KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany - U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz employees have support reaching 2020 wellness goals thanks to the Army Civilian Wellness Program.

The program encourages civilian employees to develop mental and physical health to enhance quality of life and productivity by allowing supervisors to authorize up to three hours of paid excused absence per week to participate in wellness activities.

"The workforce is the cornerstone of everything we do, and we must always invest in that," said Dr. Kevin Griess, deputy garrison commander. "But the most important part is that we invest in ourselves. Self-care is the cornerstone of our own lives - being productive, living long, being healthy, being ready to come to work and support our teammates, and being ready to get the mission done."

"Just like we expect our Soldiers to be fit to fight, for our civilian force it's important that we have the opportunity to maintain our fitness as well," added Margaret Bunton, workforce program development specialist.

"Fitness is all about a balance - it's not just the physical part, it's what you're eating, what you're putting into your body and everything else that's going on with you," she said. "It's mental and physical and if there are classes available for an employee to take that can improve upon those areas, like a nutrition class, that all falls into civilian wellness as well. It's not just about going to the gym and working out, it's about the overall holistic fitness approach."

Per the policy, a CWP activity is any activity designed to improve or maintain an employee's physical and mental health, which may include but is not limited to: cardiovascular endurance, meditation, yoga, muscular strength and endurance, therapy, flexibility, and group or individual sports.

The program isn't new to the Army or to the garrison, but an increased emphasis in 2020 is part of what Bunton said is "the overall initiative of the garrison to make sure employees have everything they need to be happy and healthy."

The CWP is available to full-time Non-Appropriated Fund, Appropriated Fund and Local National civilian employees assigned to the garrison. Participation may include up to three hours of duty time per week, with times agreed upon by the participant and supervisor. The program is not to exceed six consecutive months and can be used one time for every three years of service with the U.S. Army.

Along with promoting the program to her fellow workforce, Bunton is also participating in it.

With two young children at home and a husband working shift, Bunton said some days she wasn't making it to the gym until 10 p.m., which put her to bed after midnight and didn't allow for a solid night of sleep.

"The program has been helpful - I don't have to work out at 10 p.m. anymore," she said. Bunton arranged with her supervisor to leave work one hour early three days a week, when workload and mission allows, and uses that hour to exercise so the rest of the evening can be spent with her family.

"Being able to get out [early] and work out, it does something for the mental, and for me it's very important to be able to have that outlet," Bunton said. "Knowing I can come to work, do my job, and have time to take care of myself, really does make a difference in work performance and energy level. If I can work out at the end of the day between 4 and 5 p.m. versus at 10 p.m., it frees up my time in the evening so that I can go to bed on time."

Also participating in the program is the deputy garrison commander.

"I am part of the program myself and it is very difficult to break away from work, to walk away from the emails and things like that, but I have to do it - I take the time because this is important," Griess said. "I've lost weight and personally I feel better mentally and physically."

Griess said he wishes he started with the program sooner, and he doesn't want other people on his team to wait as long as he did.

"We wanted to dust off the program and remind people that it's available and should be used. Supervisors and employees alike should ask for it and continue forward to make themselves healthy. We want people to take advantage of it and be healthier and more positive," he said.

To enroll in the program, employees should talk to their supervisors and work together to fill out the enrollment packet available from the Workforce Development (Task Force 5) Office. More information may be requested from TF5 at DSN 541-3012 or Comm. 0611-143-541-3012.