FORT POLK, La. — In the midst of the COVID-19 emergency, many Soldiers have Family at Fort Polk to share this difficult time with. They are a built in support system. That’s usually not the case for single Soldiers. That’s why Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers is so important. It provides a link to other Soldiers to make friends, form new relationships and forge bonds in good times and bad.
Cpl. Bianca Ortiz, BOSS president, said she thinks the COVID-19 stay-at-home-order for single Soldiers in the barracks is tough.
“They are stuck in their rooms 24-7 and that can mean a huge downturn in morale. It’s especially hard for Soldiers that used to get out on the weekends. They are used to being able go somewhere new to do something fun and different,” she said.
Ortiz said some Soldiers don’t mind all the down time because they enjoy playing video games and relaxing. But do it long enough, and even gaming can get old.
That’s why Ortiz, Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher M. Ausbun, garrison command sergeant major, and fellow BOSS representatives have begun teleconferencing each Monday. The two focus areas for the BOSS team are quality of life issues that Soldiers may have in the barracks and ensuring Soldiers know they have support through installation services that are provided.
Also, if BOSS can’t physically get their members together in the same place to relax and have a little fun, then the hope is to brainstorm a few enjoyable ways to connect virtually to raise morale.
“We’ve tried to come up with activities Soldiers would really like to participate in,” Ortiz said.
A few of the tentative ideas the BOSS team has come up with and are starting to move on are as follows:
• Weekly fitness challenges
• Book reading competition
• Zumba class (virtual instruction)
• Art Challenge (Soldiers can post their Bob Ross video) — Ross was an American painter, art instructor and television personality that hosted “ The Joy of Painting.”
• Self-care Sunday (Soldiers can post their best skin care routine)
• Virtual study sessions through the virtual ruck sack application (U.S. Army app — will share link on BOSS page)
Ortiz said they are still working on dates and figuring out details. As soon as definite times and dates are nailed down she said they will be posted on the Fort Polk Morale, Welfare and Recreation BOSS website page and Facebook page.
Ortiz said she is especially looking forward to doing the art challenge.
“I can’t wait to see the outcome when Soldiers begin to post their finished art projects,” she said.
Ortiz said she hopes the virtual activities will be a big success with a lot of participation.
“If it does well, we might even consider keeping the virtual events as part of the overall list of BOSS activities after things get back to normal,” she said.
Another important aspect of the COVID-19 stay at home order is addressing a Soldier’s mental wellbeing. Chap. (Maj.) Everett Zachary, United States Army Garrison, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, participated in a BOSS teleconference and helped focus on the virtual counseling opportunities still available to Soldiers.
Ortiz said though these are scary times, Soldiers aren’t alone.
“We want Soldiers to know that we support them and if they need to talk to someone or need an outlet, not only can they talk to a battle buddy, but they can still take advantage of the services offered by Army Community Service and Fort Polk chaplains by telephone. We are also planning to post ACS and chaplain numbers for our single Soldiers on our BOSS page and Facebook page,” she said. “We want to help them cope with the fear because no one knows how long this will last.”
Ortiz said she wants to lift up all her BOSS members, and reach out to Soldiers that are new to Fort Polk that haven’t had a chance to join BOSS or know what’s available to them because the COVID-19 situation came about before they could acclimate.
“We want to reach out to them and all our members by giving them a sense of community, even if it is online,” she said.