FORT KNOX, Ky. – Army officials are dusting off an established program and giving it a fresh look in an effort to promote better physical fitness among soldiers.
Known as the Army Wellness Centre, the Fort Knox facility, affiliated with the Irish Army Health Clinic, offers visits to unit leaders to demonstrate its ability to improve fitness physical and mental strength. They do this through a hands-on approach called the Leadership Readiness Course.
“Our goal for the leadership course is to build command advocacy to refer soldiers to us for the Army Body Composition Program,” said AWC director Brent Newell. “We are building buy-in from command leadership to use us as their preparedness tool. »
As a result, every session and area of the half-day course at the Center is experienced by every leader present.
Newell said the AWC’s role as a commander’s readiness tool is actually nothing new. The centers are in facilities for this purpose, in accordance with Army Regulation 600-9: “The Army Body Composition Program”.
The course is designed to make leaders aware of this fact.
“What the Readiness Leadership course focuses on are those [noncommissioned officers in charge] and senior O-3 commanders and above to come and experience our services firsthand, so they understand what body composition analysis, metabolic analysis, all the coaching, education, right down to macros,” Newell said. “Then they understand exactly everything the soldier is going to receive that is on ABCP.”
In fact, AR 600-9, paragraph 2-15 instructs commanders and supervisors to “contact the Army Medical Treatment Facility (MTF) registered dietitian, other medical professionals , Army Wellness Centers and other MTF resources to provide education on the principles of sleep, activity, and performance nutrition for optimal body composition, health promotion, and unit readiness.
Newell said one of the focus areas of the course is to explain to leaders how the Center fits into AR 600-9, including how they can use it for soldier fitness. The course also includes a 600-9 block, where Newell’s team explains the most accurate way to perform a tape test and a visual demonstration of what it should look like.
“The most common variable explaining why the Army test can be so inaccurate is that the variability between two cones can be dramatically different,” Newell said. “We try to reduce that as much as possible.”
The course even advises leaders on writing action plans for soldiers and advice statements to send back to the Center for those flagged for fitness.
“It’s not a mandatory or corrective reference,” Newell said. “It’s a prioritization and a tool that can even be used as a preventive measure. It’s about developing knowledge of what we do and how NCOs and command teams can have us in their back pockets to use us, and so they fully understand our role within their readiness skills.
Newell said while the Army’s Combat Fitness Test was not driving the need for soldiers to take a holistic approach to physical fitness, it did reveal a greater need for experts in physical condition to educate soldiers.
“A lot of people don’t know what to do to get in shape with the ACFT. People don’t know how to prepare for the ACFT,” Newell said. “And there are fitness methodologies that don’t support overall performance as an athlete-soldier.
“Now we see soldiers trying to keep doing what they were doing, and it makes no difference – so they start to give up.”
The days of push-ups, sit-ups and running in every workout should be over, Newell said. Yet it is still the benchmark for many units.
Newell explained that the ACFT requires a more athletic approach to training, for which the Center is uniquely equipped to provide extensive guidance to soldiers. Leaders who don’t use the Center to encourage total physical fitness in soldiers aren’t giving soldiers everything they need.
“We have to train and live an athlete’s life,” Newell said; “So it’s not about what the military does, it’s about what we don’t do.”
The Army Wellness Center is therefore poised to lead leaders and their soldiers into the future of fitness, which promotes total physical fitness while reducing injury, Newell said:
“That’s where the leadership readiness course comes in – to directly target leaders on what we do, how they directly benefit, and if soldiers are reported, how they benefit.”
Editor’s note: For more information on scheduling a class date, visit the Fort Knox Army Wellness Center website at https://p3.amedd.army.mil/fort-knox-army-wellness-center.