Fort Bliss Soldiers were the first ones in line, as they are on the last Saturday of every month, to walk shelter dogs at the City of El Paso Animal Services center, a municipal animal shelter, in northeast El Paso, Texas, June 25, 2022, through the installation’s Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program.
An Army-wide program started in 1989, governed by Soldiers, for Soldiers, and managed by Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, BOSS connects single Soldiers and those serving away from their families (known as “geo bachelors”) with opportunities to have fun (with discounts on events that aren’t free) and serve others in the communities where they’re stationed.
Some Bliss troops took to the streets with their dogs for long walks, June 25, while others wrestled and played with the dogs at the EPAS center. EPAS averages 27,000 animal intakes per year, and after a 2016 reform plan by the city to make inroads to make EPAS a no-kill shelter, they now are able to connect approximately 87 percent of their animals with forever homes.
BOSS Soldiers regularly volunteer with EPAS, as well as the El Paso Armed Services YMCA’s Junior Enlisted Family Center, and gets out to tons of day-of events, such as working with FMWR for Independence Day festivities, and they’ve been VIP guests of the El Paso Rhinos, the Sun City’s North American Hockey League team, just as some examples.
Soldiers in the BOSS program also help the club be partially financially self-supporting. While BOSS is what the Army calls a “Category A” program, meaning it receives top-line focus when it comes to the funding of morale and recreation programs, garrison mission requirements sometimes require BOSS to generate revenue to help support operations, as well as subsidize the cost of recreational activities for Soldiers in the program.
For everything that they do to give back, Soldiers in the BOSS program are also there for fun and leisure, away from the service culture of the military. Sgt. Kristina Nguyen, a 1st Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment Soldier and this year’s Bliss BOSS secretary, who led the BOSS group to EPAS, June 25, had recently returned from a northern New Mexico rafting trip with BOSS and said the discount was appreciated.
“We just got back from a trip to Taos, New Mexico,” she said. “I’m planning a trip for us to San Antonio coming up. We’ve gone to the Grand Canyon, we’ve gone to Santa Fe–we take a lot of trips.”
As the Soldiers and their four-legged friends made their way back to the EPAS center, June 25, Spc. Aaron Schuyler, a 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment Soldier, who lives in the barracks, which don’t allow pets, said volunteering at the EPAS center was an easy decision.
“We don’t get a chance to have contact with animals like this on base,” Schuyler said, “you don’t see people walking their dogs around the barracks, so having the opportunity to come here and play with dogs, it helps a lot. Playing with these dogs makes me happy.”
Nguyen agreed and said volunteering with BOSS at EPAS is a win-win.
“I didn’t grow up with animals, but I love animals,” she said. “It’s a good reason for Soldiers to get out of the barracks–especially on a Saturday morning.”
BOSS is open to ALL single Soldiers and geo-bachelors, regardless of whether they live in the barracks or not. To keep up with Bliss Soldiers as they bust out of the barracks to enjoy the Borderland, while also taking advantage of fulfilling community service projects and a lot more, visit https://bliss.armymwr.com/programs/boss-better-opportunities-single-soldiers.
To learn more about volunteering with EPAS, visit https://elpasoanimalservices.org/how-you-can-help/volunteer.