By Kim Wheeler, Special to the LeaderMarch 22, 2013
FORT JACKSON, SC -- Fort Jackson's Better Opportunity for Single Soldiers program has a new president. Sgt. Cerno Toro, a chaplain assistant for 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment, was appointed to the position earlier this month and said his primary goal during his presidency will be to unite the post's single Soldier community.
"I want to bring together single Soldiers and promote a sense of community," Toro said. "A lot of times, when people get off work, everyone goes their separate ways and (people) don't socialize as much. They scatter and go do their own thing or sit in their rooms complaining that there's nothing to do."
Toro speaks from personal experience. The 28-year-old New York native calls the six months after he relocated to Fort Jackson in 2010 "a solitary experience" and a drastic change from the tightly bonded community he'd experienced in his unit at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
"Getting involved with BOSS changed things dramatically for me," he said. "I started meeting people, started going out and really enjoying life again."
That sense of community and belonging is exactly what he hopes the program will do, not only for Soldiers new to the area, but all of the post's single Soldiers. To accomplish this, Toro will rely on the BOSS program's pillars, which are recreation and leisure, community service, and quality of
The program is currently linking its leisure activities with the post's Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation program's schedule while Toro plans future events, including fundraisers to support trips and get-togethers. He also hopes to get together a team to participate in local fun runs and the semi-annual U.S.M.C. Ultimate Challenge Mud Run in Columbia.
The program's community service block will include being active in community schools and maintaining the group's established relationship with Columbia's Forrest Heights Elementary School.
"Those kids think we're superheroes," he said of participating in previous BOSS outings to the school. "It was like we'd jumped right out of a comic book. We're supposed to set the example in the community, and what better way than to be there spending time with them?"
Toro said he also hopes to be an advocate for the quality of life of Fort Jackson's single Soldiers, a task he said his experiences first as an infantryman and then a chaplain assistant have prepared him for.
"Being a chaplain assistant has taught me to be more empathetic and how to advocate for other individuals," he said. "I get my assertiveness and perfectionism from my time in the infantry -- I won't stop until it's perfect."
Chuck Stoudemire, FMWR liaison for BOSS, said Toro also has the right personality for the job.
"Sgt. Toro is very friendly and outgoing -- he's not afraid to get out there and do what needs to be done," Stoudemire said. "He has great ideas that are really going to benefit the program."
Even with his plans for the program falling into place, Toro knows that bringing this vision to fruition won't be without its challenges. He named the post's rigorous operational tempo and the misconceptions that many Soldiers might have of BOSS as two of the biggest hurdles he'll need to overcome to be successful.
To address the time issue, he said he is researching the installation cycle schedule to try to determine when to host BOSS events so as many Soldiers as possible will be able to attend.
Meanwhile, he is launching an information campaign to reach as many single Soldiers as he can through publicity, visiting units around post to encourage involvement, and finding unit BOSS representatives.
"A lot of Soldiers don't know about or understand BOSS," Toro said. "This program is not just for junior enlisted Soldiers currently living in the barracks. BOSS is open to any single Soldier --enlisted or officer, active or Reserve, geographical bachelors, and single parents."
Toro particularly wants to reach out to Fort Jackson's single parent community, a group he said he believes could benefit greatly from connecting with one another.
Though he knows it will take time and diligence to accomplish the program's goals, Toro said is excited to take on the task -- even while he continues performing his regular duties with 2-39th until a replacement arrives and he is able to take on the BOSS program full time.
"I have no problem putting 100 percent into this," he said.
The next BOSS event is an Open Mic Night for spoken word and musical artists at the Alpine Lodge at Heise Pond from 6 to 9 p.m., March 22. BOSS meetings will take place the first Friday of each month at 4 p.m. at the Corporal Freddie Stowers Single Soldiers Complex.