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Friday, August 21, 2020

The U.S. continues to face rapid and unexpected challenges that test the strength and resolve of our military. Soldiers undoubtedly will be called to support a range of missions including combat and noncombat operations such as humanitarian assistance following natural disasters, infectious disease outbreaks and security in destabilized regions. As the roles and responsibilities of soldiers are ever-expanding, each mission poses unique and complex demands that can only be met if the Army commits to optimizing soldier physical and non-physical performance, including sleep, nutrition and spiritual and mental readiness.

The Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) System is the Army’s primary investment in soldier readiness, optimal physical and nonphysical performance, injury mitigation, improved rehabilitation after injury and increased effectiveness of the Total Army. The system empowers and equips soldiers to take charge of their health, fitness and well-being to hone individual performance while preventing injury and disease. Programming and implementation of H2F will achieve an unparalleled return on readiness and maximize human potential for multidomain operations.

As H2F evolves, soldiers will have dedicated training facilities and personnel to support their individual health and fitness goals.

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Soldiers participate in a Holistic Health and Fitness System yoga session at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
(Credit: U.S. Army/Sgt. Casey Hustin)

Tools of the Trade

H2F introduces the Army’s first dedicated training facilities designed to optimize soldier health and physical fitness.

The system represents a generational shift in the Army’s training mission with the goal of providing stand-alone, mission-specific performance training facilities for every H2F-resourced brigade over the next decade. The H2F training facility is known as the Soldier Performance Readiness Center.

The ultimate vision for H2F’s future is to provide each brigade with an H2F campus that includes a Soldier Performance Readiness Center, standardized obstacle course, Army Combat Fitness Test field and track, terrain running course, sheltered strength training racks, containerized strength equipment and Physical Readiness Training fields with climbing pods.

The first step in H2F facility development was to create a training facility standard, approved in 2019 by the Army Facilities Standardization Committee. The deputy chief of staff for installations, G-9, was instrumental in the approval and categorization of the new facility standard. The Soldier Performance Readiness Center “will revolutionize fitness in our Army by providing a quality training facility with the right equipment,” said Kathryn Haught, general engineer and master planner with the deputy chief of staff for installations.

The next step is to develop a design standard, which is scheduled for approval in fiscal 2020 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Center of Standardization. Ross Allen, architect for the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, worked diligently developing the Soldier Performance Readiness Center facility standards and plans. The Center of Standardization will maintain the standard plan as H2F facilities are constructed across the Army.

The readiness center “will be a world-class training facility dedicated to soldier performance. We’ve spent significant time and effort designing a facility that soldiers deserve. I am proud that the Army is investing the right resources and facilities to support our most critical weapon system—the soldier,” said Maj. Gen. Anthony Funkhouser, deputy commanding general for military and international operations for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and former commanding general of the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training.

Immersive Experience

The Army standard for a Soldier Performance Readiness Center is a brigade-sized unit of approximately 40,000 square feet dedicated entirely to H2F programming. The center, staffed by H2F performance professionals, serves as the unit-owned, “brick-and-mortar” epicenter for H2F that delivers a comprehensive, immersive and integrative training experience for the individual soldier.

The readiness center is a central location for a “Human Performance Team” to provide treatment, teaching and counseling for soldiers. It is open throughout the duty day to accommodate unit H2F training. Company-sized units rotate through the center several times per week to receive H2F education, peer-group classes, specialized strength and power training, and coaching from the Human Performance Team.

To be effective, commanders must treat the center like a training asset available for use all day, not just during traditional physical training hours. Where available, U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard units also will utilize the center.

Training Spaces

The Army plans to build over 100 Soldier Performance Readiness Center facilities beginning in fiscal 2023. Each facility will meet the H2F standard design and be familiar to every soldier, no matter their location.

Each readiness center will be divided into four training zones in addition to treatment and rehabilitation rooms, classrooms and offices.

Soldiers begin training in Zone 0: the Preparation and Warmup Area. This will be a covered outdoor space with misters and heaters, as required by environmental conditions. Following a warmup drill, soldiers will move to Zone 1 inside the readiness center, where they will conduct strength and power exercises using power racks, weight platforms and benches.

In Zone 2, soldiers will train accessory muscle groups using benches, kettlebells, free weights, climbing racks and pullup bars. In Zone 3, on turf flooring, soldiers will train high-intensity work capacity and agility utilizing sleds, assault bicycles and ergonomic rowers.

Training facility infrastructure is essential to H2F success. Dedicating resources to construct new infrastructure reflects the Army’s commitment to building the H2F environment. The Army intent is to design new rapid-construction facilities as the H2F standard. These facilities are semipermanent and cost significantly less than traditional military construction.

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Maj. Timothy Cox, with the 1st Armored Division Sustainment Brigade, warms up before circuit training to prepare for the new Army Combat Fitness Test.
(Credit: U.S. Army//Master Sgt. Vin Stevens)

Team Approach

In addition to dedicated training facilities, H2F leverages the expertise of health and performance professionals. The H2F Human Performance Team includes physical therapists, registered dietitians, occupational therapists, cognitive enhancement specialists, athletic trainers, and strength and conditioning coaches. These personnel work in close coordination with the chain of command and will execute a team approach to injury prevention and holistic performance enhancement.

H2F Human Performance Teams advise commanders on performance readiness issues and integrate H2F into mission planning and personnel decisions. Teams assigned to a brigade serve as special staff to the brigade commander.

These advisers, educators and training leaders ensure standardized H2F programming is implemented. H2F leaders possess the knowledge to provide feedback on preventable threats to the readiness mission. They lead the implementation of appropriate countermeasures through soldier training and education in coordination with other members of the Human Performance Team and unit leadership. Through soldier training and education, unit leadership and the team collaborate to improve the Army’s readiness culture.

A brigade-sized Human Performance Team generally consists of the following military, Department of the Army civilians and contracted personnel:

• Physical therapist: The expert in rehabilitating and reconditioning soldiers. They understand the cause of injury, and therefore know how to train to mitigate it. This process involves evaluation, diagnosis and treatment in close proximity to where soldiers train. In H2F, they supervise, mentor and train the Human Performance Team members, including master fitness trainers. As leaders in the Soldier Performance Readiness Center, physical therapists provide H2F a liaison to the installation’s medical treatment facility.

• Registered dietitian: Implements a comprehensive nutrition program with soldier health, performance and rehabilitation in mind. As the nutrition program director, they provide soldiers counsel in an individual or group setting. In this essential role, the dietitian translates the latest scientific evidence into practical and environment-specific nutrition readiness programs. Through the registered dietitian, soldiers are given nutrition education that makes the right choice the easy choice in how to fuel their bodies.

• Occupational therapist: Provides unique and comprehensive occupational therapy services to maximize soldier performance and improve unit readiness. They train soldiers in cognitive performance and emotional growth to enhance interpersonal skills and increase unit cohesion. For the first time, a soldier will have access to resources that address psychosocial, occupational and environmental barriers at the brigade level. This provides soldiers and units the opportunity to prevent injury, mitigate injury risk and facilitate a rapid return to duty following injury. The occupational therapist will also empower soldiers to improve health and performance behaviors that better enable them to overcome operational stressors.

• Cognitive enhancement specialist: An expert in helping soldiers think and analyze complex situations in their everyday lives. The cognitive enhancement specialist trains soldiers to understand mental barriers that arise due to stress. They assist soldiers in adapting positively to stressful situations, including combat. Advanced techniques these experts bring to the unit include breath control, emotional regulation, team cohesion and cognitive learning strategies.

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A rendering of Zone 2 in a proposed Soldier Performance Readiness Center shows multiple stations where soldiers can build strength and endurance.
(Credit: U.S. Army/Ross Allen)

• Certified athletic trainer: Provides evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of acute musculoskeletal conditions before, during and after Physical Readiness Training in close proximity to where soldiers train. They understand proper body mechanics and efficient movement techniques in the training and field environment. They coordinate with the Human Performance Team and unit leadership on Physical Readiness Training programs and Physical Readiness Training-related injury prevention.

• Strength and conditioning coach: Develops, coordinates, executes and manages evidence-based strength and conditioning programs focused on unit mission and individual soldier tasks in accordance with Field Manual 7-22: Army Physical Readiness Training (to be renamed Holistic Health and Fitness this fall) synchronized with unit training and operational schedules. Additionally, strength and conditioning coaches will counsel soldiers who have physical limitations, and provide their expertise to unit medical providers to develop programs for special populations such as postpartum soldiers and those on permanent profile, defined as those who have a documented need for physical modification or consideration for longer than 12 months.

The Human Performance Team designs, builds and delivers the unit’s H2F programming while measuring outcomes. With command support, the team and the H2F facility promote optimal soldier readiness. When necessary, some team members will deploy to sustain H2F treatment and training, while others stay to support the rear detachment and prepare for reset after deployment.

New MOS

As we look to the Holistic Health and Fitness System of the future, the Army is developing the H2F Trainer MOS. The H2F Trainer will serve as the subject-matter expert for the integration of H2F within the unit. This NCO will integrate H2F practices into the unit’s mission, including sleep readiness for combat, nutrition readiness for performance, and the principles of precision, integration and progression for physical readiness coaching and training.

According to Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston, “The Army has been changing since the Army has been in existence. H2F represents a cultural change for ‘My Squad.’ Soldiers must prioritize physical, nutritional, sleep, spiritual and mental readiness in order to master the fundamentals of being a soldier.”

The H2F System, with its investment in facilities and personnel, will revolutionize the Army’s ability to recruit, retain and train the next generation of America’s most important asset, its people.

For more information, contact Col. Kevin Bigelman, director of Holistic Health and Fitness, U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training, at [email protected] or Whitfield East, research physiologist, Center for Initial Military Training, at [email protected]