By CATRINA FRANCIS
Gold Standard Senior Staff Writer
The Army has always been about Family, but how it defined Family has changed.
In 1989, the U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center and Major Commands were tasked to develop a program to get single Soldiers involved in determining their recreation and leisure needs. Implementation of the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program began with single Soldiers focus groups. In 1991, the chief of staff, U.S. Army, formally expanded the BOSS program to include all areas of single Soldiers’ lives. This change provided Soldiers with opportunity to surface quality of life issues through chain of command. During the evolution of the program, single Soldiers indicated a desire to participate in activities related to community support, according to knowmwr.com.
Last year Command Sgt. Maj. Steven Voller, the garrison command’s senior enlisted leader, tasked Staff Sgt. Timothy Rhodes, the former BOSS president, with improving the program.
“The Fort Knox BOSS program had life breathed back into it by (Staff Sgt.) Rhodes,” said Voller. “(I) challenged him to come up with new ideas. The biggest was BOSS Avenue. They came up with a place for Soldiers (where there is no) smoking (and) no alcohol for single Soldiers (who) didn’t want to go to the Landing Zone or clubs.”
Voller pointed out that the Garrison Commander Col. Bruce Jenkins ensured the resources were available to renovate an old theater which had been used as the Maneuver Battle Lab.
Since the renovation and addition of LCD TVs, pool tables and a game room, traffic has increased at BOSS Avenue to about 1,000 Soldiers per month. Voller said that is a phenomenal feat.
Voller pointed out that BOSS Soldiers are also coming together and volunteering on and off the installation. They helped out during youth sports day at Caruso Youth Sports Complex.
“(The Soldiers) handed out products (which) saves the Army money and manpower,” explained Voller.
Voller was also pleased with how the program’s leadership helps change some of the misconceptions on post, such as the commissary is only available to married Soldiers. They created a video to bring about commissary awareness to single Soldiers.
“(I) challenged him to provide awareness (about) buying healthy items, cost savings and (the commissary being) available to single Soldiers,” Voller said. “He created a video, scheduled and conducted tours of the commissary; (they) did some giveaways and (had) a barbecue.”
Although the goal was awareness, during the process of educating single Soldiers the program won a first-place award from the commissary.
Even though the program wasn’t new to the installation, Voller said Rhodes involving senior post leadership was the key to making it a successful program.
“If you stay involved with senior leadership you can make a difference,” he said.
As BOSS president Rhodes’ tenure put a stop to the high turnover rate of leadership every four to six months, said Voller. Although Rhodes has moved to Fort Benning, Ga., due to a permanent change of station, the program hasn’t missed a beat with its newest leadership. Spc. Michael Shepherd is the president and Sgt. James Gibbs is the vice president.
Shepherd was Rhodes’ vice president so his transition was a little smoother and he was able to pick up and expand the previous goals of the program.
He said some Soldiers might believe the program is about recreation and going on trips. But that is only a small fraction of what is done. He is responsible for the program’s finances, logistics, travel, lodging and food when Soldiers travel. Working in a leadership position as a junior Soldier will prepare Shepherd for life as a junior noncommissioned officer.
“(The position) will help me grow professionally,” he said. “It’s a big role and not just fun and games.”
He said Rhodes was a great leader and he plans to expand the program because he recalled the days of Rhodes changing the program from a nonexistent entity to winning a first place award. He also recalled the difficulties of coming up with a plan to renovate BOSS Avenue after Voller gave them 12 hours to come up with a plan of action.
“Command Sgt. Maj. Voller said, ‘Here’s $200,000, think recreation building,’” explained Shepherd. “It was more difficult than we thought.”
Even though he was only a private first class at the time, Shepherd said he was ready for the challenge, but he admits to being a little intimidated at having to brief a general officer when Rhodes was attending the Warrior Leaders Course.
Although Shepherd’s transition wasn’t difficult, Gibbs said he had to tone it down a bit because he hadn’t worked with the program and he was used to being a line Soldier.
“(You) can’t treat everybody like they are in infantry,” said Gibbs.
He said one of his goals is having the program being used as a tool to alleviate a Solder’s stress.
“A lot of Soldiers relax in the movie room or watch TV,” Gibbs said. “Soldiers come here during lunch and kind of hang out.”
Even though the program has changed hands, Voller is confident in Shepherd’s and Gibbs’ ability in leading the program.
“Those two are going to take Fort Knox BOSS to the next level and increase participation,” Voller said.
For more information on the program, call (502) 624-7144.