Government Recreation & Fitness caught up with fitness leaders from each service to get an update on the state of health and fitness programs and facilities, and to look at new and exciting initiatives currently underway, or planned for the future, that help boost the levels of support necessary for a high quality of life for service members and their families.
“Physical fitness remains the cornerstone of a ‘Ready and Resilient’ Army,” according to Samuel Sakorafis, chief, Operations, IMCOM, G9, Soldier & Community Recreation. “The Army places great emphasis and importance on soldiers being physically capable to meet their occupational tasks and the demands associated with deployments.”
To assist commanders in maintaining readiness, Sakorafis pointed out, “New perspectives are being entertained when new equipment is purchased and facility layout is designed. Historically, Physical Fitness Facilities (PFFs) provided exercise equipment for general physical fitness. Providing equipment and programs to soldiers, civilians and family members remains an important component of PFFs; however, a ‘paradigm shift’ is taking place across Army garrisons. Several PFFs have dedicated space to strength training. Garrisons such as Forts Bragg, Hood and Benning have converted entire buildings, focusing on strength and weight conditioning. Gym floors, once utilized for a number of activities, have been covered with plywood and are now home to power racks, free weights, benches, cable machines and plateloaded equipment. Garrisons have also dedicated space to combative instruction and competition, as well as functional exercise training, including peg boards, climbing ropes and swinging ladders.” ...
“Air Force Fitness & Sports continues to work on several exciting initiatives,” according to Margaret Treland, chief of Fitness and Sports, Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC), Directorate of Services. “Fitness Access is on the verge of being deployed to the majority of bases across the Air Force. Installations are eager to receive the system and equipment to allow access to centers after normal hours of operation. We continue to receive positive feedback on the fitness kiosks already in the field, and we recently received funding to add capability at eight more bases. Overall, our fitness programs are very healthy, with 96 percent being compliant with DoD [Department of Defense] Physical Fitness Center Standards. This includes facility and program-related criteria.”
While the forecast for fiscal 2015 and beyond is still unknown, Treland pointed out that Fitness and Sports received approximately $3.5 million from the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) during the latter part of fiscal 2014. “The funds will support various programs, such as the Healthy Base Initiative, Fitness Access, staff training, adaptive fitness and sports equipment, and additional fitness kiosks.” ...
“More than 14 million patrons visit Semper Fit & Recreation facilities worldwide, comprising 20 programs across Recreation, Community Wellness, Fitness, Aquatics and Sports,” according to Catherine Ficadenti, head, Semper Fit & Recreation Branch, Marine and Family Programs Division. “The Semper Fit program strengthens resilience and contributes to military effectiveness by promoting and maintaining the mental and physical well-being of Marines and families through physical activities, prevention and safe environments. Semper Fit ensures quality support for deployed Marines, combat readiness and strengthens individual and unit resilience.”
Cognizant of the fiscal challenges ahead, Ficadenti pointed out, “The Commandant of the Marine Corps has emphasized the importance of maintaining high levels of readiness. Marine & Family Programs exist to support the mission-readiness requirements of the Corps and unit and individual health and wellness goals of those we serve. Thus, Semper Fit & Recreation’s future actions must be prioritized in support of Marines returning from 10 years of warfighting and transitioning out of the Marine Corps.”
She continued, “We will reposition our capabilities based on information from our Marines and families to deliver core programs and services that best meet their needs. To do so will require us to examine each installation using a base-by-base approach to identify operational efficiencies. We will identify and protect core programs that meet established standards for effectiveness to ensure Marines and families are receiving services based on the highest levels of scientific evidence and priority of importance indicated by our customers.
“This repositioning effort will focus on understanding the needs, prioritizing our capabilities to meet those needs, and communicating the benefits of our offerings. Repositioning of capabilities will provide an opportunity to advance our programs in their core mission and standards to enhance their relevance aboard installations and unit settings.” ...
“The overall state of the Navy Fitness program is sound,” according to Douglas Butts, program manager, Navy Fitness, Sports, Aquatics and Deployed Forces (N921), Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC). “We are working on implementing and fine-tuning our core programs, such as Mission Nutrition and Navy Operational Fitness & Fueling System (NOFFS), and working with OPNAV N17 to provide quality Command Fitness Leader (CFL) trainings. In addition to fine-tuning our core programs, for fiscal 2015 we will be focusing on CNIC Fitness staff development/training.”
Butts pointed out that Navy Fitness is beginning to develop a Dashboard System for all Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) programs. “The Dashboard Program will require all field activities to enter key data points (e.g., number of daily facility users, number of programs in any given time period, revenue collected, etc.),” he explained. “We will be able to utilize these key data points for making better decisions — both at CNIC Headquarters and at the field activity levels.” ...
As a burgeoning area within the military — and outside the gate, too — the benefits of fitness and rehabilitation in the water are undeniable. Over the past few years, both the Army and Marine Corps have implemented water fitness and rehab programs into their overall fitness and wellness protocols, providing a needed and highly successful training alternative for service members, as well as the perfect low-impact environment for wounded warriors and veterans who need to heal and get back to full strength.
One of the leaders in this water fitness movement is Mary Wykle, Ph.D., who was instrumental in getting the Army to first embrace water cadence training, and who worked with the Marine Corps to create, develop and roll out the AMP-IT or “Aquatics Maximum Power-Intense Training” program, which is still being used service-wide today..
Wykle, who is a senior instructor for the Aquatic Therapy and Rehab Institute (ATRI), pointed out that although interest in the benefits of water fitness and therapy is growing, “It remains a small industry, and we have too many offering fitness and training with limited knowledge of aquatics. Europe is far ahead of us. We need more warm-water pools, and more requirements for those working in the water. And we need to educate doctors about the benefits of aquatic therapy and exercise.”...