What is there to do in Baumholder? That’s a good question for single service members and geographically-separated bachelors living on “The Rock,” but one program now has them asking, “What should I do first?”
Thanks to the Baumholder Better Opportunities for Single Service members program, single Soldiers and geographically-separated service members can enhance their quality of life through recreation and leisure activities, while assisting the community through volunteer efforts, said Baumholder BOSS President Spc. Khady Dia, an automatic logistics specialist with Echo 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery.
Before she arrived at Baumholder in May 2016, Dia had preconceived notions about her new duty station being a boring place to live, she said. But her former roommate — a unit BOSS representative — got her involved in the program to change her mind about Baumholder.
“After I got here, I began seeing Germany through the BOSS program and started thinking, ‘This place is really nice,’” Dia said. “Baumholder has a lot to offer, and when you speak to people from Baumholder, they are happy to tell you all about the activities in the local area.”
BOSS Vice President Spc. Miguel Montoya, a heavy vehicle operator with the 515th Transportation Company, already had experience with BOSS at his previous assignment – Fort Wainwright, Alaska.
“When I got there, I started doing some recreational activities with BOSS,” said the geo-bachelor, whose spouse and one-year-old son live in Alaska. “I joined the program during the first winter I was stationed there, because there’s hardly any sunlight for about eight months of the year, which can be depressing.”
His first activity was a deep sea fishing trip in Seward, Alaska. Afterward, Montoya was hooked. He participated in several other trips and became immersed in the military community as well.
“I think their goal was to ensure Soldiers got everything they could out of the program to have fun, because Alaska has a high suicide rate due to the long winter season,” he said. “The program was pretty amped up in Alaska, so there are a few things they were doing there that we are trying to implement here.”
One big change is more leadership involvement, Montoya said. At his previous base, his command sergeant major was very engaged in BOSS. In Baumholder, USAG RP’s Command Sgt. Maj. Brett Waterhouse is equally committed to enhancing the lives of unaccompanied Soldiers’ through BOSS’ three pillars: quality of life, recreation and leisure and community service.
“BOSS is important because it’s a program for single Soldiers, led by single Soldiers, like Specialists Dia and Montoya. BOSS gives single Soldiers and geo-bachelors living in the barracks a ‘voice’ or a line of communication to express their concerns and ideas regarding their wellbeing, morale and overall quality of life all the way up to me,” Waterhouse explained. “The program also gives them opportunities to take part in recreational and leisure activities that they might not otherwise get a chance to do – like transportation and lodging-provided trips to the Alps or attending special events designed for them to have fun – like paint ball tournaments and trips to local fests where they can meet other single Soldiers from their installation or other installations within the Rheinland-Pfalz community. BOSS also gives single Soldiers and geo-bachelors the opportunity to help their fellow service members by serving as volunteers for community events held at the various Army and Air Force installations.”
The garrison command sergeant major oversees the BOSS program and provides input and support, Montoya said.
“CSM Waterhouse supports the program and does what he can to ensure Soldiers can participate,” he said. “For instance, when single Soldiers sign up for a BOSS trip, they must clear it with their unit first sergeant to ensure they can attend. This avoids last-minute cancellations due to conflicting work schedules. Unless a Soldier is in a mission-critical position, the unit should allow the individual to attend BOSS functions.”
To energize and make their unit representative meetings more interesting, Dia said they hold their meetings at different local restaurants each month to give them a taste of the local culture.
“In the past, all of our meetings were held in the temporary Warrior Zone, which was dull,” she explained. “So, one of the new things we implemented was changing the location of our meetings each month. By changing the meeting locations, we can find new places to engage and learn about the program.”
BOSS is also increasing participation by advertising events using social media platforms and newer messaging apps.
“Right now, our job is to show more visibility in the community and visit the units to make sure they know what is going on in the program and what we have to offer our Soldiers,” she said.
That’s why BOSS will begin using freeware and cross-platform messaging to inform people about events and receive immediate results on what they want to attend. BOSS will use the new communication tools to announce events to singles and geo-bachelors – a segment of the community that is sometimes underrepresented in garrison family-oriented functions. Soldiers can talk to their unit BOSS reps to be added.
“It can be difficult to plan BOSS events, because there are so many people with different wants and likes. Right now, we are trying to create events to meet the different needs of everyone,” Montoya explained. “It’s also difficult because work is still being done on the new Warrior Zone, but once it’s completed, we should be able to schedule a lot of BOSS events there.”
Recently, BOSS got into the Halloween spirit by participating in the five-kilometer Zombie Run, Spookathon, 5/7 ADA Trunk or Treat and Haunted Hayride. After the hayride, participants enjoyed a well-deserved break at a bonfire and camping excursion.
The BOSS program also gives the single Soldiers who serve as their unit BOSS representatives an opportunity to serve as a leader in their unit and in their community – whether they are a private second class or a staff sergeant, Waterhouse said.
“One of the most important responsibilities a unit BOSS representative has is to communicate any quality of life concerns and ideas on improvement to their respective first sergeant and the garrison BOSS president,” he said. “The garrison BOSS president has the responsibility to pass that information on to me. My job, in turn, is to work with unit leadership and community organizations like the Army and Air Force Exchange Service; Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation; and garrison staff leadership to come up with ways to address those concerns.”
Baumholder currently has between 30-40 unit BOSS representatives, Montoya said.
“Being a unit BOSS representative is an additional duty, but it’s an important job that keeps Soldiers informed and involved,” he added.
“BOSS changed my perspective a lot. It changed the way I saw Baumholder and the way I enjoy my Army experience,” Dia said. “It means a lot to me knowing our community is involved and cares about the quality of life of our single Soldiers.”