Armaments Center initiative prioritizes Army civilian wellness

By Eric KowalApril 30, 2024

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - A new window for actual physical movement is now available for employees who are largely deskbound, whose idea of exercise might be chasing down looming taskers, scampering to a town hall meeting, or stretching to complete mandatory training.

This opportunity to pump up the heart rate and energize the muscles comes from a new initiative to promote civilian fitness approved by Chris Grassano, Director of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Armaments Center. Now, center employees are authorized to take up to one (1) hour of administrative leave each week to participate in an approved fitness activity.

The program’s goal is to enhance the health, fitness, and quality of life for Department of the Army civilians while increasing organization wellness and mission productivity. It applies to all civilians assigned to or under operational control of Armaments Center personnel. Army Civilian Wellness is a Department of the Army program intended to encourage civilian employees to improve readiness, resilience, and health by influencing optimal performance through better sleep, activity, nutrition and supporting healthy working environments.

Army Directive 2021-03 established policy for the Department of the Army Civilian Fitness and Health Promotion Program. Evidence indicates that employees allowed to participate in fitness and health promotion programs experience increased readiness and resiliency, enhanced morale, increased productivity, reduced sick leave, and increased job and life satisfaction.

Good health is critical to military, civilian, and family readiness, allowing service members and DoD employees to perform their responsibilities at work and at home to the best of their abilities.

As such, the directive provides senior leaders with the discretionary authority to implement and administer a fitness and health promotion program in their respective organizations.

“Fitness is an essential element of overall well-being, so please avail yourselves of the opportunity to use this program to enhance your personal fitness program,” Grassano said in an email to his workforce.

“There are excellent facilities on-and-off-post, as well as running and walking trails, so please take advantage of what is available locally to enhance your work week. This is a great opportunity to support employee fitness and well-being, but there are a few administrative requirements you will be required to uphold to ensure proper adherence to the policy, as well as to ensure proper timekeeping.”

Forge Fitness is a state-of-the-art fitness training facility located on Picatinny Arsenal and offers a cardio room, free weight room, power lifting room, functional fitness room, aerobic room, full size basketball court, racquetball court, and a mommy and me room.

Forge Fitness is free for all Picatinny Arsenal employees and requires registration at the Fitness Center. Forge Fitness is open 24 hours a day, seven days each week. To enable access to the Fitness Center, employees need to complete a wavier, short orientation, and enable their ID card for swipe access. Employees should visit Forge during core business hours of 9am-2pm Monday-Thursday to complete the process.

Offsite, Forge offers a street hockey court, tennis courts and softball fields. Forge also provides a variety of activities for self-improvement including:

•             Yoga Classes

•             Basketball/Volleyball/Soccer pick-up games (M-F at lunchtime)

•             Scheduled Fitness Challenges

To increase impact on wellness, the installation’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and Armaments Center recently began a collaboration to advancing the wellness and resilience of the Picatinny Arsenal community.

Since the launch of Picatinny’s EAP less than two years ago, the Army Substance Abuse Program (ASAP) has made significant strides in enhancing community health, hosting more than 75 workshops, inaugurating a wellness center, launching a community outreach van, and organizing a series of impactful guest speakers.

“These efforts, aimed at deepening community ties both on-site and across New Jersey, highlight a unified dedication to workforce wellness,” said Amy Gopel, Picatinny Arsenal EAP Coordinator.

The partnership between the Armaments Center and the Picatinny Arsenal Garrison pools unique resources and expertise to extend wellness initiatives further across the installation.

“The Armaments Center’s introduction of innovative strategies, such as the employee fitness initiative, has been crucial in broadening the programs' reach and impact, ensuring comprehensive support for the community,” said Sandrea Goldfarb, Armament Center Wellness Program Coordinator. “This partnership represents a strategic commitment to improving health and wellness, significantly advancing mental health, physical fitness, and wellness education.”

Goldfarb and Gopel encourage the entire Picatinny community and all installation tenant organizations to explore and participate in these enhanced wellness initiatives.

Both weekly and monthly emails are distributed to help make employees aware of some of the briefings, presentations, and events available.

Various employee run sports clubs are available such as basketball, volleyball, soccer, aerobics, racquetball, floor hockey, and just recently a cycling club.  Armaments Center has also initiated a Wellness Channel on MS Teams that includes wellness resources such as a Wellness Calendar that coordinates DEVCOM, EAP, and Defense Health Agency efforts to give employees a one-stop look of what is available.

Additionally, briefings are recorded, when possible, to give employees the opportunity to view the information they missed if they were unable to make the original session.

"By engaging in these programs and contributing to our health and wellness dialogue, we can create a stronger, more supportive network,” said Gopel. “Together, we're not just talking about collaboration; we're living it, placing people first and building a more resilient community where comprehensive well-being is a reality for everyone.

“Looking ahead, this collective effort we hope to introduce state-of-the-art wellness technologies, broaden mental health services, and boost community engagement through interactive platforms. These endeavors are designed to enhance the Picatinny community's well-being, equipping every member with the necessary resources for a supportive environment,” Gopel said.