By Joseph Lacdan, Army News Service
The Army has more obese Soldiers than ever before.
To address the problem, senior Army leaders discussed a holistic approach that includes vegan options at dining facilities and box breakfasts at fitness centers.
Currently, one in 20 Soldiers fail the Army Physical Fitness Test annually and 13 percent of Soldiers are clinically obese, according to statistics from the Army Surgeon General’s Office presented July 24 at the 2017 Medical Symposium hosted by the Association of the U.S. Army in San Antonio.
“I do think that we’ve been recognizing that what we are doing has not been working,” said Michael McGurk, director of the Research and Analysis Directorate at the Army Center for Initial Military Training.
“Holistic health and fitness is a radical change, radical departure. It is going to cost the Army money, time and people. And we’ve got to be willing to give that up to make the changes that we need.”
The Army’s new campaign plan, called “Holistic Health and Fitness,” focuses on improving the Soldier selection process, physical performance, performance education, and transforming and improving Soldier fitness/training centers.
Tim Higdon, Healthy Army Communities program manager, said one suggestion is to have fitness centers provide box breakfasts so that Soldiers in a time crunch will not need to choose between having breakfast and working out.
Higdon said HAC is also planning to attempt innovations such as requiring 15-50 percent of vending machines to have healthier options while others will be composed 100 percent of healthy items.
Vegetarian and vegan options may also be added to dining hall menus.
“It’s about action and what we could do next to improve the overall health of our communities,” Higdon said.
Healthy Army Communities has identified eight demonstration installations, including Fort Meade, to test some of the new measures. Other Army posts are:
Fort Belvoir, Va.; Fort Riley, Kan.; Fort Sill, Okla.; Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Huachuca, Ariz; Redstone Arsenal, Ala.; Fort Bliss, Texas; USAG Italy; and USAG Humphreys, South Korea.
McGurk noted that the Army has not changed its physical fitness test since 1980. He said the field manual for Army Physical Readiness Training, FM 7-22, is now being rewritten with a new name, “Holistic Health and Fitness.”
“Wearing the uniform that says ‘U.S. Army’ is a privilege and an honor, and there’s responsibilities,” McGurk said. “And one of them is a baseline level of fitness and capability, which I think we need to maintain.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Gragg of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command said five installations and eight fitness centers will transition to meet the new initiatives.
At those locations, sports performance, nutrition and PT training classes will take the place of recreational activities and will be offered during non-peak fitness hours.
Units can use the facilities for training. Soldiers who need additional PT time can also take courses.
Col. Matthew Garber, director of the Rehab and Reintegration Division at the Office of the Surgeon General, said that new emphasis will also be placed upon decreasing the impact of muscular skeletal injuries on readiness.