KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- The smell of brand-new fitness equipment fills the air inside of the Special Events Center on Rhine Ordnance Barracks. It comes from hundreds of never-before-used items that have been set in place for the functional fitness area slated to open this fall. Walking into the spacious new area is like setting foot into uncharted gym territory. The lucky ones to put this equipment to use for the first time will be the Soldiers of U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz.

In an ever-changing Army, programs and services offered to Soldiers constantly adapt to fit the needs of the mission. Robert Bigelow, chief of Community Recreation Division for the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, explained that functional fitness is the type of fitness the Army is moving toward. Bigelow, a retired Air Force special agent, said, "Functional fitness prepares a Soldier to accomplish the mission. You lift weights, you do cardio, you build your core muscles; all of these things help you to perform your job."

Functional fitness is built upon the foundation of training muscles through the use of functional movements, or movements that mimic everyday, real-world tasks. The overall goal of training and strengthening the different muscle groups of the body is to achieve a level of physical fitness that allows for an easier, more active lifestyle with reduced risk of injury.

"Say you have to change a tire on a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck out in the field, you have to have the core strength and upper body strength to do that, and that's what this is for," Bigelow explained.

Putting together this functional fitness area has not been an easy task for Bigelow and his staff. Finding the space, obtaining the equipment, setting everything up and getting the proper training and guidance are among some of the challenges they have faced for the better portion of this year. The area is expected to open in September and will be available initially by reservation only to active-duty Army units. An e-mail with more information will be sent out to units, inviting them to schedule a time during physical training hours to use the space with ROB Fitness Center and receive training from their master fitness trainers prior to using the equipment.

Soldiers will have the opportunity to work with a variety of equipment, to include Rogue I-24 Infinity rigs, barbells, rowing machines, air bikes, medicine balls, kettlebells, sleds, tires, glute ham developers, sledgehammers and more, at no cost. Bigelow explained that any level of fitness is welcome, as master fitness trainers will be available to assist with training.

"Don't be afraid of it; just come out and try it," encouraged Bigelow.

To find out more information or to schedule the area for use, contact ROB Fitness Center at DSN 493-2241.