When many people think about the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program, they may associate it with paintballing, weekend trips, and other fun but not necessarily useful activities.
For one drill sergeant here on Fort Jackson, the BOSS program has meant so much more.
Staff Sgt. Cody Mackall, a drill sergeant with 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment is also a public affairs officer for the local BOSS program.
“I've been involved with BOSS now on Fort Jackson since September of 2019, but I’ve been involved with the program for about six years now. Before here I was the president of the BOSS program on Fort Campbell,” Mackall said.
“People need to realize the value of the program. There was a point in my career when I was lost. I was alone. I had just had surgery, and I had an entire bottle of (Percocet).”
Within a week of arriving at his new unit on Fort Campbell, Mackall had to have surgery and was recovering for seven days, without anyone checking on him. “I hit a really dark place. One night I literally contemplated taking that entire bottle of (Percocet),” Mackall said.
In the midst of this dark time, a friend of Mackall’s called and told him about an opportunity to volunteer with BOSS the next day at a food pantry for the homeless and low-income residents called Manna Café.
“I set the bottle back down.”
Mackall said going to that food pantry and seeing the small things that the program can do to impact the local community was amazing.
"The program gets Soldiers out of the barracks and provides another avenue for volunteerism," said Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Algrish Williams. "It gives Soldiers another outlet when they might not be able to bring their concerns to their chain of command. Leaders can holistically see what is impacting their Soldiers without it having to come from an individual."
Mackall volunteered for several months at the pantry before the program took a temporary break. “When we went back on a Saturday a homeless man came up to me and said ‘I look forward to seeing you every week.” He told Mackall that he had contemplated jumping off a bridge and that if he saw the group from BOSS then he would know it wasn’t meant (for him to jump).”
Mackall said they had a bonding moment when he explained to the man that he had been at that same low point at one time in his life, and that his life had value as well.
Mackall said the new life skills incentive provides opportunities that can benefit a Soldier in the long run. “At Campbell, I watched a female who had never touched a car before, learn how to put a car on a jack and change a flat tire.” Mackall added, “Right now we’re in the process of doing an auto skills (class) here on Fort Jackson. The purpose behind it is to teach you something you’re able to use your whole life.”
Mackall said that some people in leadership view BOSS as more of a party scene or an opportunity for people to get out of work to go on trips, but it is more than that. Mackall said he would like to see people use BOSS as a mentorship tool, providing direction and purpose to become better leaders so when they don’t do as expected they won’t see it as a failure or feel bad.
“I can see BOSS growing to a level where it can become an amazing tool to our Organization. When I look at most of our BOSS representatives, I see someone who really wants to be here, and be a better leader. I see someone who is trying hard to be a better version of themselves by getting out into the community, and is trying to become a great senior noncommissioned officer or field grade officer,” Mackall said.
“You don’t get your average Soldier as a BOSS Representative, they are the ones who are trying to be someone special, and make a difference. And to me they are all special, because most of them are trying to be better leaders, and to me, that makes them all special.”
If you would like to get involved with the BOSS program you can email FTJacksonBOSS@gmail.com, or reach out through Facebook @fortjacksonboss.