Health, fitness, events and fun activities improve the quality of life for Soldiers, spouses and the Department of the Army civilians at Fort Riley. Equipment such as the Stryder bike program at the Outdoor Recreation Center; last summer’s #FITFIRST guest appearances with the Ninja Warriors, Celebrity Food Network Chefs and Disney performers; the Buddy Bison programs available through Fort Riley and state and local park systems and more, benefited Fort Riley families through funding provided by the Healthy Army Community initiatives.
The HAC is an Installation Management Command worldwide initiative supporting Army installations in Europe, Asia and North America. The initiative enables the community to achieve a healthier lifestyle through education in healthy living and installation program support. The HAC also is designed to bring together not only the Soldiers and their families on the installation, but to work with local communities to enhance relationships for everyone who participates. With so many elements tied into one program, tracking them is essential.
“My role is to lead the HAC programming here at Fort Riley and support the IMCOM HAC with their needs; to include, providing information on our progress, working with the programmers to keep HAC initiatives operating smoothly and moving forward with new initiatives,” said Ken Roynon, Healthy Army Communities coordinator and Fort Riley Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation, chief of marketing and events. “I feel the connections and partnership created on Fort Riley between all of our organizations, and the connections created with our local off-post communities - which include both civilian businesses as well as the local chambers - has been our greatest accomplishment.”
Tim Higdon, IMCOM HAC programmer, and Roynon work together to determine what concepts are possible and practical to enhance the quality of life for the Fort Riley community. In 2017, Higdon brought a team of experts here and they worked with representatives from Irwin Army Community Hospital, Army and Air Force Exchange Service, Defense Commissary Agency, 1st Infantry Division and DFMWR. A plan was put in place to provide assistance through education and training and also to provide monetary support to begin new programs and enhance existing ones. The effort has continued.
In 2019 the 1st Inf. Div. commanding general created the #FITFIRST program. Once the MWR staff briefed him on what HAC was doing to support Fort Riley, the CG determined HAC would be incorporated into his program.
“The #FITFIRST initiative is a Holistic, Health and Fitness, or H2F, strategy,” said Lt. Col. Israel Villarreal, 1st Inf. Div. #FITFIRST coordinator said. “This was developed to improve Soldiers, DA civilians and family readiness and resilience through an integrated fitness and wellness program. It is intended to educate, train and inspire people to increase their overall fitness and well-being while reducing medically non-deployable Soldiers and minimize acts of indiscipline across the force.”
The H2F strategy has five objectives: education and training, nutrition, facilities and infrastructure, health service optimization, and communications.
“Together, the initiatives have brought events, equipment and programs all over the installation with great success,” Roynon said.
An $18,000 grant was awarded through the HAC to update the Fort Riley fitness centers with world-class, unit-inspired gym wrap graphics to complement equipment upgrades as the Army shifts its physical fitness culture.
“The gym wraps play a significant role in unit cohesion and team building,” said Lt. Col. Israel Villarreal, 1st Inf. Div. #FITFIRST coordinator. “Each fitness center has a unit sponsor who played a significant role through contributions during the design process.”
Villarreal is coordinating to install the inspirational signage in the fitness centers soon. But the work will not stop there. As the team strives to improve the quality of life at Fort Riley, more projects are being worked on or are in the planning stages.
“We are also working together to enhance and revitalize our on post hiking trails to get them back into the pristine shape our population deserves,” Roynon said. “(The) HAC is also working with our animal shelter by teaming up to provide new events and give-a-ways that will help inform the local population about them and what they do through entertainment and education.”
With the support of Higdon and the team at IMCOM, Roynon and Villerreal are working to bring more healthy initiatives to the installation.