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H2F improves wellness of Thunderbolt soldiers

Program is a cultural shift towards proactive preservation and overall healthy living

Photo credit: Sgt. Casey Hustin, 17th Field Artillery Brigade

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(Photo: Thunderbolt soldiers use their lunch time to take advantage of an H2F (Holistic Health and Fitness) combat mobility yoga session Feb. 26 at the 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery headquarters. Yoga sessions are designed to improve overall mental wellness and increase core strength and mobility.)

Since its launch in early 2018, the Army's Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) program has been instituted across the Army as a pilot program designed to improve physical training and increase soldiers' strength and wellness. For Thunderbolt soldiers, H2F has achieved that and more.

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

Phelps has been an integral part of reworking the physical training program for the 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment.

"The greatest part for me is that I see people coming to PT in the morning and they are engaged and excited to be there," said Phelps.

With an in-house physical therapist, a registered dietician and a lead strength and conditioning coach, the H2F program has the 5-3 FA Bn. fully stocked with knowledge and resources that are constantly improving the overall physical readiness of soldiers.

"People are coming to physical therapy proactively versus being told they have to come, so when people do have PT or training-related injuries, they're getting better faster," said Capt. Samantha Morgan, physical therapist. "I've seen fewer injury rates, a lot fewer overuse type injuries from running and rucking or doing the same things all the time. The biggest misconception is that we're just here to fix people who have issues; we're also here to help the whole rest of the unit function at the highest level."

The H2F team hosts "lunch and lift," mobility yoga, and one-on-one nutrition counseling with registered dietician, Sarah Walsh.

"Knowledge has increased," said Walsh. "I've done a lot of educating in the newcomer's group, a nutrition 101 series and a wellness workshop. I have also noticed first sergeants are saying what I'm teaching, so they're starting to educate their soldiers."

The newly implemented Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) is also part of the H2F program.

"The ACFT itself is a better test of the skill sets, strengths and physical capabilities needed for the individual soldier to accomplish the many basic Warrior Tasks," said Maj. Brian Reynolds, 5-3 Bn. Executive Officer and H2F Pilot Program Manager. "Each exercise and associated movement can be correlated to a task that a soldier may be required to accomplish on the battlefield. The deadlift and power throw utilize movements of power in order to lift a soldier or equipment out of a turret or over a barrier during combat. The sprint-drag-carry tests the capacity to quickly maneuver varying types of equipment or personnel over specified distances that may be required on the modern battlefield. The test itself is also designed to challenge the body's different energy systems in a deliberate sequence."

Soldiers across the Army have taken the new ACFT and are supposed to have at least two diagnostic tests completed by fall of 2020. The 17th Field Artillery Brigade has begun to consistently test soldiers within the formation.

"It is important to highlight that the H2F program is not solely focused on implementation of the ACFT, but soldier wellness in total," said Reynolds. "It cannot be measured solely with physical fitness test scores. That said, I can tell you that since the implementation of H2F at 5-3 FA, we have seen a significant change in the way we think about and execute unit PT. One of the big improvements has been in predictability of the PT schedule, which allows soldiers who are going to the gym on their own to plan their supplemental workouts accordingly. We have also seen an increase in cross-training or functional fitness type training throughout the BDE footprint over the past year, which we attribute to the H2F and ACFT influence. Our soldiers have definitely improved in overall ACFT pass rates and test scores over the past year."

H2F will continue to grow across the Army, providing resources (professionals and equipment) at the lowest unit level possible.

"It is a total cultural shift towards proactive preservation and improvement in overall healthy living," said Reynolds. "Soldiers will seek out these resources to help them stay healthy and reach individual goals, and leaders will consistently use H2F resources to support sustained health and fitness through training events, deployments and their daily lives."

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