FORT BLISS, Texas – The 1st Armored Division and 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade units stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, increased the Soldier deployability rate by 22 percent between March 6 and Aug. 28.
This was the result of the Fort Bliss and 1st AD Ironclad Council’s Holistic Health and Fitness Working Group’s efforts to reduce musculoskeletal injuries within formations.
The Ironclad Council, which is led by 1st AD’s Deputy Commanding General of Maneuver Brigadier Richard 'Dinger' Bell, is Fort Bliss’s people first initiative. It focuses on improving the quality of life for Soldiers, and an individual’s overall health and fitness is an integral part of maintaining a good quality of life.
During the March 6 Ironclad Council, the H2F Working Group presented SMART goals, which stand for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound goals, designed to reduce musculoskeletal injuries for implementation across Fort Bliss. These goals included a battalion integration model, trained and utilized H2F facilitators, injury surveillance, 24-hour access-to-care for non-chronic musculoskeletal injuries, and good H2F-unit relationships.
Dr. Joshua P. Eldridge, the Bulldog Brigade H2F Program director, was heavily involved in implementing these policies within his unit and team. He stated that the working group selected the SMART goals to help properly solve and address musculoskeletal injuries.
“The rates for musculoskeletal [injuries] are a little higher than what we think they should be,” Eldrige stated. “We briefed to Brig. Bell that if we push forward specific applications of H2F, we would be able to see a decrease in musculoskeletal injuries and allow them to be brought down for unit readiness. The brigadier had a real passion for the subject, as well as a strong vision of what he wants to see accomplished from this.”
Furthermore, Eldridge discussed how the establishment of excellent relationships between H2F and respective units was essential to this success. He stated that every brigade that has an H2F team, works with the battalions and companies to have H2F facilitator non-commissioned officers who can conduct physical training on behalf of H2F.
“Our coaches and H2F facilitators build a relationship together,” he stated. “That way, facilitators can reach out to coaches for things like checking PT plans and can discuss it. It is about reinforcing good exercises and avoiding certain back-to-back exercises that could be potentially injury-prone to the troops. Being able to talk through those things allows for the development of facilitator NCOs while not pulling those duties away from them and the unit.”
Eldridge also emphasized the importance of Soldiers to be seen for non-chronic musculoskeletal injuries.
“Having this kind of access to care is something that only high-level collegiate or professional sports teams have. Very rarely can you see a musculoskeletal expert within 24 hours, regardless of your condition. You can go to the emergency room, but if you go for something like a sprained ankle, you are just going to get Ibuprofen or some other equivalent and get sent home,” Eldrige stated.
Because of H2F, the priority is not about how fast they can send a patient home or just addressing the symptoms but creating a solution for musculoskeletal problems at the source.
“Now you can come in, be seen by H2F, and have a plan of action to get you back in the fight.” Eldridge expressed.
These SMART goals provided an ample opportunity for H2F teams to work with their respective units to create an even better program that supports Soldiers' holistic health needs. The 1st AD and 11th ADA Brigade are extremely proud that through the implementation of the goals, 96 Soldiers, previously non-deployable, became deployable and the rate of musculoskeletal injuries decreased.
“The ability to build relationships is what makes H2F stand out above other programs,” Eldridge emphasized. “The reason why H2F is the number one, people-first initiative is because we go out and we build relationships with the units. We embed with the unit. We get to know the Soldiers. They get to know us. They trust us. They understand what we are doing for them, and they love that. And that is what we like to see.”