FORT KNOX, Ky. — Army officials are dusting off an established program and giving it a fresh look in an effort to promote greater Soldier fitness.
Known as the Army Wellness Center, the facility at Fort Knox, affiliated with Ireland Army Health Clinic, is offering tours to unit leaders to demonstrate its capability in raising the mental and physical fitness of the force. They are doing that through a hands-on approach called the Readiness Leadership Course.
“Our goal for the leadership course is to build command advocacy for referring Soldiers to us for the Army Body Composition Program,” said Brent Newell, director of the AWC. “We’re building command leadership buy-in to utilize us as their tool for readiness.”
As a result, each session and area of the half-day course at the Center is experienced by every leader in attendance.
Newell said the AWC’s role as a commander’s tool for readiness is actually not anything new. The centers are at installations for that very purpose, according to Army Regulation 600-9: “The Army Body Composition Program.”
The course is designed to make leaders aware of that fact.
“What the Readiness Leadership Course focuses on are those [noncommissioned officers in charge] and the senior commanders O-3 and above to come in and experience our services firsthand, so they understand what the body composition analysis does, the metabolic analysis, all the coaching, the education, down to macros,” said Newell. “Then they understand exactly everything that the Soldier is going to receive who is on ABCP.”
In fact, AR 600-9, Paragraph 2-15 tells commanders and supervisors to “communicate with Army Medical Treatment Facility (MTF) registered dietitian, other health care professionals, Army Wellness Centers and other MTF resources to provide education on tenets of sleep, activity, and performance nutrition for optimal body composition, health promotion, and readiness of the unit.”
Newell said one of the areas of focus during the course is explaining to leaders how the Center fits into AR 600-9, including how they can use it for Soldier fitness. The course also includes a 600-9 block, where Newell’s team explains the most accurate way to conduct a tape test and a visual demonstration of what it should look like.
“The most common variable as to why the Army test can be so inaccurate is because the variability between two tapers can be drastically different,” said Newell. “We are trying to reduce that as much as we can.”
The course even advises leaders on writing Soldier action plans and counseling statements for referral to the Center for those who are flagged for fitness.
“It’s not an obligatory or remedial referral,” said Newell. “It’s a prioritization and a tool that can even be used as a preemptive measure. This is about building the knowledge of what we do and how NCOs and command teams can have us in their back pockets to utilize us, and so they understand our full role within their capabilities for readiness.”
Newell said while the Army Combat Fitness Test is not the driving force behind the need for Soldiers to embrace a holistic approach to fitness, it has revealed a greater need for fitness experts to educate Soldiers.
“A lot of people don’t know what to do for fitness with the ACFT. People don’t know how to prepare for the ACFT,” said Newell. “And there are methodologies of fitness that don’t promote overall performance as a Soldier-athlete.
“Now, we’re seeing Soldiers trying to continue doing what they used to do, and it’s not making a difference — so they’re starting to give up.”
Gone should be the days of pushups, sit-ups and running at every training session, said Newell. Yet that is still the go-to for many units.
Newell explained that the ACFT requires a more athletic approach to training, for which the Center is uniquely equipped to provide ample guidance to Soldiers. Leaders who aren’t utilizing the Center to encourage total Soldier fitness are not giving Soldiers everything they need.
“We need to train and live life as an athlete,” said Newell; “so this is not about what the Army is doing, but about what we’re not doing.”
The Army Wellness Center, therefore, stands poised to lead leaders and their Soldiers toward the future of fitness, which promotes total fitness while reducing injuries, said Newell:
“That’s where the Readiness Leadership Course comes in — to directly target the leadership as to what we do, how they directly benefit from it, and if Soldiers ever become flagged, how they benefit.”
Editor’s Note: For more information on scheduling a course date, visit the Fort Knox Army Wellness Center’s website at https://p3.amedd.army.mil/fort-knox-army-wellness-center.