Bo Hutchens may be young, but he’s already proven his passion for the field of military recreation. The 26-year-old was recently promoted to recreation, travel and parks director at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia, and he serves as the Young Professional Representative and Southern Region Chair-Elect for NRPA’s Armed Forces Recreation Network (AFRN). These days, he’s putting his energy to work building bridges among park and recreation professionals of all stripes.
Hutchens began his career in 2009, coordinating sports offerings at the base. “I knew I didn’t want to stay in sports forever…. I had the end goal of being a director or chief administrator somewhere, so I knew the next step was to become involved with NRPA,” he says. Hutchens attended the 2010 NRPA Congress and Exposition in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and says, “I went to a leadership meeting and said, ‘I don’t know what you do, this is my first time, but I’m interested, energetic and want to help.’”
He landed a spot on the Young Professionals Network (YPN) leadership team and began networking with others in his field. Soon, Hutchens became inspired to facilitate deeper connections between the world of Military, Wellness and Morale (MWR) specialists and park and recreation professionals who cater to civilians. “I noticed most of the professionals knew very little about the military recreation world. That whole ball started rolling in my head, and that’s how I got so heavily involved to increase awareness and bridge communication,” Hutchens says. That task was made easier through the networking opportunities made available through his NRPA membership. “[Joining NRPA] gave me outlets and opportunities to take a leadership role.... It helped me learn more about how I operate as a professional, my career and my installation. I have proven experiences I can fall back on and say, ‘I’ve done this through NRPA.’ It’s helped me put my installation at the forefront.”
Hutchens says the knowledge and experience he’s gained through AFRN and YPN exceeded expectations. “You have a prime opportunity to talk to (upper-level parks directors and managers) about their careers and seek advice,” he says. “I really can’t put into words how beneficial it is. I wouldn’t advise a career in recreation without getting involved in NRPA.”
Samantha Bartram is the Associate Editor of Parks & Recreation Magazine