FORT LEE, Va. (Aug. 12, 2019) - The Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program is a morale and welfare vehicle for troops. It promotes quality of life initiatives, provides leisure and recreational programing, and facilitates support of local communities through volunteerism.
It is now a recognized fact that Fort Lee's program does it better than any others in the Army.
Such was revealed during the 2019 BOSS Training Symposium awards ceremony July 26 in Indianapolis. Installation Management Command leaders presented the award to the Fort Lee team, represented by Staff Sgt. Michael Edwards, BOSS president; Matthew Haug, BOSS civilian advisor; and CSM James D. House, garrison CSM.
Edwards, who has been the president for seven months, said the award represents the work of a thriving BOSS program and its aggressive efforts to provide military members with a richer, fuller experience as Soldiers and members of the community.
"It was just really gratifying to know the hard work we put in was recognized throughout the Army," he said. "It wasn't just a vote of confidence from the command at Fort Lee. It was Korea, Europe, Fort Irwin (Calif.), IMCOM Pacific - they all recognized the work myself, Matt (Haug) and the BOSS representatives have put in and dedicated to this program. It gives you a sense a pride, and you definitely want to raise the bar and keep it going."
Criteria for the award included participation in community service events, impact on quality of life programs, and opportunities for leisure and recreation over the past year, all of which contributes to retention and readiness. Edwards said he had a strong hunch Fort Lee, which also earned the award in 2009, could compete with the best programs in the Army.
"I absolutely believed we had a chance because I know we have a solid program," he said. "I personally know the impact we have had on this installation, and how we've been gradually increasing our numbers in terms of participation for our quality of life, community service and recreation programs."
Highlights of the BOSS contributions during the past 12 months included lending extended hands to charity organizations such as Holiday Helper and Feed the Hungry.
Holiday Helper is an installation program providing assistance to military families facing difficult times during the holiday season. BOSS participants have supported the organization in several aspects, including collecting toys from all over the local area and region.
Feed the Hungry is a national program with local affiliates delivering food supplies to the disadvantaged. Edwards said BOSS program involvement often depends on available personnel and time requirements.
"For a Feed-the-Hungry outreach project, we can have 50 volunteers come out for an event in which we feed 250 families," he said. Holiday Helper normally garners the support of 10-15 volunteers per day.
BOSS has supported school mentorship efforts and other causes as well. Haug said the program's community service endeavors make for more well-rounded Soldiers and connects their military service with the community in which they serve.
"Our goals is to not just have people volunteer with us, but to make them better people for the Army, and it doesn't just help units, it helps the entire community."
Roughly 375 BOSS representatives, advisors and garrison command sergeants major from installations Army-wide attended the symposium where they received leadership and management training and discussed a range of other subjects related to BOSS functionality. Haug said it was a worthwhile experience.
"We received training in everything from budgeting to life skills to how to run a meeting properly," said Haug, who has advised Lee's BOSS program the past 11 years. "It gives the new presidents at look at how BOSS is run and how important it is. Then, we were afforded the opportunity to share ideas, learning from others what works and what doesn't."
During their stay, the attendees also volunteered to clean up a nearby park; visited the NCAA Hall of Champions museum; and participated in physical training events each morning to include a session at Lucas Oil Stadium, where they also toured the facilities of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts.
Haug said Phil Williams and Carrie Poore from FMWR marketing greatly enhanced their efforts to compete for the award. He also thanked Holiday Helper for its partnership, all the units who encouraged and supported BOSS participation, and all the civilians and others who contributed to the program.
BOSS members recently returned from a Caribbean cruise and have started planning for a similar excursion next year.
"We want to provide our participants with the opportunity to enjoy life," Edwards said. "You're a Soldier first, but at the end of the day, you're human; you want to have a good time, and you want to fellowship and build that camaraderie amongst each other."
For more information about the BOSS program, visit https://www.armymwr.com/programs-and-services/boss.