their families as quickly as possible,” Fishel said.
When calling the USO Ontario location, a man who answered the phone on Friday as Bob confirmed that USO Ontario had temporarily closed and the reopening is “to be determined.”
“We’re temporarily shutting down and looking forward to opening at the earliest opportunity,” the gentleman said.
Oyler, who was the lone paid employee, said the volunteer schedule was filled through the month. She added that she typically does not work on the weekends and the location could have remained open and staffed by volunteers at least through the weekend. There are more than 200 volunteers at the center, she said.
The USO, or United Service Organizations, is a nonprofit that provides a home away from home for all active and retired military. It receives no government funding and survives through the generosity of the community and with fundraisers.
The Ontario USO is one of the largest in the United States. In 2012, it served more than 26,000 troops.
The Ontario center was in good financial standing, according to Oyler, who volunteered at the center two years before her appointment,
With the closure, military personnel on a commercial flight will have to spend their own money on food, and that’s if there are any concessionaires open at ONT, Oyler said.
“My dispute is separate. This is about denying the troops,” she said. “Our board of directors think its OK to shut the doors to the military and those folks that are putting their lives.”