FORT HOOD, Texas -- Supporting physical, mental and spiritual health for Soldiers is a major priority in the minds of commanders today. Providing easy access to these areas and a means for self-maintenance, within our own ranks, shows that these commanders' actions match their words.

"We owe the Army a ready team that's able to meet its mission requirements in the fastest possible way, and I believe this is a critical component to that effort," Maj. Gen. Dan Allyn, commander, 1st Cav. Div.

The 1st Cavalry Division officially opened a physical therapy clinic during a ribbon cutting ceremony, Jan. 3, in the division's Harvey Physical Fitness Center.

Initially, the idea of providing physical therapy at the unit level was crafted from the success that Physical Therapists had on unit readiness in Ranger battalions and Special Forces groups.

Clinics were then placed at the brigade level to assist with early diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal injuries, injury prevention and human performance optimization both in garrison and deployed.

"I am a firm believer that we should self-support first and only ask for support when we can't support ourselves," said Lt. Col. James Geracci, division surgeon, 1st Cavalry Division. "This initiative really embodies that concept of self-support and direct support."

Geracci and Capt. Leigh Anne Swafford, the division's physical therapist, consolidated the unit's physical therapy team to one location.

"This project prevents multiple individual and remote clinic locations and allows fellow brigade therapists to backfill within the division for therapy services during field exercises and deployments," said Geracci.

As a result of opening the clinic in a gym, Soldiers are afforded the opportunity to receive "hands-on" training and education from Physical Therapists where they regularly workout.

Equipment within the clinic and the gym rival that of Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center's Physical Therapy clinic, in essence giving Cav Troopers easier access to proper physical training education and therapy for injuries.

"The concept of the new clinic falls directly in line with the III Corps Functional Fitness (Phantom Warrior Objective) initiative to change the way physical training is conducted on post to improve overall readiness and prevent injuries," said Geracci. "This includes updating the physical fitness facilities of Fort Hood to provide functional fitness equipment and the availability of sports medicine medical providers."

For Soldiers within the Cav, getting an appointment with a Physical Therapist requires either attending sick-call or a primary care manager and receiving a referral.

"Within one to two weeks of the referral an appointment is made and the Soldier is seen," said Swafford.

Ultimately, the purpose of providing Physical Therapists to the brigades and consolidating them in one centralized location enhances unit readiness and physical performance through strength and conditioning, prevention, early recognition, and aggressive management of musculoskeletal injuries.