FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Aug. 29, 2013) -- Soldiers, civilians and family members celebrated the opening of the new Army Wellness Center during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 29, 2013. The 5,000-square-foot facility is the 12th wellness center to open across the Army. It offers standardized services and state-of-the-art equipment free of charge to all DOD ID card holders.

Bringing an Army Wellness Center, or AWC, to the North Country was a team effort among the 10th Mountain Division (LI), Fort Drum garrison, U.S. Army Medical Department Activity, or MEDDAC, U.S. Army Forces Command, or FORSCOM, U.S. Army Installation Management Command and U.S. Army Medical Command, according to Col. Matthew E. Mattner, Fort Drum MEDDAC commander.

"Thank you for all the hard work and dedication that led up to today's ceremony," he said. "You all played a big part in making the wellness center a reality."

Staff members bring knowledge, motivation and energy to the facility, and they are anxious to begin improving the health of the Fort Drum community, Mattner added. The new facility is also part of the "Mountain Tough" program, the division's health and fitness initiative, as well as the Army's "Ready and Resilient" campaign.

"Our wellness center is poised to improve the health of our community through health and nutrition education, measurements and diagnostic testing, and promotion of healthy choices and lifestyles," he said. "I am confident we will see the success of this team."

After concluding his remarks, Mattner introduced Brig. Gen. Barbara Holcomb, FORSCOM command surgeon and guest speaker for the event.

"It's truly an honor to be here today," she said. "We have many initiatives in our Army on how to be ready and resilient and fit, both for families and Soldiers. You have a tremendous (operations tempo) for deployments, and it doesn't really allow you to stop and focus on being fit.

The leaders in this organization must be agile and innovative as they prioritize and engage (their Soldiers)," Holcomb continued. "I encourage everyone to maximize the resources of this facility."

Army leaders talk about being healthy and fit, stopping smoking and exercising more, but they don't always give Soldiers the resources to accomplish the tasks, she explained. Leaders should use the AWC and help set the example for their Soldiers.

Soldiers, family members and civilians can gain knowledge and learn ways to incorporate what they learn from the AWC in their homes, Holcomb said.

After her remarks were complete, Holcomb joined Maj. Gen. Stephen Townsend, Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division (LI) commander; Command Sgt. Maj. Rick Merritt, 10th Mountain Division (LI) senior enlisted advisor; Mattner; Michael H. McKinnon, deputy to the garrison commander; and Chris Ramie, AWC director, in cutting the ribbon in front of the facility doors.

Those in attendance were then allowed to tour the AWC, learn about different services and see some of the equipment used in different testing rooms.

Col. John Groves, Fort Drum's MEDDAC deputy commander for nursing, said the AWC will be a tremendous asset to the community. The knowledge and skills learned at the AWC can lead to lifestyle changes that promote health and fitness for Soldiers, Families and Civilians.

"This is a high-end, gold standard operation," Groves said, adding that similar facilities charge about $3,000 for the same testing and services.

The AWC initiative is aimed at injury and disease prevention, healthy lifestyle promotion and fitness, Groves said. Because 63 percent of the Soldiers on post are younger than 25, learning the skills now will help them the rest of their lives.

Clients can refer themselves to the AWC, or they can be referred by their health care provider or command. All health information gained from AWC testing can be accessed by clients' primary care managers to allow for well-rounded health care, Groves explained.

"It's a coordinated health care effort here," he said.

Not only are the services coordinated between health care professionals and AWC staff, but wellness centers across the Army are standardized to ensure Soldiers, family members and civilians have access to the same services anywhere they go.

The AWC concept is built on five pillars, health assessment reviews, physical fitness evaluation, nutrition, tobacco cessation and general wellness education. Combined, the services at AWC can help prevent injuries, which ultimately can help improve unit readiness and fitness, according to Ramie.

Before an individual can begin the program, he or she must complete a health review. This allows nurses and educators to review their clients' medical history and injuries, identify risk factors and provide an individualized plan for each person.

During the physical fitness assessment, staff members identify and aim to improve clients' fitness levels using state-of-the-art tests. The direct-gas submax VO2 test determines a person's target heart rate by monitoring his or her breathing while jogging or running on a treadmill.

AWC also offers the Bod Pod, which calculates a person's body-fat percentage.

Clients also can improve their health through AWC's healthy nutrition and weight management programs. The facility offers metabolic testing to measure the amount of calories burned while the body is at rest. Health educators use the results to provide clients with tailored strategies
for weight loss, gain or maintenance.

AWC Fort Drum staff can help develop a personalized plan to help relieve stress and improve well-being. Staff members offer biofeedback sessions using a computer system that tracks a person's heart rhythm as he or she completes a series of modules. The software can increase clients' ability to relax and control their emotional state.

Staff members work with a client's primary care manager and Army Public Health Nursing to provide tobacco education and cessation services.

The facility also offers a large classroom space to provide group education classes on self-care and healthy lifestyle habits. The staff also will help organize health fairs for units and organizations on post.

AWC staff members will begin offering appointments beginning mid-September.

For more information, call the AWC at (315) 772-4608 or visit the facility at Bldg. 10550, 5th Armored Division Drive.