2017 BOSS Strong competitors recall competition

by Brittany Nelson
U.S. Army

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Mar. 13, 2018) --There are Soldiers at garrisons all around the world who work out daily to meet the Army's physical fitness test requirements. In the fall of 2017 some Soldiers from these worldwide garrisons came together for a "workout" like no other.

Beginning Sept. 11, 2017, over the course of two jam-packed weeks, five teams of six volunteer Soldiers were immersed into a rigorous competition of physical challenges using timed events and a variety of Morale, Welfare and Recreation activities. Their mental and physical toughness was developed and put to the test as these teams of Soldiers worked together in pursuit of the title of first BOSS Strong Champions.

BOSS is a garrison wide program more formally known as Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program, managed by IMCOM's G9 Family and MWR.

One event the Soldiers faced was an intense Alpha Warrior obstacle course equipped with multiple challenges of functional fitness. John Lavender, the BOSS program manager for the Department of the Army attributes teamwork to the completion of the course and other events. He witnessed the group effort at the course.

"I was very impressed by the camaraderie and 'leave no man behind' teamwork that came with it, because there were definitely a couple of participants that weren't making it through. I watched one teammate carry another through one obstacle that he was having trouble with."

Functional fitness is a modern form of exercise that trains the body beyond pushups, running or free weights. It is a different way to work out and improve a Soldier's overall readiness.

IMCOM garrisons are organized in five directorates: IMCOM-Readiness, IMCOM-Sustainment, IMCOM-Training, IMCOM-Europe and IMCOM-Pacific. Each directorate had garrison teams compete and sent their best to Fort Sam Houston for the competition. The Fort Lee team represented IMCOM-Training and included Sgt. Damien Broadnax, the installation's BOSS president, Spc. Tanner Poush, Spc. Jason Melnik, Sgt. Jeffery Jones, Pfc. Michael Golisano and Pfc. Jaela Clark.

Poush said a balance of skills is one method to get through different events. Everyone has their own strengths. For instance Broadnax and I are not good at swimming so Clark swam twice to pick up the slack." Fort Lee teammates joked that Broadnax was better at drowning than swimming. "Jones is really good at golfing. Everyone had their strong areas and that was essential to the mission."

The six member teams competed at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston but had not been briefed on what to expect when they arrived. Lavender was surprised as well, particularly by the activities they had to face and said the Soldiers displayed "oh boy" expressions once they saw what they were getting themselves into.

"The overall intensity took me by surprise," Golisano said. "I was pretty blindsided by it. We woke up at 4:30 a.m. and would go to bed at around 10:00 p.m. First thing in the morning we had an intense workout with Bennie, then did various physical challenges throughout the day."

Bennie Wylie, Alpha Warrior Pro and winner of NBC's Strong, was the head coach of the competition, leading the Soldiers' intense workouts and strict diets.

The Fort Bliss team represented IMCOM-Readiness and included Staff Sgt. Kendricis Huguley, the garrison's BOSS president, Spc. Lance Balaga, Spc. David Yescas Carrillo, Spc. Richard Woods, Pfc. Jacob Harrison and Spc. Brittany Williams, the garrison's BOSS vice president.

Of the many activities and workouts, Poush, Balaga and Harrison favored the Alpha Warrior obstacle course located at Retama Park in Selma, Texas just outside of San Antonio.

"The last obstacle course at Retama was probably my favorite part about the whole competition," Harrison said. "We all really came together and pushed each other through harsh tasks that were given to us, and we all made it at the end."

Clark favored the swimming competitions because she was a swimmer in high school, and Melnik enjoyed the shooting ranges and the feedback they received from professionals.

Not all of the competitions were physically demanding. BOSS Strong also focused on mental strength and living a healthy lifestyle. Teams learned about recreational activities that garrisons offer through MWR.

"We got to go to the stables and ride the horses," Huguley said. "To see that the competition brought in things you do outside of (the) everyday military working experience was great."

Teams also participated in a wholesome cooking competition.

"We were given a table of different ingredients and we had to make one meal that was a dinner plate and then use the left over from that meal to make a breakfast plate," Golisano said. "The plates were presented to a board of professional chefs and they graded us."

In just two weeks positive changes were seen in the Soldiers. Clark said she gained muscle mass and lost fat. Carrillo excelled in his PT tests afterwards.

"I have never done anything like that in my life," Carrillo said, "The level of physical endurance that I had after the competition was the best I had ever been at. I took a PT test and never had I scored that high. It really shot up all the strength I had."

Each team was assigned a celebrity Alpha Warrior coach and a coach from the Army's World Class Athlete Program. WCAP is a program that trains Army Soldiers for worldwide sporting competitions and potentially the Olympics. The WCAP coaches guided the teams in their workouts and motivated them through competitions.

"Sgt. Shauna Rohbock was our coach, she was actually an Olympic bobsledder. She had a lot of exercises that absolutely just destroyed our legs," Melnik said. "I definitely felt like my leg strength increased tenfold from there."

Fort Bliss had Maj. Johnathan Anderson, a world champion wrestler, as their WCAP coach. He admired the team's comradery and work ethic. He said they shared a sense of purpose to get better and stronger.

"There were a couple of challenges we had to overcome like the obstacle courses. This forces everyone to unite; everyone has different strengths, some members were more agile and others were stronger. Bringing these strengths together was the key to perform and unlock the potential to come together."

The Army is always evolving, and Anderson credits BOSS Strong as a chance for creativity and innovation.

"There has been training in the past that works on physical and mental improvement but only the physical aspect was addressed. BOSS Strong deliberately enforced both factors. As coaches we reinforced how to bounce back and be resilient in situations."

The competition improved Soldier's readiness and resilience. Harrison said it helped mentally and a lot with his leadership and teambuilding skills.

"(BOSS Strong) shows that you can do things you have never thought you could have done before. You can do whatever you want in this life as long as you put in 110 percent you can do anything."

Fort Bliss members agreed to compete in BOSS Strong again if given the chance. Soldiers enjoyed the challenges and comradery the competition brought on.

"We met people from Italy, from Fort Meade, and now we are still in connect with them and our coaches as well," Williams said. "We got different aspects of nutrition, physical activity, knowledge about the BOSS program and MWR facilities. Other people got to see that there is so much more out there in the Army available to them."

The BOSS Strong Championship is being planned as a bi-annual event continuing in 2018.

The other teams in the competition include Camp Humphreys representing IMCOM Pacific with Pfc. Jayme Patterson, Spc. William Cook, Spc. Bryce Forseth, Spc. Catheryn Mayfield, Spc Khayree Sneed and Spc. Nicholas Angelo. Fort Meade representing IMCOM Sustainment with Spc. Alexis Kwamin, Spc. Brandon Lee-Tobin, Spc. Joseph Ramirez, Lcpl. Dylan Green, Cpl. Autumn Schlecht and Cpl. Julia Dibartolo. Then U.S. Army Garrison Italy representing IMCOM Europe with Spc. Landon Kennedy, Spc. Gerardo Lopez, Spc. Anthony Rodriguez, Pfc. Joey Biggers, Pfc. Chris Ortiz and Spc. Avelardo Martinez.

After two weeks of functional fitness competitions and educational programs, Soldiers and personnel are excited for the series to be released and learn which garrison team won.

The series is planned to be released this spring on the Defense TV application, a military media application for mobile and streaming devices. For those stationed and deployed overseas it will be available on the Armed Forces Network, a military broadcasting service for worldwide radio and television.

Fort Lee Soldiers work at the Army Medical Command and said their whole Army health clinic will watch. Lavender thinks anyone would enjoy the program because it is as exciting as watching any extreme sport and seeing Soldiers participate is fantastic.

"I would highly encourage anyone to watch this just to see that Soldiers, in forming teams, can get the job done as a unit and complete any obstacle as long as they support each other. There were some things in the competition I was looking at that I didn't think anyone could do but together they made it happen."

Whether it was the "extreme sport" aspect or learning how to live a healthy lifestyle BOSS Strong transformed the teams of Soldiers, improved their readiness and resiliency, and changed their outlook on what the Army has to offer as a whole.

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