By Mr. Ramee Opperude (Regional Health Command Pacific)April 17, 2018
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- While the U.S. Army's reconditioning physical training program is not new, the systems and experts involved in the process are. Each week rehabilitated Soldiers return to the fight due to the dedicated work of a team from across the U.S. Army Health Clinic-Schofield Barracks and the Army Wellness Center-Schofield Barracks.
One of those individuals who continues to make an impact on Soldiers each and every day is Neil Santiago, human performance program specialist, USAHC-SB.
"When I came into this position almost eight years ago, we had no system. I felt like everyone was on their own doing their own thing and playing trial and error. Granted, we were still at war and rolling out physical readiness training probably wasn't a priority on most people's minds," Santiago said. "Once we got things rolling, we noticed a more collaborative effort. No one knew what mobility was and was commonly confused with agility. That's where we, as musculoskeletal experts, had the upper hand in explaining why this aspect was important."
The typical team who is now assisting in physically reconditioning Soldiers includes primary care managers, physical therapists, athletic trainers, and strength and conditioning specialists. For assistance beyond a physical capacity, Soldiers interact with behavioral health specialists, sports psychologists, chaplain, registered dietitians, health educators and sleep psychologists.
"The top high schools, colleges, pro teams, Olympic training centers have this available to them," Santiago said. "When we look at the Soldier, who in my opinion plays the ultimate game and wears a different uniform, (and) has to go out of their way to find these resources, it doesn't make sense to me. This is where we need to continue to educate our leaders as well as Soldiers we serve on 'rubbing dirt on a cut and pressing on' doesn't work all the time."
All of the experts noted that successful recovery includes contributions from across the USAHC-SB. Nutrition was repeatedly mentioned as a key component during reconditioning and optimizing performance.
"An inactive person may need more lean proteins and less carbohydrates to maintain lean muscle mass, without the need for so much energy from carbohydrates," said 1st Lt. Jessica Teachout, registered dietitian, USAHC-SB. "These ratios can change during reconditioning and getting back into an exercise routine or varying your exercise routine.
"Bottom line, you can't outrun a bad diet," Teachout added.
For weekly classes, physical assessments and one-on-one coaching, the Army Wellness Center is a vital component to returning Soldiers to unit level physical training and ultimately their peak physical condition.
"In our experience, knowledge truly can be empowering," said Rachel Llanes, health educator, Army Wellness Center. "The essential additional ingredient is action. As one of our health educators likes to say, 'knowledge lacking application is worthless.' Our mission is to inspire and empower Soldiers to break down, perhaps overwhelming, seemingly grandiose, goals into small, manageable, action steps."
While every time people turn around there seems to be a new fad diet or home workout machine being advertised, Santiago recommends a more science-based approach.
"Technology is great and I do love it, but it doesn't drive what we do. It's a great addition, and just like any chef will tell you, it's always adding and subtracting things to a recipe to make the end dish look and taste delicious," Santiago said.
"Currently, we are using blood flow restriction training as our latest tool. Some people love it and some people hate it," he said.
Blood flow restriction training begins a series of events in the body that would otherwise need more time and more intensity through training. It doesn't replace trainers or training hard but it allows for training without adding stress.
"Currently, I am looking to how Garmin created their gait analysis that some of our runners use to measure cadence, time on the ground, left to right differences, and vertical displacement as it relates to running," Santiago said. "I am also looking at technology such as PUSH bands, which is a velocity-based measuring device which would allow us to objectively see how one responds to loads and movements."
While minor changes have occurred in nutrition services, the Army Wellness Center has seen the most major technology changes to assist with nutrition education.
"Machines like the DEXA scanner are wonderful for seeing changes in body composition as well as bone mineral density," Teachout said. "The Army Wellness Center is a great resource though since they have the capabilities of the BodPod, Metabolic Cart, and can test VO2 max."
As an extension of the USAHC-SB, the Army Wellness Center offers additional testing that competes with that of elite athletes and programs across the globe.
"Much like in battle, strategy is everything. We must have accurate intel regarding current specs if we are to optimize our strategy for success. The technology we utilize in this mission includes air-displacement plethysmography, COSMED Fitmates, and HeartMath emWave technology. Once baseline data is collected, AWC's health educators collaborate with their Soldiers in a manner that empowers them to lead the way," Llanes said.
THE FUTURE OF PHYSICAL TRAINING
While the U.S. Army ponders changes to the Physical Fitness Test and the implementation of the Army Combat Readiness Test, the experts such as Santiago await information on how to best adjust training and reconditioning.
"With the details still being worked out, I feel like we (USAHC-SB) have been on this path for quite some time. Training for very eclectic Soldiers has been at the forefront. We've tossed around these ideas previously, but rarely do we see execution on the ground. Looking into further avenues of how to train Soldiers for power, endurance, agility, speed, reaction, quickness, will always be what's visible," Santiago said.
"When we teach Soldiers to carry out the tasks of being leaders in this arena, we also have to target the notion of creating buy-in and being able to communicate this extremely intricate process to their Soldiers. Physical training always seems to be the first target, and rightfully so. But not all service members are at the same point in life and dealing with the same issues day in and day out. This is where we are going to be working to improve and deliver for the future," Santiago added.
TO LEARN MORE
THE USAHC-SB mobile app is available on Apple/Android devices and contains links to clinic information for service members and families.
Visit the Army Wellness Center at Schofield Barracks, Building 647, Lewis Street or make an appointment at 1-808-655-1866.