FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- When Sgt. Marshall Pampkin arrives at a new installation, one of the first things he does is get involved with its Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program.
The assistant strength manager for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 165th Infantry Brigade, said the program is hands-down the best way to meet people, experience what the area has to offer, and get involved in the community.
"When I first got here, there weren't a lot of people hanging out talking in the barracks," Pampkin said. "There was no one pointing me in this or that direction. But the BOSS program brings people together. It gets people involved and engaged, gets them out and doing something."
That is exactly what the program is intended to do, said Fort Jackson's BOSS president, Sgt. Jessica Garrett.
"This program is by the Soldiers for the Soldiers," she said. "There is something for everyone. Some Soldiers enjoy doing community service, some enjoy the trips, and some are passionate about the issues that they or their Soldiers are going through."
All of these are elements of the BOSS program, which defines its three pillars as community service, wellbeing, and recreation and leisure. Fort Jackson's program upholds these pillars through a variety of activities and events.
The group regularly visits veterans' homes and spends one day each month at its adopted school, Columbia's Forrest Heights Elementary School.
"It is important for the community to have a positive image of the single Soldier," Garrett said. "This is an opportunity for Soldiers to get involved in the community and to help out where we can, but it is also our chance to inform the community about what we do."
"Everybody talks about giving back to the community, but not a lot of people actually do it," Pampkin said, adding that Soldiers can also include these volunteer opportunities on their resumes in the future. "This is something positive Soldiers can get involved in now that can help them down the road."
Fun is another focus in BOSS. The program sponsors group outings, such as trips to amusement parks, football games and white-water rafting. It also gives out tickets to sporting events and hosts holiday parties on post.
"I like that BOSS gives Soldiers something more to do than go to the bar," said Pampkin, who has participated in BOSS programs around the Army for more than 10 years. "It's a chance to get out and take a trip somewhere or see and do something you wouldn't otherwise."
While Garrett likes to see Soldiers having a good time, what's most important to her is ensuring that their day-today life on Fort Jackson is a positive experience. In fact, helping Soldiers with quality-of-life problems was one of the main reasons she got involved with the program.
"I was good at speaking up for Soldiers and their issues," she said. "I have a passion for assisting Soldiers and putting their opinions and issues out to the command."
Garrett said she accomplishes this through Town Hall meetings and one-on-one meetings in which "we try to work out any issues at the lowest level possible."
Though they consider Fort Jackson's BOSS program a great opportunity for Soldiers, Garrett and Pampkin both pointed out that the program relies on the very Soldiers it serves.
"The key to this program's success is participation from the Soldiers," Garrett said. "If they don't like the events or things that we are offering, I encourage them to make suggestions. (Their participation) can make or break our program."
"BOSS isn't going to work without the support of the single Soldier community," Pampkin agreed. "If Soldiers have ideas about how to improve the program, it's only going to get better with their input and the support of the command.
"If you're not participating," he added, "you're missing out on all these opportunities, and the only thing standing in your way is you."
The BOSS program is open to all single Soldiers on Fort Jackson, to include single officers, single parents and geographical bachelors. To get involved or find out more about BOSS, contact your unit's BOSS representative or attend the next BOSS meeting scheduled for 11:45 a.m., Wednesday at the Single Soldier Complex.