The G-4 is wrapping up this year's celebration of National Nutrition Month® - an annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to increase awareness of making informed food choices and developing healthful eating and physical activity habits - by discussing the Army's progress leveraging nutritional awareness as a readiness enabler with SGM Jimmy Sellers, who has served as the HQDA, G-4 SGM since July 2020.
The National Nutrition Month campaign is centered around increasing education about and access to healthy food options for any given lifestyle - how has the Army's own efforts to improve Soldier feeding progressed in 2022 thus far?
I believe much of its progression is due to more deliberate organization surrounding how we train our Soldiers, such as those 92Gs, or culinary specialists. We’re ensuring they fully understand the components central to the Go for Green (G4G) initiative – everything from menu redesign to Warrior Restaurant layout so Soldiers have the best dining experience possible. The education and access components are major enablers of G4G, so we’re ensuring menus have QR Codes with nutrition facts and guidance to help inform decisions at each meal and that facilities are equipped with CAC and credit/debit card scanners to make it as easy as possible to get what they need. A Soldier taking care of themselves from a nutrition standpoint simply cannot be a logistical burden. The COVID operating environment has really helped us take a good, hard look at how we deliver food to Soldiers differently.
The G-4 has been synchronized with several of the major stakeholders in this space – such as the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) and multiple Army Wellness Centers (AWCs). Who are some of the other key players working to improve readiness through nutrition?
This entire effort is what it is thus far because of the fantastic integration and synchronization with our partners at DeCA and the AWCs, but the initiative involves a host of other teammates, like Army Materiel Command (AMC) and the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES). Working alongside industry, too, has proved beneficial as we narrow down who we think the best prime vendors will be for our Warrior Restaurants based on the Solider demographics those will mostly serve. I think of all of this as enabling the nutrition triad of dieticians, nutritionists, and the culinary specialists who are delivering those healthy options to our Soldiers. As a group, we’re tackling this from a very holistic perspective so we’re not solely focused on one delivery method, like a Warrior Restaurant. DeCA has played a huge role in helping us deliver kiosk and food truck pilots at places like Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Fort Bragg which will inform how we continue to progress in those areas. The bottom line still remains that offering a variety of healthy, cost-effective options for our Soldiers where they are is our North Star.
Nutritional Readiness is a key tenet of H2F, as is Physical - do you foresee ACTION's key players working to integrate the most recent updates to the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) into how it's working to enhance Total Readiness through healthy eating?
ACTION’s strategic initiatives are absolutely aligned to Physical Readiness, too. An aspect of that is how we approach what we’re calling 30-day fueling challenges for our Soldiers in tandem with the ACFT itself. These challenges bring together that nutrition triad I mentioned earlier with Soldiers and their families to discuss holistic health and fitness and make that a focal point to enabling readiness. We talked about stakeholders earlier, too, and our AWCs have really stepped up to streamline these outreach efforts across the force. The closest AWC to us here in the Pentagon is down at Fort Belvoir, and their director and staff have done an amazing job of advocating for and advancing the critical work they’re doing at the Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA) level. AWCs are so central to the education aspect, and their work is helping us inform Soldiers early and often about the total health resources available for them and their families.
As your career has progressed, when did the Army’s focus on nutrition effectively turn towards its use as a readiness enabler across the force?
I think a highly notable year for that revelation was 2012, when GFG was really introduced and enacted. From there, the SMA implemented ACTION in 2019 to carry forward that momentum because of the natural nexus between healthy people and total readiness.
Back in February you traveled alongside the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army to Alaska for an on-the-ground look into environmental conditions across the region - what were some of the biggest takeaways from that week up north as the G-4 continues its efforts to support Soldiers both on base and in the field?
The Alaskan environment is extremely challenging and arduous for Soldiers and families, there is absolutely no denying that. Living and working in that climate comes with unique challenges, but there are also some distinct joys that come with living in that region. As we in the G-4 work to support the Army’s Arctic Strategy, a large share of our work will revolve around logistics support that is configured for condition, so to speak, given the context within which our U.S. Army Alaska (USARAK) Soldiers operate. Equipment and supplies that are sent forward to USARAK need to be ready to perform from day one – we enable and effectively support them by eliminating that up front burden. This holds for everything from food trucks – which we’re aiming to field this year – to clothing and equipment that supports the varied maneuver and operations needs in that climate as soon as it’s there.
In February, COL Bill Galbraith, SGM Jimmy Sellers, and MG(P) Charles Hamilton (L-R) visited several installations in Alaska to garner an in-depth look at Soldier and Family living and training conditions alongside the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army.