By David E. GillespieMarch 14, 2016
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (March 14, 2016) -- Getting Soldiers the proper equipment to fight the nation's wars takes considerable time and effort. The same is true when it comes to equipping them for the Performance Triad program, which continues to push toward an Army-wide roll out.
If the program sounds familiar, it's because Army Medicine's Performance Triad first launched as pilot in 2013 and continues to usher a groundswell of health culture change by providing a wealth of resources to boost military readiness and family well being. With a prolific web and social media presence, this science-backed program takes its namesake from the triad of sleep, activity and nutrition, and is considered the foundation of a ready and resilient modern force. Bringing the program to the masses, however, is a multi-phased and time-intensive process.
"From a science perspective, the Performance Triad is packed full of the best science," said Col. Deydre Teyhen, director of health and wellness for the Army surgeon general and the lead for Performance Triad in Falls Church, Va. "As we get ready to roll this out Army wide, what we need to learn is what units are doing to make the program effective. We can take those best practices and roll it out to all units as we go Army wide."
In other words, the pilot is not about proof of concept. Instead, it aims to determine the best approach for instituting a cultural lifestyle change of sizeable magnitude. To that end, Fort Campbell's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), is one of five brigades across the Army currently under observation in the pilot program.
The pilot itself includes multiple components, Teyhen explained in November, while working with troops at Fort Campbell.
"First, we create Performance Triad coaches, who then take the unit through a 26-week challenge over a six-month period. The coaches receive training to deliver those competitions and modules to the Soldiers. While the training is going on, we provide an orientation and overview for all of the Soldiers in the unit to ensure they understand why we are going through the Performance Triad and what it should look like in the next six months."
In the process, Soldiers are screened to identify their risks in sleep, activity and nutrition. The coaches ensure they know what installation resources are available to help them maximize their personal health readiness. The Performance Triad team returns to the unit in the third and sixth months to see how well Soldiers are progressing and gauge the effectiveness of teaching methods.
"Effectiveness doesn't happen from D.C.; effectiveness happens in the unit," Teyhen said. "We have to learn how units supply this best, and to ensure they optimize performance and readiness."
Beyond unit level training, leadership engagement plays a vital role in the Performance Triad's comprehensive plan for transforming health and readiness.
"The key to the Performance Triad is leadership engagement," Teyhen emphasized. "If you can walk on an installation and say 'This is the best Dining Facility,' you've identified a leadership issue. If one DFAC can optimize their food on the same contract, why can't the others follow suit? If the contract is in place, and one unit is excelling, it tells us the rest of the units could also bring it up to that level."
The idea is getting leaders involved in encouraging Soldiers to plan for personal readiness and optimize personal performance. Most notably Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey, who recently teamed with celebrity Chef Robert Irvine to promote the Performance Triad at Fort Campbell, has carried that drumbeat.
"If we could do those three key components -- eat right, get enough sleep and be physically fit -- it is a huge cost-savings for readiness capability of the U.S. Army," Dailey told troops at a town hall meeting. "If you are not doing those things, you put yourself and your unit at risk."
The Army continues to draw down active-duty forces from 490,000 troops to 450,000 next year. "We've got a smaller force, but in some regards, we're asking our force to do a lot more. Our focus the next several years is to make sure we are ready when we're called upon," Dailey said.
The sergeant major of the Army is doing an amazing job, Irvine said. "The military is shrinking, and those who do not meet military requirements are going to be looking for civilian jobs. But here's the fun part about all of that: the civilian world is doing exactly the same. They want you to be fit, they want you to be healthy, they want you to take care of your family, and they want you to sleep. You are a better human being for doing that, because you make better decisions. We've proven that."
A veteran of the British Royal Navy, Irvine said he was inspired years ago by Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, former Army surgeon general and longtime advocate of the program. In fact, Irvine said his book "Fit Fuel" includes concepts similar to Performance Triad.
When Performance Triad was started -- eating healthy, sleeping and working out -- Irvine said it was not taken seriously enough.
"I live the Performance Triad on a daily basis. It's a big deal, because if we want a healthy, modern warfighter, then it begins not only at home but also in the workplace," Irvine said. "The Performance Triad is something not only for the military, but also for lifestyle outside the military. The components are really simple -- eat well, work out and sleep. It's something we all need to do."
Life changes take dedication and commitment, and transformation does not happen overnight, he explained. "We can't just change the culture; it has to come slowly. Anyone who is struggling with this should realize I'm not asking you to go from four hours of sleep to eight hours of sleep overnight -- just take an extra hour and think about it."
The old adage about the military moving on its stomach still rings true, Irvine said. "But if it doesn't have the right nutrition, doesn't have good sleep and doesn't have the right exercise for readiness, then we don't have anything. I think these next few years are going to be instrumental in changing our modern Army."
As part of that change, Soldiers need to have a holistic fitness that includes cognitive, physical and emotional fitness, Teyhen said.
"The Navy and Air Force is really good at manning their equipment. But in the Army, we equip the man and the woman. When we think about it philosophically from that perspective, we have to figure out if we are going to equip them, how can we optimize their personal readiness so they perform their best? That requires cognitive fitness, physical supremacy and emotional resilience," she said.
When Soldiers learn to package these three things together, they can make the right decision at the right time. "We need to ensure they are fit enough holistically, because pushups, sit ups and a two-mile run are not going to prepare us for a war of the future."