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Holistic Health and Fitness system comes to JBLM

H2F shapes the whole soldier

Soldiers assigned to the 17th Field Artillery Brigade take part in exercises as part of the Holistic Health and Fitness system. Credit: Sgt. Casey Hustin, 17th FA

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The Army is changing the culture in which it recruits, retains and trains the next generation of soldiers, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord is leading and meeting the challenge.

The Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) system is a United States Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) initiative which remodels how the Army creates and sustains a fighting force.

"The system empowers and equips soldiers to take charge of their health, fitness and well-being to hone individual performance while preventing injury and disease," wrote Maj. Gen. Lonnie Hibbard, commander, Center for Initial Military Training, in an August 2020 article.

A month later in September of that year, a H2F pilot program was initiated for the soldiers assigned to Joint Base Lewis McChord's 5th Regiment, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade.

"The H2F system is modeled on elite performance programs (think college or professional level athletes, or Special Operations forces with the military), designed to optimize access to and use of an arsenal of professionals," Capt. Samantha Morgan, the 17th FA's H2F Injury Control Director, wrote in an email.

"We are here to help the whole unit function at the highest level."

Morgan is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and a Board-Certified Clinical Specialist in Orthopedic Physical Therapy.

As of October 2020, the H2F is an Army-wide system of record as detailed in Field Manual 7-22.

The array of professionals to help soldiers includes physical therapists, athletic trainers, registered dietitians, strength coaches, and mental performance specialists at the unit level.

"This is about building soldiers by improving readiness to increase lethality," said Isaiah Phelps, the 17th FA's lead strength and conditioning coach. "This is for building readiness; it's not to crush them or kill them; it's to build them for the real world."

To increase readiness, the H2F system is constructed around five readiness domains: physical readiness, mental readiness, nutritional readiness, sleep readiness and spiritual readiness.

The system's objective is to intertwine the five domains in support of soldiers as they strive to optimize their performance levels.

"It's not enough to conduct physical training if we don't understand how to leverage sleep and nutrition and nutrition for recovery," Morgan explained. "Similarly, true holistic health and soldier readiness also require training to enhance mental and spiritual fortitude."

Now a brigade-wide program, the goal of the program is that all soldiers in the 17th FA will have a working knowledge of H2F and the five readiness domains.

"The H2F program helps guide me on ways to improve my physical fitness," Spc. John Rogue, Signal Support, 5th Battalion, 3rd Artillery Regiment, wrote in an email. "This definitely helps me to prepare for the new Army Combat Physical Test."

To accomplish the H2F goals of readiness, the brigade offers a mix of mandatory and optional training sessions. 

Physical training usually occurs in the morning; however, soldiers can also engage with strength coaches during Lunchtime Lifts or in the brigade's Newcomers Program. There is also a voluntary yoga class held every Wednesday.

"I've done a lot of educating in the Newcomers Program, a nutrition 101 series and a wellness workshop," said Sarah Walsh, the 17 FA's registered dietician. "Knowledge has increased. I have noticed first sergeants are saying what I am teaching, so they're starting to educate their soldiers," Walsh added.

Units and small groups are able to schedule, at their convenience, classes with any of the subject matter experts. There is also a train-the-trainer course, the 17th FA's Thunderbolt Performance Project (TP2) Academy, that brings leaders from every battery and company in the brigade to learn about the system.

The results of the H2F system, which now involve six other JBLM brigades, appear to be overwhelmingly positive. Phelps and Morgan both pointed out that soldiers are more engaged during physical training and that injuries due to repetitive exercises are trending downward.

"The Army has been changing since the Army has been in existence," former I Corps Command Sergeant Major Michael Grinston said in that August 2020 interview.

"H2F represents a cultural change for ‘My Squad.' Soldiers must prioritize physical, nutritional, sleep, spiritual and mental readiness in order to master the fundamentals of being a soldier."

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