By Ms. Jessica Marie Ryan (IMCOM Europe)September 7, 2017
CHIÈVRES, Belgium -- On a Saturday afternoon, an energetic crowd waited in front of the "starting line" at the Strong Viking obstacle-challenge in Puyenbroeck, Belgium.
Among the crowd were a team representing U.S. Army Garrison Benelux's Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers. They saw the wall, which served as the race's official starting line, and had a collective thought: this course is going to be tough.
As the BOSS team embarked on their 13-kilometer journey in mud and water, they agreed that no man was left behind. They planned to work together as a team to tackle over 30 Viking-themed obstacles. When the clock started, the members instantly approached the wall and noticed that it was not an easy climb. One person got over the wall first and stayed on top to lift their teammates up. One-by-one, they mastered the first obstacle and then the real fun began.
BOSS hosted the Strong Viking: Water Edition excursion, labeled as a like-skills event, for service members in USAG Benelux. Participants from Chièvres, Schinnen and Joint Force Command Brunssum met in Brussels and traveled to the event together. For some participants, it was their first time meeting each other.
Among the group was Army Spc. Lucillia Horn, a motor transport operator at JFC Brunssum. After being involved in BOSS activities at a previous duty station, she was familiar with the program and looked forward to completing the obstacle course with her teammates.
During one challenge, she faced another wall that she could not climb over. "There was a wall that I could not lift myself over, and three Soldiers lifted me up and helped me over the wall," she said.
Another team member was Mark Boggess, the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation civilian advisor for BOSS at Schinnen. As a civilian employee, Boggess thought the event was a good opportunity to connect with the service members while strengthening team-building skills.
"There were quite a few obstacles, and if we didn't work together as a team then we wouldn't have got them done," he said.
The event was more than just an afternoon of high-adrenaline fun. According to Boggess, the garrison BOSS council researched life-skills events in the summer and agreed that Strong Viking was a good fit.
According to their official website, the program, ran by U.S. Army Installation Management Command's G9 Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation directorate, allows participants to "enhance their quality of life, contribute to their community through community service activities, and assist in the planning and execution of their own recreation and leisure events."
In recent years, BOSS programs worldwide emphasized incorporating life skills into their events and activities.
"Each BOSS location can get creative and think about a life skill they want their Soldiers to learn, like making a community gazebo while at the same time learning carpentry skills or getting scuba-diving certifications," he said.
The team finished the 13-kilometer journey as they triumphantly crossed the course's finish line. For Horn, the event was the beginning of new programming as the garrison BOSS program will get new leaders. Along with Shawna Morton, another MWR civilian advisor, she is scheduled to attend the BOSS leadership training forum in San Antonio, Texas, in September.
She hopes to incorporate what she will learn at the forum when planning future events, especially those focusing on community service and life skills. "Being alone overseas can be a challenge, especially for single Soldiers. I want Soldiers to know that we are here and the Army cares [about them]," she said.