By C. Todd Lopez
LEESBURG, Va. (Aug. 11, 2009) -- Soldiers and Army civilians kicked off the 2009 Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers annual conference Monday with recognition of the organization's 20-year existence, a new logo and a birthday cake.
"We've come a long way" said Brig. Gen. Reuben D. Jones, commander, Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command, of the 20 years the BOSS program has been in existence. "Look at the influence you are having. And we've got to set the table for the next decade. We're going to do that with your creativity, your innovation, and your dedication to keep BOSS in front of leaders."
Nearly 250 BOSS program leaders and advisors from around the Army -- mostly Soldiers -- gathered for the conference, just outside Washington. During the opening of the conference, Sgt. Danielle Colson, Department of the Army BOSS representative, revealed the organization's new logo.
"The new design is a departure from the previous design," Colson said. "The paint splatter gives an impression of spontaneity, and with the blending of the colors, it represents unity."
The BOSS program focuses on quality of life, recreation and leisure, and community service opportunities for single Soldiers. Attendees recognized the "birthday" of the organization with cake, song and balloons, before beginning a five-day conference where they will attend seminars and network with one another in order to improve implementation of the BOSS program at their home installations.
"Our main objective here is to have the BOSS triad teams here -- the command sergeant majors, the BOSS presidents, and the Morale, Welfare and Recreation advisors -- come together for training opportunities, networking and sharing their ideas and commonalities," said Robert Lattanzi, BOSS program manager.
Lattanzi said the conference offers nearly 50 educational seminars for BOSS program leaders, including sessions on marketing, budgeting and leadership.
"Our objective is to have them sharing new ideas, taking action on their new ideas, and then bringing them back to their garrisons and implementing them in their communities," Lattanzi said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Abe Vega, FMWRC, challenged conference attendees to seek more support from Army leadership and to better reach out to geographically dispersed Soldiers.
"How do we get the program so it is easy for them to avail themselves of the program," asked Vega. "How do we got BOSS linked to the warriors in the Warrior Transition Units? How do we get to those Soldiers just back from deployment? I ask you to think about that and see what we can do at the local camps, posts and stations to kind of reach out."
He also challenged BOSS leaders to seek out better and continuing support from their local Army leadership.
"We've made huge progress bridging the gap so far between the mission who owns the Soldiers and the garrison who is responsible for the program," Vega said. "We need to make the program so it transcends us, so that we get this type of engagement across the board continuously, so we can make the program better. What else can we do as a program to have some forcing mechanisms out there to get some of that support that we so much need?"
Carolyn Collins, manager of the Army's Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention and Response Program, known as SHARP, also addressed conference attendees during the opening sessions. Recently, the Army's sexual assault prevention campaign, "I A.M. Strong" became the first official sponsor of BOSS.
Collins said Soldiers within BOSS are seen as key to moving the I A.M. Strong message.
"We see you as tactical-level influencers within your community," Collins said. "You are truly talking to your fellow Soldiers every day. Please let us know about your ideas; we are excited about the partnership and if you have ideas we would love to hear them. And thanks for letting us be your first sponsor."
Colson said that Army leadership felt it was time for BOSS program presidents to get recognition for their volunteer work, and that such a program would be revealed during the five-day conference.
"We have a new incentive program for our BOSS presidents," she said. "They bust their butts for the single Soldiers and they are not properly recognized. We want to make sure, at the Department of the Army staff, that we get that recognition to them and we let them know they are appreciated."
During the conference, the procedures to nominate a BOSS president for a recognition award will be spelled out in detail, Colson said.
Colson also said she hoped that BOSS presidents, civilian MWR advisors and command sergeant majors who attended the conference would go back to their installations with a fresh perspective on BOSS and would be armed with new tools to implement the program at their home stations.
"I hope we've turned up that fire in their heart, and now it's a torch," she said. "They are going to leave here motivated and ready to take over the world at their installations. We're the voice of the singe Soldier; we are the connection between the command and the lowest level, and we get stuff done. It's Soldiers helping Soldiers."