By Scott Prater | Mountaineer staff
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Operating in a pandemic environment has challenged a majority of organizations that depend on social interaction, and the Fort Carson Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers (BOSS) program has been no different for the past few months.
Social distancing and gathering limits brought the BOSS program to a near halt in March 2020.
“We conducted virtual gaming tournaments and a 10k-steps-a-day challenge, but the shutdown even made it hard to do our volunteer work,” said Cpl. Devon Douglas, Fort Carson BOSS president.
But, as the Army and local businesses began adapting to conditions and restrictions eased over the following months, opportunities for small group activities began to open.
“We were able to go back to Habitat for Humanity, for example, with small teams, and we continued to follow CDC, state and local guidelines, but it proved challenging to find opportunities,” Douglas said.
A budget crunch also hit the organization, but by August, BOSS was back up and running at a near normal clip. BOSS event participants went white-water rafting and rode all-terrain vehicles in one trip, but also went horseback riding, paintballing and skydiving.
“The cool thing is a lot of places started working with us,” Douglas said. “There were (group size) restrictions of course, but we made sure to maintain social distance and we practiced our safety measures. A local movie theater complex even rented us one of their theaters for a private Soldier watch party.”
Taking advantage of technology was one way BOSS program leaders adapted to the current pandemic environment.
“We hosted an NBA watch party at McMahon Auditorium for a recent Denver Nuggets playoff game,” Douglas said. “Our event attendees brought their electronic devices, which they used to video themselves, and their faces were displayed in the arena at the game in Florida. Meanwhile, we had the game broadcast on at McMahon. It was great fun and we appreciate our business partners, who coordinated to make it happen.”
Douglas, who also serves as a regional BOSS president, said he began reaching out to activity and attractions businesses in June to find out if they could accommodate groups. Many were closed or could only accommodate immediate Families, but a few were open to accepting small, single Soldier groups.
“We found a jeep tour company that also did ziplining, for instance,” Douglas said. “Again, these are outdoor events, where people can spread out and the activities are individual in nature.”
BOSS leaders also found some more volunteer opportunities, such as the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, where Soldiers volunteer on zoo projects and then earn a guided tour of the facility.
“This (BOSS) program is built on the diversity of opportunities,” Douglas said. “We want to reach as many single Soldiers as we can. Some folks may not want to go ziplining, but may want to do the zoo activity. Others seek the thrill opportunities only. The more diverse activities we can offer, the better for Soldiers.”
While Fort Carson BOSS plans to continue ramping up activities, program leaders are also planning to open a BOSS lounge in the near future.
“We don’t have a time frame yet for an opening, but we are renovating an area for use as a single-Soldier lounge area, that will include a gaming café, TVs, computers with printer access and a coffee bar,” Douglas said. “We’ll start small and plan to grow that area in the future.”
For more information about Fort Carson BOSS programs and a schedule of events, Soldiers are asked to see their unit BOSS representative or visit carson.armymwr.com and select the BOSS tab under the recreation heading. The organization also hosts a social media page at www.facebook.com/FortCarsonBOSS.