PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. (Jan. 20, 2023) — Hugo Ambriz Tena, BOSS advisor at the Presidio of Monterey, wants service members to have fun, enjoy themselves and make friends at the organization’s events, but his main goal aims even higher.
Most of the service members at the Presidio of Monterey are students at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center and Tena said he wants them to be the “best linguists in the world.”
Together with U.S. Army Garrison Presidio of Monterey Command Sgt. Maj. Joe Traylor, and Navy Seaman Joel Anderson, BOSS president, Tena relies on the program’s three pillars – quality of life, recreation and leisure and community service – to organize events that help make his goal a reality.
“It’s really important for [service members] to destress because they’re so busy Monday through Friday,” Tena said. “When they come to our activities, they get a break, so eventually they go back to their classes on Monday with a free, open, calm, clear mind, which helps them with their studies.”
At most Army installations, BOSS stands for Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers, but at PoM, it stands for Better Opportunities for Single Service Members because service members from all military branches attend DLIFLC. In 2022, PoM BOSS surpassed expectations by holding 34 recreation and leisure events, 14 community service events and eight quality of life events.
Many BOSS events take place at the Staff Sgt. Kenneth R. Hobson Recreation Center, which serves as BOSS headquarters. Tena also serves as a recreation specialist for PoM’s Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation at the facility, and for that portion of his position, he draws on recreation facility experience that goes back to fifth grade.
Tena grew up in nearby Salinas, California, and graduated from California State University at Monterey Bay with a Bachelor of Arts degree in collaborative health and human services, with a concentration in social work and public administration. As a child, however, he began going to the Bread Box Recreation Center, a community center for youths, after school in Salinas. He later worked at the facility, and a lot of his philosophy on community-building comes from his experience there, he said.
For example, in the nearly four years since Tena started working at PoM, he has kept the center open on holidays, including Thanksgiving and Christmas, and he said he learned how important it is for a recreation center to stay open on holidays when he worked at the Bread Box.
“Here at the Presidio, I’m a firm believer that no service member should be alone during the holidays,” Tena said. “The Hobson is home away from home.”
For Thanksgiving in 2022, more than 20 service members expressed their thanks by writing positive Interactive Customer Evaluation comments about Tena.
“We love Hugo, and we really appreciate that he opened up the Hobson on Thanksgiving Day,” read one comment. “Not everyone lives near Presidio of Monterey and him opening up the Hobson really gave me a place to go instead of just being in the barracks. Hugo is legit the best.”
Tena said he also learned at the Bread Box that a smile can make someone’s day, and he continues that philosophy at the Hobson.
One of the BOSS pillars that Tena said he and the service members especially appreciate, is community service.
“We go out to the community; we make a difference,” Tena said. “We’ve done beach cleanups. We do El Estero [Park] clean ups. We help the local high school with their football games. At least for me, whenever I volunteer, it almost makes me feel like a better person, so I feel that helps [service members] with their language courses.”
BOSS is an Army program, and each program throughout the Army includes a leadership triad of a civilian advisor, the garrison command sergeant major and a BOSS president who is a service member. BOSS supports the overall quality of life for single service members, including single parents, and helps to maintain and improve readiness. It also helps identify issues and concerns by recommending improvements through the chain of command.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston has shared lines of effort for the BOSS program that include building cohesive teams; increasing mental, physical and emotional fitness; providing discipline that will lead to fewer adverse actions; and training to promote readiness and resiliency through personal growth.
Traylor said the BOSS pillars, Grinston’s lines of effort and an emphasis on life skills help himself, Tena and Anderson shape the program and maximize its effectiveness.
“The environment [at PoM] changes, but it gives us some structure to be able to work towards and that’s just making a better force, a healthier force, a more disciplined force, a ready and resilient force, which is what everybody wants to do,” Traylor said.
By design, BOSS events help maintain and improve service member readiness, Traylor said. For example, one of the most popular events for PoM BOSS has been hikes in Big Sur, a beautiful, sparsely populated area by the Pacific Ocean that includes several state parks.
“In this environment, where they’re trying to learn a language, it’s very demanding,” Traylor said. “We provide [service members] activities where they can take a break for a short period of time, do something they love, meet different people, share their experiences, just expand, just make those social and emotional connections with other folks and get away from the books for a short period of time.”
Traylor said Tena is passionate about helping service members, and the BOSS program provides him with opportunities to do exactly that. In addition, Tena is good at building connections with service members, talking with them and giving them advice.
After a successful 2022, Traylor said he looks forward to working with Tena and Anderson this year on goals that will improve the BOSS program even more.
Anderson said he has worked with Tena since he became the BOSS president nearly two years ago, and Tena’s expertise with BOSS helped him immensely as he got up to speed with the program.
“There’s just something about Hugo, and it’s just Hugo and it’s hard to explain, but he’s always such a positive person,” Anderson said. “I think that he always has so much energy that he pours into making sure every student’s life here is the best it can be. He’s always trying to get to know people, trying to make sure that their needs are met.”
Tena’s energy is infectious, Anderson said. “It really helps so many people on base just feel like they’re at home and I would definitely say the BOSS program is definitely what it’s become for me,” he said. “It’s just a home, especially being away from my actual home.”
Joaquin “JR” Finona, acting director of PoM FMWR, echoed Anderson’s sentiments.
“Hugo understands and can relate to single service members’ mindset and has a deep passion for the program,” Finona said. “Hugo goes above and beyond expectations and always thinks outside the box on programs/events he feels service members would be interested in. Hugo displays initiative, knowledge and has a unique skill set which is why he’s successful as MWR BOSS advisor.”
Tena said he is thankful for the advice and mentorship that Col. Sam Kline, garrison commander, and Traylor; Finona, and Steve Hossman, his supervisor at the Hobson, have provided him. He is also thankful for the Hobson’s great team, which makes the service members feel comfortable.
“Everyone is a different shape, different color, different ethnicity, different beliefs, but I think here we’re very respectful,” Tena said. “We’re very easy to talk to, which is as we should be, but I think a lot of service members really appreciate that we’re here for them.”