FORT DRUM, N.Y (June 26, 2019) -- It's a matter of convenience, a response to a demand for extended hours and a solution to a staffing shortage.

Starting July 1, all Department of Defense cardholders - 18 years or older - can register for a 24/7 access pass to Atkins Functional Fitness Facility (AFFF) at Fort Drum.

"I'm excited to know that you can work out any time of the day or night and have it convenient to your schedule," said Randy Gillette, AFFF manager. "We've had people asking for this for a long time now. Especially Soldiers who work different late shifts, and can't get into the gym during regular hours. So now they have the chance to come in and get a workout."

Patrons can register for a pass at the front desk with their DoD common access card, and it's as easy as signing a waiver and a memorandum of agreement for rules and regulations so they can use the facility without staff on duty.

Gillette said that there is no expiration date on the access card, so they will remain active for the duration of the patron's time at Fort Drum.

Atkins staff members have already issued roughly 100 access passes in the first 48 hours since the announcement was made. Gillette said that these are mostly regular patrons who are well-versed with gym rules, etiquette and safe use of the equipment.

"All our regulars, the guys who come in here every day, they were the first ones getting the cards," he said. "They can't wait; they're excited to be able to come in at certain times when we normally can't be open."

The AFFF is currently staffed from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. The facility is normally closed Sundays, but it will now be available on that day for those with access cards.

Gillette recommends that people still use the buddy system when working out, regardless of when they are using the facility. He said it is a good safety measure when using heavy weights or planning a strenuous workout.

However, the buddy also needs to be registered and have an access card.

"They call it piggybacking, when someone lets another person in without a card. That's not allowed," Gillette said. "They will lose their privilege, and so will the person trying to get in."

He said that security camera footage will be reviewed daily to make sure that isn't happening. Additionally, using the access card allows Atkins staff to know who is using the facility and at what hours. Gillette said this information will be beneficial in the weeks and months to come, so they know the volume of patrons and peak hours of use.

Bill Van Orman, an Army Substance Abuse Program specialist, can regularly be found working out with friends and colleagues when Atkins first opens in the morning. But when hours change on holidays and DONSAs (days of no scheduled activities), he said they have to plan alternate training sites so they can still exercise before going to work.

"We're excited about being able to go to Atkins now on DONSAs as well, and that we no longer need to modify our training plans to go to another gym," he said. "Atkins Functional Fitness Facility always suits our training needs and fitness goals."

Atkins Functional Fitness Facility features a full arsenal of functional equipment, to include sleds, tires, jump boxes and slam balls. It also has Olympic weightlifting platforms, half racks, 25-meter Astro Turf lanes and the Alpha Warrior Rig. Additionally, patrons can sign up for sessions with personal trainers and other classes.

For more information, call (315) 772-3377 or visit https://www.facebook.com/AtkinsFitness/.