A surprising number of soldiers have temporary and permanent medical profiles, which prevents them from fully performing their duties. A new health and fitness program that will arrive at 28 brigades from fiscal year 2021 is intended to contain these numbers in the long term.
By April, more than 58,000 soldiers – the equivalent of 13 brigade combat teams – were not deployable. According to a concept paper for the Holistic Health and Fitness System (H2F), 16,500 soldiers were in the temporary profile and 15,000 soldiers were in the permanent profile, shared with the Army Times.
H2F seeks to address chronic problems in soldiers, including poor sleep habits, obesity, and overuse injuries. The concept paper argues that even a 10 percent reduction in annual musculoskeletal injuries would add a full brigade combat team to the emergency services.
Some elements of H2F will be familiar to soldiers, including those who did not participate in the pilot program that began in 2018.
For each brigade-sized unit, dietitians, cognitive performance experts, occupational therapists and sports coaches, and 40,000 square feet of dedicated space for troop training and injury treatment are expected.
Some of these resources are already in the mail, but currently they are “stovepipe” on every installation, according to Maj. Gen. Lonnie G. Hibbard, General Commander of the Military Center for Initial Military Training.
“What we’re trying to do with H2F is to bring all of this under a single control,” Hibbard said during a telephone interview on Tuesday. “Really, all under a brigade commander, so that he has his piece, so that he can now incorporate the five components of fitness into the training plan, just like we do for a machine.”
These components are: body composition, flexibility, muscle strength, muscle endurance and cardiorespiratory endurance.
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A rendering shows part of the proposed Soldier Preparedness Centers. (Ross Allen / Army)
Hibbard, whose orders are the proponent of H2F, defined the program as a program that prioritizes physical and mental fitness as much as the Army prioritizes equipment maintenance.
“Right now we spend a lot of time synchronizing maintenance and training,” added Hibbard. “Now we can synchronize personal readiness and health with training at the brigade level.”
28 brigades of the emergency services will be the first to receive H2F resources. And although it starts in 2021, it will take time to recruit the necessary skilled workers.
“The goal is that by the end of the fiscal year all 28 brigades have the skilled workers they need,” said Hibbard. “Then we will hire 18 brigades next year and then begin to include the training base from fiscal year 2022 to fiscal year 2026.”
The initiative requires some investment in resources, including building more than 100 facilities over the next four years, according to federal treaties.
The standard for a brigade-sized unit will be 40,000 square feet, which the concept paper says will serve as the company’s own “stationary” hub for H2F.
The treatment, teaching and consultation rooms within the facility are open all day and are staffed by certified specialists.
“The ultimate vision for H2F is to provide each brigade with an H2F campus: [Soldier Performance Readiness Center], standardized obstacle course, field and course of the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), cross-country course, protected strength training racks, containerized strength equipment and PRT fields with climbing sleeves, “says the concept paper.
Company-size units will rotate into facilities “several times a day throughout the day” for group classes, strength training and coaching, the concept paper adds.
According to Hibbard, H2F aims to implement a “culture change” for the army that incorporates the best available scientific knowledge and practices and updates both on an ongoing basis.
For example, according to the concept paper, injuries to the musculoskeletal system make a “significant contribution” to the health of the army.
These injuries cause approximately $ 557 million in acute patient care plus all costs associated with lost days, unavailability for use, and payments for disability.
About 71 percent of the new musculoskeletal injuries in 2018 were due to “overuse”, which is usually preventable.
The concept paper also highlighted obesity issues within the army. In the service’s 2019 Health of the Force report, 17 percent of active soldiers were classified as obese. In a brigade dispatched to Afghanistan, overweight soldiers were 40 percent more likely to be injured than their counterparts with a healthy weight.
The H2F Concept Paper promises to proactively identify Soldiers at risk for these injuries and poor fitness and provide them with the help they need, whether it be better nutritional advice, lifting instructions, sleep practices, or something else entirely.
“The ultimate goal is to improve the health and fitness of soldiers,” said Hibbard. “The big change at H2F is an enterprise-wide on-call system that brings all aspects, not just physical but also non-physical, under a single governance.” . ”