ARLINGTON, Va. — When Jarnetta Fowler, the supervising occupational therapist at the Fort Benning Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU), Georgia, saw some Soldiers struggling to participate in certain physical activities due to their injuries, she decided to get creative.
After some research and analysis, she developed a brand new program to improve the flexibility of recovering Soldiers, and it has become a permanent fixture. It’s the latest example of how SRUs around the country are finding creative ways to help Soldiers and developing specialized physical rehabilitation programs tailored to the needs of individuals.
Fowler said that the idea came about as she tried to tailor a workout program for Soldiers who struggled with flexibility.
"I noticed that there were a lot of Soldiers with overuse injuries or pulled muscles, so they couldn't do things like Pilates," she said.
She determined that the problem for them is that many were too bulky and did not have enough strength and flexibility to avoid tears and strains. So she created Thursday Flexibility, a class that focused on nothing but stretches for an hour — from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet.
As their flexibility improved, she noticed that the Soldiers were getting better results from their physical therapy. They not only improved the parts of their body that were injured, but also minimized overcompensation on the non-injured sites.
Fowler is both the developer and the teacher of the class, which just started this summer, so it's only a few months old. It is held once per week, and there are no more than 15 people per class due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The class has been important for Soldiers not just physically, but mentally as well.
"It's relaxing, and you're in a group setting, so there's socialization," Fowler said. "It helps to bridge the gap between the clinical world of the hospital to a more community-centric event. And instead of just going to the YMCA, we're building that community within the organization."
Because of its success, Thursday Flexibility will remain a permanent fixture at the Fort Benning SRU. And it shows how much an SRU can do to help a Soldier with their recovery, no matter what their situation is.
Fowler said she's received "very positive feedback" so far, and she's been able to reassure Soldiers who don't think they can participate because of their injury.
"A lot of them worry that, 'Oh, I'm still injured,' but we're able to modify," she said. "If you have 90% of the body working properly, we don't want to punish the 90% because of the 10% that can't keep up. That kind of changes their mindset, because they think their injury will stop them from doing so many things with the rest of the body. But that's not the case."
The Army Warrior Care and Transition Program is now the Army Recovery Care Program. Although the name has changed, the mission remains the same: to provide quality complex case management to the Army's wounded, ill and injured Soldiers.