Taking care of single Soldiers can be a daunting tasking. Whether a single Soldier is new to the Army or just new to Fort Drum, the installation’s Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program helps ensure they have a place to call “home.”
Planning events and holiday meals for BOSS requires a lot of time, teamwork and coordination. However, Michelle Roden, Fort Drum’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation BOSS senior program adviser, takes it in stride and always with a smile.
After taking on the role in 2012, Roden has helped expand the organization’s involvement across the installation. From providing a place to unwind at one of Fort Drum’s two BOSS facilities, to teaming up with fitness staff for monthly competitions and planning huge holiday meals, Roden and her volunteers help single Soldiers get out of their barracks rooms and into the community.
All of Roden’s hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Last week, she was recognized as one of NNY Business Magazine’s 20 Under 40 Emerging Leaders. Donna Orvis and Laura Oakes, both of whom work in FMWR’s Marketing Division, nominated Roden for the honor because of her “dedication to Fort Drum and the Soldiers she serves,” Orvis said.
Roden has been instrumental in providing a consistent level of service and programs that are specifically geared to benefit and attract the single Soldier population at Fort Drum by building on the pillars of the BOSS program – recreation, community service and quality of life, Orvis added.
“Michelle has mentored the young Soldiers who are BOSS representatives of the program to be the voice for other Soldiers by being the conduit of information about what the program has to offer,” she explained. “She is a dynamo. I have never seen her refuse to take up a challenge or fail to succeed spectacularly. Michelle conducts herself in a professional manner and is equally at ease directing young Soldiers as she is briefing high-ranking officials.
“Michelle is always up for a challenge and knows what resources she needs to (use) to provide a quality program that Fort Drum can be proud of and (that) Soldiers can enjoy,” Orvis continued.
Roden said she learned of her nomination in October. She was one of 43 professionals to be nominated for the 20 Under 40 award. After being selected, she was honored at a luncheon last week. Among the awardees were several people she knows personally and professionally.
Four of the 20 people recognized at the event are fellow Thousand Islands High School graduates.
“That’s kind of cool,” Roden said. “It was definitely cool to see some familiar faces. I looked at some of them and thought, ‘you really deserve this.’”
Roden said she was humbled to be recognized beside some of the professionals who were honored.
“The luncheon was incredible,” Roden said. “I’m still in shock. Why me? There were 43 people who were nominated and only 20 were chosen. I just go to work and do my job.
“It’s a huge honor,” she added. “It’s very nice to be noticed. I don’t do it for that reason, but it’s nice to be awarded for your hard work.”
At the luncheon, she received a letter from Congressman Bill Owens, a certificate from New York State Sen. Patty Ritchie and memberships to various organization and clubs in the area.
Roden began working at Fort Drum in 2007 as FMWR’s special events coordinator. In this role, Roden assisted with and facilitated Fort Drum events like Riverfest, Mountainfest, the U.S. Army Soldier Show, Trees for Troops, annual holiday celebration, Operation Tribute, Fort Drum Rides the River and the air shows in 2008 and 2009.
After restructuring in FMWR, Roden moved to a temporary position at Po Valley Child Development Center before Ken Lopez, FMWR Community Recreation Division chief, called to offer her the position at BOSS.
“I said ‘yes, please!’” Roden said. “It sounded like a lot of fun.”
Her first day with BOSS was June 21, 2012, at the annual Riverfest celebration.
Lopez said his decision to have Roden lead the way with BOSS, a program that provides single Soldiers with recreation and community service opportunities, as well as ways to improve their quality of life on Fort Drum, has proven to be a good one.
“Mrs. Roden’s hard work, ethics, incentive and drive in her current position has resulted in the Fort Drum BOSS program excelling to new standards,” he said. “Mrs. Roden takes every opportunity to educate others about the BOSS program goals, and she continuously looks for ways to improve the quality of life for single Soldiers.
“She is a true young professional who brings new and exciting programs and instills vibrancy to our Family and MWR organization,” Lopez added.
With a background in hospitality and customer service, going from special events coordinator to working with BOSS was a natural transition, Roden said.
“My past experience definitely helped a lot,” she said. “Our focus for the last year has been recreation and leisure – two of BOSS’s three pillars. That’s what the Soldiers wanted. They wanted things to do, and it also helped us get BOSS out there.”
In addition to organizing “cutting-edge” programs, Roden was instrumental in the opening of the second BOSS Center at the Jack T. Sweet complex, Orvis said. The facility is located near single Soldier barracks and work locations, and it offers a home-like feel and high-tech activities for troops.
Last May, Roden assisted in developing a three-day BOSS Conference in which more than 200 Soldiers, leaders and unit representatives gathered to discuss issues regarding Soldiers’ quality of life.
Roden’s job doesn’t involve only “serious” matters. She has helped bring outdoor fun to the Fort Drum community. In addition to monthly gaming tournaments and fitness challenges at Atkins Functional Fitness Center, this fall, BOSS organized two outdoor obstacle events – the Mountain Mudder and the Zombie Run. Each run brought out more than 600 Soldiers, Family Members and Civilians and provided enough mud to go around.
Taking on leadership opportunities, as well as planning and organizing all of BOSS’s events would easily tire out the faint of heart; however, Roden’s involvement in the community doesn’t end when she leaves the Fort Drum gates every day. She is also active in local community programs in Clayton and Cape Vincent.
“BOSS keeps me very busy,” Roden said. “I’m involved with the Clayton Chamber of Commerce when I have time. I’m also involved with Cape Vincent, because that’s my hometown. We do things with the chamber, especially in the winter.”
The road ahead
In 2011, Roden was accepted into the Fort Drum Leader Enhancement and Developmental Education Requirements (LEADER) program, a three-year opportunity that provides training and experience to motivate and sustain quality leaders. She said she hopes to complete the program by the end of next year.
“I highly recommend the program, as it has connected me to many great leaders here on the installation that I would not have met,” Roden said.
As Roden and BOSS volunteers look toward the new year, the organization will begin to focus more on community service.
Roden admits that she knew very little of military life before she started working at Fort Drum six years ago, but she was looking for something new and challenging. Looking back at the impact she has made and the feats she has accomplished, Roden remains humble.
“I wanted to work at Fort Drum for the experience,” she said. “I knew absolutely nothing about the Army. I remember my first meeting and I didn’t understand any of the acronyms. I had no clue!
“I think it’s really good to have someone representing Fort Drum who is from the local community recognized at this level,” Roden added. “I’m extremely honored.”