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BOSS program re-energizes as troops return home from deployment

Northwest Guardian

Published: 01:36PM January 17th, 2013
BOSS program re-energizes as troops return home from deployment

Julie Smith/Northwest Guardian

From left, BOSS president Spc. Sable Myers, 62nd Airlift Wing command chief Chief Master Sgt. Gordon Drake, Joint Base senior enlisted adviser Chief Master Sgt. Dedra Lewis and I Corps HHB Command Sgt. Major Woodrow Ishman look on as Joint Base Command Sgt. Major Ronald Johnson signs the 2013 BOSS standard operating procedure.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord Command Sgt. Major Ronald Johnson signed a new set of standard operating procedures that outline command and unit responsibilities for Better Opportunities for Single Service members at a ceremony Jan. 8 at Nelson Recreation Center.

Johnson, who is also the senior military adviser to the BOSS program, said joint base leaders are examining ways to strengthen the program after a lull in participation, partly related to training and deployments.

“Participation is low because as units are focused on deployment or getting ready to deploy, participation in BOSS drops. But we’re at a point now where we’ve got one combat brigade and one combat support brigade that are deployed; otherwise all the brigades are here,” Johnson said. “So if we can get the program energized now as those other two units come home, we’re in good shape.”

The BOSS program began in the early 1990s as an answer to the growing concerns about the welfare of single service members. At the time, there was a strong emphasis on family programs, but there were not many programs in place to help the single service member.

BOSS was formed to provide support for single service members by increasing morale, fostering personal growth and providing opportunities for recreation and leisure activities. Program members get involved in local volunteer work and can socialize with other single service members in safe and healthy ways through the many events and trips that BOSS offers each month, Johnson said.

Volunteer service through BOSS also counts toward promotion points. After 200 volunteer hours through BOSS, single service members are awarded Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medals, worth 10 promotion points in the Army and one promotion point in the Air Force.

Last year, BOSS members participated in “Paint Tacoma Beautiful,” a local community service program that organizes volunteers to paint the homes of low-income seniors or low-income people with disabilities. The JBLM BOSS crew earned 160 volunteer hours painting the house of a deceased retiree’s widow who was battling cancer.

“We did it with fellow single service members, building that camaraderie,” Johnson said.

Plans for the BOSS program this year include a three-day training seminar for all BOSS unit representatives at the company, battalion and brigade level. Johnson said the training is key, since unit representatives are an integral part of the program.

“By submerging them in training for three days, they get excited about (BOSS) and go back to their units and talk to their fellow single service members about the program. That will boost participation as well,” Johnson said.

In March, the BOSS program will conduct a conference modeled after Army Family Action Plan focus groups to allow single service members to elevate their concerns to their chain of command. BOSS members will then get the opportunity to suggest solutions to those issues during the conference.

“There’s a lot of senior leadership intellect going into problems like sexual assault awareness, substance abuse, separation and transition assistance. We’ve got a bunch of leaders trying to figure out how to fix these problems,” Johnson said. “But we’re going to give these problems to these young, single service members and ask them, ‘What would you do to fix these problems?’”