FORT SAM HOUSTON, TEXAS (Sept. 17, 2017) - - "I'm Pfc. Nicholas Angelo, from Camp Humphreys, Korea, Bravo Company, 602d Aviation Support Battalion, born in Jersey, grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., I'm Italian, Sicilian -- proud," as this Soldier is eager to tell anyone. Like every competitor in the BOSS Strong Championship, he is one of many single Soldiers from everywhere, looking to better their lives in the Army.
"I was a troubled youth, growing up," explains Pfc. Angelo. "Got kicked out of high school when I was 15, hooked up with the wrong crowd. Moved out on my own at 16, really successful as a young teenager, but still found myself doing the wrong thing."
Angelo was preparing to be scored with his team at the Fort Sam Houston Bowling Center, one of several locations used to train, test and judge each team in the competition.
"I wanted to turn my life around, so I decided to go ahead and join the Army," continued Angelo. "Since then, my life is a complete 180. I'm a completely different person. My family is super proud of me, I'm really happy where I'm at today."
BOSS refers to Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers, an Army program designed to increase exposure to educational, social, recreational, and artistic activities by unaccompanied military members at Army garrisons around the world. BOSS leadership is embedded within the U.S. Army Installation Management Command's G9 Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation -- and is the main organizer of the Championship event.
"I did basic training at Fort Sill, Okla. I actually had to go through basic twice, I got recycled," lamented Angelo. "The last two days of basic I got in a fight. I've been in about two years and that was the only time where the Sicilian came out. Since then I've learned to control myself a lot, and I've been growing as a person."
The mission of IMCOM is to "integrate and deliver base support [at the garrisons] to enable readiness," and the MWR programs and services help to shape and retain the Army's Soldiers. Angelo joined the Army in February 2015 and became involved in BOSS while in Korea.
"I was stationed in Korea and decided to get hooked up with the BOSS program so I could go out and explore," said Angelo. "I wanted to get different opportunities that most Soldiers wouldn't have."
Fast forward to this competition which pits five teams of Soldiers from Fort Lee, Fort Meade, Fort Sill, USAC Italy and Camp Humphreys against each other, to explore and offer a glimpse of the future of Soldier functional fitness - a concept of how the Army plans to train today for the fight tomorrow.
After a week in the competition, "for me, the hardest part of the competition was, believe it or not, the horseback riding," said Angleo. "I've never ridden a horse before, not many horses in New York City or New Jersey, so that was the hardest part for me -- to overcome the fear, but after I did it, I had a great time."
The events leading up to the Championship scheduled for the 24th of September, combine life skills, such as healthy cooking and first aid; recreation opportunities like golf, swimming, archery, basketball, volleyball, soccer and equestrian skills, available at many Army installations through MWR; and physical trials through various obstacle courses.
"Our team has come together," said Angelo, speaking highly of his fellow Soldiers: Pfc. Khayree Sneed, from Gainsville, Florida, Spc. William Cook, from Florence, S.C, Spc. Catheryn Mayfield, from the Philippines, Pfc. Jayme Patterson, from Cullman, Al., and Spc. Bryce Forseth, from Green Bay, Wi. "We've had our times, on the way over here, and during some competitions. We argued a little bit, but the team building exercises and the warrior proving ground brought us together."
Pfc. Angelo is part of "SWOLE Team Six" and wants to prove the means and methods of the BOSS Strong Championship will help him and his teammates perform at the highest level, together.
"We are way stronger now, then we were before, together," concluded Angelo. "I've seen us take on the gold -- I had a dream about it and I think about it constantly, all day long. Self-actualizing us, taking home the trophy and bringing back all the great information to the Soldiers there, the nutrition, the workouts, the resiliency. Just bringing back everything to make everyone's level of readiness higher in Korea."
MWR has over 70 bowling centers at installations around the world, and is part of the Army's mission to make wholesome recreation available to Soldiers and their Families where they are. Bowling is an activity which anyone can do, and it relieves stress and builds teams. Like each event programmed in the BOSS Strong competition, the bowling activity came with a surprise twist.
"The bowling experience was really fun," said Angelo, coming back to the competition at hand. "I've only bowled, probable two or three times in my life, and throwing in the left hand, I'm not really good with my left hand, so that was a unique experience."
The challenge presented to the Soldiers was to bowl their best game in their dominant hand, then bowl a game with their opposite hand. Of the six team members, the two highest and two lowest scores were combined, the two median scores were thrown out. This forced the team to incentivize and encourage the weakest Soldiers to focus, work harder and perform outside their experience and expertise, in order to advance the squad. Then the BOSS Strong leaders threw another curve ball.
"Once we put on the full battle-rattle, it added a whole different aspect to it," explained Angelo. "The distribution of weight, the limitation of movement. Altogether it was fun and I think our team did very well."
Each exercise and event was designed by the leaders and coaches of the BOSS Strong Championship to help the team learn about themselves individually and together, to foster and promote readiness and train for the battlefield.
"While we were bowling, I had about eight gutter balls," lamented Angelo. "I've never had that feeling before, being on the bottom, being the weak link. It was somewhat humbling, but it was great reinforcement knowing that my team was right there supporting me, even though they were carrying my weight the whole time."
The entire BOSS Strong Championship is being recorded and will be broadcast on various military networks including the U.S. Department of Defense News website. The series will follow all the teams as they progress through the competition.
"I think it is really great the Army brought us here," said Angelo. "I feel really blessed and honored to be here. We're almost like the guinea pigs for what the Army wants to do. If we can all go back to our units and bring that to the rest of our Soldiers, I think what we are doing here can be a new start for the Army. Readiness and morale can go through the roof."
The competition is a physical, spiritual and emotional experience for BOSS Soldiers everywhere.
"So when we're done, after a big event or a really tough PT session, it's almost an indescribable feeling," said Angelo, one BOSS Soldier from anywhere. "During [the event] you want to quit. Every ounce of you, your body is telling you to quit, but your mind has to be stronger than your body, and you have to keep pushing yourself, pushing yourself, pushing yourself.
"Finally when you get through it in the end, and come out as a team, you are overwhelmed with a sense of accomplishment. You feel absolutely great about yourself and your team. It brings us closer together."
The competition is sponsored by Cerasport Rice-based Electrolyte Drink, Trigger Point Performance Therapy, Global Promotional Sales and Breezer Mobile Cooling.