By Sgt. 1st Class Luis SaavedraFebruary 21, 2013
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Some people seek to improve their physical appearance by hiring a personal trainer. Others prefer to focus on the mind with the assistance of teachers, mentors, counselors or others. The 10th Sustainment Brigade is fortunate enough to have someone who can help some people with both the mind and body.
Sgt. Edward A. Webb Jr., a chaplain's assistant assigned to the brigade, said he felt good knowing that, at times, only his presence was needed to help Soldiers feel at ease, but that wasn't enough. His desire to help people made him want to do more.
Webb was helping people with their spiritual needs, but he said he felt a lot was being left out.
He found a way to help Soldiers and Families by not only providing spiritual and religious support, but also financial peace programs to ease the mind as well as exercise routines to help them get in shape.
Before Webb decided what military occupational specialty he would choose, he said he spoke to his sister, who was in the military at the time, about some options that were offered. She told him that chaplain's assistants were usually really nice people and it would fit his personality.
"Being that my whole Family comes from a line of ministers and bishops and I grew up in a church, I thought the job would work," Webb said. "Eight years later, I'm still here."
Webb, a native of Albany, Ga., joined the Army on June 30, 2004. He completed his training at Fort Jackson, S.C., and proceeded to his first duty station at Carlisle Barracks, Pa. Webb also has been stationed at Yongsan, Korea, and Camp Zama, Japan, and he now calls Fort Drum his home.
Some people know that the chaplain's office is a place where they can get general counseling, but many do not know the Muleskinner Unit Ministry Team offers a lot more.
Webb deployed to Afghanistan with the Muleskinner Brigade in late 2011, and it was there that he decided to implement a physical fitness schedule that ran multiple times a day to accommodate Soldiers' work shifts. He used Insanity, Zumba and other workout programs to motivate Soldiers to get in shape.
The programs allowed the ministry team to interact with Soldiers while helping them meet their physical fitness needs.
"Even though they were workout programs, it allowed the unit ministry team to get face time with the Soldiers, and a lot of times, either before or after the workouts, we were able to talk to Soldiers who were experiencing some problems," said Maj. Brian Mead, 10th Sustainment Brigade chaplain.
The programs were a huge success. Multiple iterations were completed throughout the deployment, and some Soldiers completed more than one.
It wasn't an easy task. Space was limited in Afghanistan, and Soldiers' schedules varied.
"Sgt. Webb is very motivated," Mead said. "You give him something to do, and he works tirelessly until it gets done. He truly is a credit to the service."
Mead said the average person lost seven pounds and two percent body fat and saw a 17-percent increase in their Army Physical Fitness Test score.
With success the programs had overseas, it was only natural for Webb to offer one on post, and Insanity seemed like a good fit.
"It's a program that worked, and Fort Drum didn't offer anything like it," Webb said. "I spoke with Morale, Welfare and Recreation staff and asked if we could get it started here with their help. It's a great way for some people to stick to their New Year's resolution to get in shape."
Insanity is offered to people at Monti Physical Fitness Center weekdays starting at 5:30 p.m. and usually lasts about an hour.
Once Webb found a way to successfully assist Soldiers with their bodies, he moved on to a different project. He saw an opportunity to offer Financial Peace University, a program developed by Dave Ramsey, a nationally syndicated radio program host and author of several books, to Soldiers to address financial hardships they were facing or prevent them altogether.
The course consisted of 13 classes taught once a week. The topics covered saving, tithing, mortgage and retirement, just to name a few.
Families were able to follow along with their loved ones online to ensure they were in sync upon redeployment.
Approximately six classes graduated the program. Some Soldiers reported an average of $8,000 reduction in debt, while others reported thousands of dollars in other savings.
Financial problems can top the list of stressors people can experience. Webb saw the need to address a possible concern and ensured the Muleskinner Brigade had a tool available to help Soldiers and their Families.
"We have been back from deployment for more than 90 days, and we haven't had a Soldier come to us with financial issues," Mead said.
Webb said he would like to see the course taught to Soldiers upon arriving at basic training.
"I believe that if Soldiers were to go through the course at basic, a lot of the financial issues young Soldiers have would decrease," he said.
Once Webb got Soldiers on the road to a healthy financial state, he moved on to another project.
With redeployment, there comes a time where Soldiers and their loved ones have an opportunity to reconnect. Webb saw that as an opportunity to get the Strong Bonds program running again.
"The program provides couples with tips to help build a stronger bond with their loved one or get single Soldiers prepared for marriage if they choose to go that route," he said.
Webb is responsible for coordinating the events and making sure the trainers and participants have everything they need to get through the course successfully.
During the last Strong Bonds event, couples met to discuss topics such as getting to know one another, trust, reliance, commitment and touch, using the relationship attachment model as a guide.
After the class, the couples shared what they enjoyed most about the program.
Members of the group agreed that the program was productive and they would recommend it to others. Some said they appreciated the location Webb chose because it provided them with a comfortable atmosphere.
He said he appreciated the tremendous support he has received from the chain of command, Soldiers and Families during his assignment to Fort Drum, and he looks forward to continuing his career in the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps.
"I plan to still being there for Soldiers and leaders in the years that come until retirement," Webb said. "I look forward (to) continuing to make a difference in people's lives everywhere I go and (to) help them exercise their mind and body."