By Sgt. 1st Class Phillip Eugene
80th Training Command Public Affairs
The 80th Training Command (TASS) conducted a health and fitness retreat for Soldiers with body weight and Army Physical Fitness Test challenges at the command headquarters, Richmond, Va. , Jan. 13-15, 2014.
The purpose of this new initiative, which the 80th TC plans to host quarterly, is to teach participants how to live healthy lifestyles, pass the APFT by implementing and complying with the Army's height and weight requirements.
"For more than 29 years I've observed how the Army treats Soldiers with body weight issues or PT (physical training) challenges," said Command Sgt. Maj. James Wills, the command's senior enlisted advisor who conceptualized the event. "They're singled out… as being less than their peers."
"We emphasize to commanders the need to counsel Soldiers, but we haven't done a great job of training them on nutrition and on ways to stay fit outside of what we consider Army PT," Wills added.
He said it's time to stop stigmatizing programs like the 80th TC's health and fitness retreat. He said leaders at all levels should give Soldiers the needed education and guidance to succeed.
As an example, Lt. Col. Nancy Pekar, acting operations officer, 4th Brigade Health Services, 100th Training Division cited a formerly overweight Soldier at her unit who lost more than 50 pounds, and is now able to continue her career as an instructor because the command supported her, through education and training. She has since met the Army height and weight requirements and passed the APFT.
"Next to our civilian training guide, she has the most expertise in the entire unit in everything Combat Medic related, but she was overweight," said Pekar, who briefed health fair participants on the benefits of healthy eating. "As a command we looked at processing her out, but we didn't want to lose her."
Pekar said the Soldier is currently off the weight control program and is expecting to be promoted.
Staff Sgt. CiAndra Na'eem-Musiddiq, an event participant, said every Soldier has a different reason for being overweight or being unable to pass the APFT, so it's unfair for others to pass judgment.
"To see the 80th CSM trying to retain Soldiers instead of looking down on them… really shows how much he cares," said Na'eem-Musiddiq, a human resources instructor with the 7th/108th Personnel Services Battalion. "To bring them here and say I'm giving you the tools you need to succeed…was a great feeling. I loved every part of it."
Na'eem-Musiddiq, says she feels empowered to stay off the weight control program, which she ended recently.
"I work with a personal trainer three days a week, so now I can use things I learned here on the two days that I don't work out," she said. "I can do things inside my house that I never thought about…exercises we can do right in our living rooms."
The event is meant for Soldiers who haven't taken the APFT and fulfilled the height and weight requirements within 12 months or more, along with Soldiers who have failed the APFT and or the height and weight requirements multiple times. Soldiers pending separation from service, on medical hold status, have temporary or permanent medical restrictions, pending transfer to the Individual Ready Reserve within 12 months are not eligible.
Wills said, with help from the staff, he'd like to see the Soldiers build their own developmental plan over 90-days, in accordance with the new guidelines in AR 600-9 The Army Body Composition Program, and integrate what they've learned into their everyday living.