FORT EUSTIS, Va. — We want more of it and we want it faster.
That was the common theme coming from the 2023 U.S. Army Holistic Health and Fitness Symposium, hosted by the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training at Fort Eustis April 25-26, 2023.
More than 800 Soldiers and civilians attended the two-day event that featured presentations from Army leaders and H2F domain subject matter experts as well as displays from almost 60 industry and academia vendors.
Maj. Gen. John Kline, the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training Commanding General, said the feedback from the force on H2F has been overwhelming.
“As we look at emerging return on investment data, not surprising, early indications are very positive,” said Kline. “We have observed early success since the first units were fielded 17 months ago and many senior commanders are asking what else we can do.”
Lt. Gen. Xavier Brunson, the I Corps Commanding General, said they are seeing firsthand the benefits of H2F and how it helps fulfill the promise of putting people first.
“The things we need and demand from our folks in the Army are why we have H2F,” said Brunson. “That’s what we can do to ensure our Soldiers are ready at a moments notice to deploy, fight, win, and not just survive, but to thrive in any environment we might put them in.”
Currently 28 brigades have embedded H2F Performance Teams, with 12 more brigades being fielded this year.
H2F Performance Teams include a mix of service members, Department of the Army civilians and contractors who form an interdisciplinary team providing forward injury prevention and human performance optimization expertise. These teams include physical therapists, registered dietitians, occupational therapists, certified athletic trainers, cognitive performance specialists, and strength and conditioning coaches.
The Army’s current plan is to field ten brigades with H2F Performance Team’s each year through 2030, with a goal of 110 total brigades fielded.
Brunson acknowledged the units within I Corps are at different stages of fielding H2F resources and they continue to look at ways to support those without.
“I call upon our leaders everyday to find new and unique ways to extend that to those without coverage and to do within the means and capabilities, and truthfully the capacities, that are available within our Corps to ensure that all our Soldiers have the means of achieving or receiving the H2F benefits,” stated Brunson. “It’s gotta go to everybody, we can’t wait.”
Kline acknowledges the urgency from the field and said the Army is looking at ways to speed up the process.
“Whether it’s more fielding, faster fielding or increased flexibility, we are looking at several options and I’m encouraged our leadership remains committed to resourcing H2F,” stated Kline. “It is after all one of the most tangible examples of how our Army is taking care of our people.”
One way Kline said the Army is looking to speed up fielding units with H2F resources is by transitioning the Army Physical Fitness School at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, into an H2F Academy.
“We know that a contracting solution currently brings experts with years of education and experience, but we also need to invest in the education of our Soldiers to ensure we have a deployable capability,” remarked Kline.
The academy would provide NCOs an additional skill identifier as an H2F-Integrator that would be at the platoon and company level. Further down the road would be an H2F-Advisor special qualifications identifier that would be at the battalion and brigade level.
Kline said the addition of an H2F additional skill identifier and special qualifications identifier would provide units additional assets that would be deployable, provide commanders additional flexibility based on their mission, and be particularly beneficial for National Guard and Reserve units.
While planning continues for an H2F Academy, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston said units should not wait to start implementing H2F and use the assets currently available.
“We have to change the culture within our units regarding sleep and nutrition”, said Grinston. “We need leaders present to make these culture changes happen, it takes leaders to put our People First and to change the culture”.
Col. Michael Kloepper, the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) Commander, showed how his unit has implemented H2F despite not yet having embedded H2F assets.
“Until yesterday, I didn’t realize that my unit was a ‘non-resourced’ H2F unit”, said Kloepper. “After multiple pilots, working with our resources within our Brigade Combat Team, we collected data of our Soldiers to refine the pilots and fully embraced changing our culture in regard to Holistic Health and Fitness”
“After we crunched the data, we found that for our units who fully embraced our pilots, greatly reaped the rewards”, said Kloepper. “We are finding great initial trends showing that what we are doing is working.”
While the Army continues to figure out ways to speed up the fielding of H2F systems, Grinston challenged leaders to be creative and set the example for their Soldiers.
“Leaders have to be present. Your squad needs to have a leader present to help our programs succeed”, said Grinston. “I would encourage all of our leaders, across the Army, to check out the programs we have and make sure they’re working for your units.”