FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — While there are plenty of places to get in a workout on post, not all gyms have hours that conform to the busy schedules of service members or other authorized patrons.
That will soon change — at least temporarily — when Cunningham Gym switches to a 24-hour, seven-days-per-week schedule during the month of April as part of a new pilot program entitled “This We’ll Defend Fitness.”
“There are challenges to everyone’s busy schedules to get to the gyms during their current hours,” explained Command Sgt. Maj. Rodney Russell with the 1st Engineer Brigade, which runs Cunningham Gym.
“The goal the brigade hopes to achieve is that patrons take advantage of the 24-hour operations by utilizing the gym,” Russell said. “We want to provide a variety of times for those with busy work schedules to have access to the facility to meet their fitness needs.”
The pilot program was established by Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Command Sgt. Maj. Randolph Delapena, who said he began receiving requests for expanded fitness-center hours shortly after becoming MSCoE’s top enlisted leader last fall.
“Almost as soon as I hit the ground, I heard multiple requests for a 24-hour gym,” Delapena said. “I spend my mornings after my PT at the gym visiting drill sergeants and cadre members, and several of them brought up (the need) to me. As a former drill sergeant myself, I know their hours are never the same as the rest of the population. Also, we have Soldiers, Department of the Army civilians, retirees and family members who work different hours outside the typical 9-to-5 framework.”
During the pilot program, Cunningham Gym personnel will track the number of patrons and times the gym is utilized the most, Russell said. He added that data collected over the 30-day trial period would evaluate the program’s success and help leaders determine if it warrants expansion.
“The gym will be staffed with a desk NCO for any issues there may be and to keep track of personnel using the facility,” Russell said. “We will collect the number of (patrons) and times the gym is used in order to make a determination if there is a need to have a 24-hour gym on the installation.”
While the expanded hours will provide more access and convenience for all patrons, Russell noted that it could especially help service members preparing for special training or events.
“The 24-hour access will allow Soldiers to seek out workout schedules to better prepare for special events, training, professional development or contests such as Best Warrior, Best Sapper, Expert Soldier Badge competitions and more,” he said.
Delapena added that helping Soldiers, families and other personnel meet their fitness goals is part of an ongoing commitment to address and improve quality-of-life issues on the installation.
“This pilot program allows us to show the need, and I urge everyone to get the word out to those who can benefit from the expanded hours to utilize the service and the facility,” Delapena said. “I also want the entire team to know, ‘we heard you,’ and that the CG and I are proud to serve the team.”