FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — For injured trainees here who fall into the subset of having short-term limitations on their profiles that don’t qualify for a transfer to the 43rd Adjutant General Battalion’s Fitness Training Unit, rehabilitation has historically involved remaining with their unit, doing little to no workouts, and losing the conditioning they’ve built up.
At Company C, 35th Engineer Battalion, these trainees and the Army are benefiting from a new program instituted to ensure fitness levels don’t drop while injuries heal.
The program was created by Charlie Company 1st Sgt. Daniel Dobson, who arrived for his assignment here in April and saw a way to make improvements in line with the Army’s Holistic Health and Fitness initiative, commonly called H2F.
Over the past six weeks, Dobson has been tailoring workouts for each of the injured trainees in his company, based on the limitations set into their profiles by medical experts.
“I noticed trainees with profiles were just walking on cardio days,” Dobson said. “I looked into the H2F program. This seemed to align with it. I don’t want them trying to do something they can’t do, but at the same time I want them to get a good workout in and stay fit.”
Before putting the program in place, Dobson — who said he has experience with many different types of fitness, including CrossFit, yoga and powerlifting — presented his idea to Charlie Company Commander Capt. Mitchell Simmons.
“The decision for me was a very easy ‘yes,’” Simmons said. “The program provides targeted physical fitness training for our trainees who have short-term profiles, as well as additional stretching and recovery techniques for them to implement on their own. It’s in line with the updated focuses in H2F and demonstrates to our trainees that they are still very much a member of the team.”
Simmons explained his unit’s core principles.
“We are building disciplined Soldiers whose character is shaped by the Army Values and who embrace the team mentality,” he said. “We also fully embrace our brigade’s ‘put ‘em across’ motto when it comes to our trainees. This does not mean we are willing to sacrifice standards and discipline to graduate our trainees. What it means for us is that it is our duty to do everything in our power to ensure we are enabling our trainees’ success.”
Dobson said the program is more than rehabilitative — it is preventative.
“I want to avoid them getting reinjured,” he said. “A lot of trainees who just walk the track — they’re not getting any exercise — and when they do heal up, they’re expected after two or three weeks to just jump right in to doing PT with all the others who have been training regularly. It’s demoralizing for them, and they can get injured really easily because they’re not at that level yet. I’m trying to get them to that level while they’re injured.”
To accomplish that goal, Dobson uses a base model of fitness training that is easily tailorable for the unique qualities of injuries that commonly occur during training.
“The concept is the same for each trainee, but there are different workouts,” he said. “I try to do a push, a pull and then a core. The emphasis is on recovery. We do a real thorough warm up; we do a thorough workout; and we do a thorough stretch and recovery session afterward.”
In addition to the supervised sessions, Dobson also created binders for the barracks rooms, so the trainees can stretch before they go to sleep to help their muscles heal.
One of the six Charlie Company trainees currently on a short-term physical profile is Pvt. Alejandra Chagoya, who will be a combat engineer after graduation.
The Baton Rouge, Louisiana-native said she started having pain in one of her legs about five weeks ago and appreciates the opportunity to keep in shape while her injuries heal.
“I like it,” she said. “It allows me to work out, but at the same time, I’m being safe. If it hurts, I can stop and do something else. It’s actually fun doing it as well. We use different equipment every day.”
Another trainee in the program is Pfc. Kayla Kennedy, from Detroit, Michigan, who joined the Army Reserve to become a combat engineer.
Kennedy also suffered an injury in training here and said she will continue following Dobson’s program when she returns home after graduation.
“I have a gym membership back home, and I will remember all of these workouts because it’s unbelievable how well it has worked for me,” she said. “It’s building the things I need. Even if I can’t do things due to the limitations of my profile, I actually can still get a workout.”