Bingo Serves As A Major U.S. Ally
While the majority of Americans support their troops, many may not realize Bingo is a major ally.
How can a simple game help these valiant defenders of freedom? Just gain access to some of the strategic Army bases located across our nation, and you’ll soon see ...
Two Georgia bases in particular raised a significant amount of money for the troops last year.
And, leading the charge is Tyrone Benton,
48, a retired platoon sergeant, who ranks high among his co-workers, customers and peers.
Benton serves as Bingo manager at both Fort Stewart,
home of the 3rd Infantry Division, the largest Army installation east of the Mississippi River; and Hunter Army Airfield,
a major training center, home of the largest helicopter unit in the Coast Guard, and alternate landing site for NASA’s space shuttle orbiters.
The proceeds raised from Bingo are earmarked for the Army’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation
programs, which support the troops and their families, he said.
The MWR was designed to improve soldier readiness by promoting mental and physical fitness, building morale and increasing self-reliance through a series of family-oriented programs and sports, entertainment, recreation, travel and leisure activities.
“We have a bowling alley, lodge, golf, but Bingo is the biggest supporter,” said Benton, who has managed army Bingo operations for the past 18 years.
“We are proud of what we’re doing here,” said Benton, happy he still continues to serve. “We appreciate the opportunity to give back.”
But when Benton, who was born in Martinsville, Va.; enlisted at age 19, Bingo wasn’t even a blip on the radar of his military career.
“Back in Martinsville, I worked at Bassett Furniture Co. I couldn’t see doing that until I retired. I wanted to do something else,” he said.
The army, he thought, would open more opportunities. After delaying entry one year, he reported to Fort Dix, N.J.; for six weeks basic training, specializing in power generator and wheel mechanics.
Crisscrossing the globe, he was sent from Fort Hood, Texas; to Camp Stanley, Korea; back to Fort Eustis, Va.; then Fort Sill, Ok.; before landing in Fort Stewart in May 1986.
After serving 12 years, Benton, now a married man and father of three, began looking at other careers. While studying computer science at Savannah Tech, he also worked at Fort Stewart’s NCO (noncommissioned officers) club.
“In 1990 I was assigned to the Bingo area. My manager recognized my potential. He had the confidence in me to take it over and keep it humming. That led to my career in Bingo.
“In 2005, I was offered the opportunity to also take over the Hunter program,” he said.
But he’s not alone in the assessment of Benton’s take-charge, leadership skills.
“I think his dedication and focus to the economic well-being of military Bingo is why he is very important to the Bingo community,” said Brian Jenkins, Video King’s Manufacturing Manager,
who has worked with him for a number of years.
“Tyrone brings a high degree of business acumen to Bingo, which has created great success in both of the halls he manages at Hunter Army Airfield and Fort Stewart.
“His best assets,” Jenkins said, “are probably his organizational and planning skills. You can easily see the level of professionalism he brings to the workplace that should be credited to his attention to detail.”
Adept at business, he’s also good with people.
“Another great quality of Tyrone is his ability to maintain complete control over his Bingo halls – without being a micro manager,” Jenkins said.
“He allows his assistants the freedom and creativity it takes to run a smooth Bingo operation while walking that tight line between player enjoyment, employee satisfaction and profit,” he said.
To which Benton is quick to assign credit.
“I couldn’t do it without such a tremendous staff. At Fort Stewart, we have an assistant manager and 10 employees. At Hunter, we have an assistant manager and 19 employees.
But as far as prior experience, it was the evolution of Bingo that helped propel Benton’s career.
“I never really played Bingo – other than the church-type stuff, with the lil’ red chips,” he said.
On the frontline, deep down in the trenches so to speak, he witnessed the game’s transformation – moving from hard cards or shutters to paper and the different types of electronics.
In fact, he’s even to the point where he can call some of the more operative shots.
“Tyrone has played a very important role in the development of our PowerMutual™ game,” Jenkins said.
He conceptualized features such as the participation rules and minimum purchase requirements in strategic areas of a para-mutual session.”
“It’s a nice progression,” Benton said, “seeing Bingo grow.”
But he’s not the only one happy with the transformation.
“With the introduction of electronics, it brings excitement to the younger generation, who are used to X-boxes and Nintendo,” he said.
As a showman, Benton also knows just how to keep his customers – equipped with the latest games and electronics – happy.
“We enjoy making it entertaining,” he explained. “We play a couple of Progressive $5,000 Jackpots, ‘Customer Appreciation Night,’ where we give away a 52-inch flat screen TV with the purchase of an entry pack once a month, and also a ‘Soldier Appreciation Night.’
“All the soldiers who have been deployed the last 15 months, they’re just starting to get back,” he said.
And, the pay-off of having someone like Benton is double-fold, particularly when you speak to some of the more appreciative players.
“Tyrone is the type of person that when you meet him, you feel like you’ve know him forever,” said Helen Shaw,
73, who has been playing Bingo at Hunter for seven years.
“He’s just so friendly, and makes you feel really welcome at Bingo, and that you are really special.
“It wouldn’t be the same place if he weren’t there. He’s just got that personality. He’s one of my favorite people in the world!”
A resident of nearby Savannah, Ga.; Shaw