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NEWS | May 9, 2024

Army discusses future of Holistic Health and Fitness at symposium

By Jonathan Dahms U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training

Leaders from across the U.S. Army, industry, and academia descended on the Hampton Roads Convention Center April 29 to May 1 for the 2024 Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) Symposium.

More than 1,200 registered attendees and 55 vendors in the human performance industry came together to discuss the future of the H2F program that has revolutionized how the Army views individual Soldier health, fitness, and readiness.

The two-day event featured presentations from Army leaders and H2F domain subject matter experts from the health and fitness community, industry, and academia and breakout sessions on each of the H2F readiness domains: Physical, Mental, Nutritional, Spiritual, and Sleep Readiness.

The keynote speaker for the Symposium, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Weimer, stressed the importance of leaders modeling the principles of H2F to help it be engrained in the Army’s fitness culture.

“This needs to be part of your basics of what it means to be a warfighter,” said Weimer. This isn’t ‘I didn’t take the physical therapist or the strength coach with me.’ This is ‘I’m surrounded by non-commissioned officers who have bought into this, believe it, they’re modelling it, so therefore now I know it’s a basic responsibility of the individual Soldier.’ That’s the goal. That’s where we are trying to go.”

Maj. Gen. John Kline, U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training Commanding General and the Army’s proponent for H2F, provided an update on the fielding of H2F Performance Teams to brigades and expressed the importance of a data management system.

“Our goal is to have 50 brigades outfitted with H2F teams by the end of this fiscal year,” said Kline. “As we look to the future, one of the larger initiatives we are working is an H2F data management system. We’ll be conducting two pilot programs for testing and will be working with PEO Soldier on the potential acquisition of a mobile app and data management system for the H2F program.”

The data management system, Kline stressed, is the best way to expand H2F access at scale, to include the Army Reserve and National Guard, who have the challenge of a dispersed forces with limited touchpoints in implementing H2F at their community-based locations.

Maj. Gen. Bob Harter, commander of the U.S. Army Reserve’s 81st Readiness Division, which is running an H2F pilot program for the USAR, highlighted some of the early success he has had with a train-the-trainer team he used to push out to subordinate units. They leveraged the Army Reserve Medical Command and created a team that includes a physical therapist, dietician and contracted strength coach, working along with trained H2F Integrators at the unit level.

“I thought I understood fitness, we’ve all been working out our whole lives,” Harter said.” But when I saw what the [H2F Performance] team was doing at Fort Jackson the professionals--the physical therapists, the dieticians, and the strength coaches—what they can do on the ground with Soldiers, I’m like, oh man, we need to figure out how to crack this nut for the Army Reserve. When they go out to unit level, you see the difference it has made.”

The Army Reserve and the National Guard will start fielding a version of H2F Performance Teams in Fiscal Year 2026. Command Sgt. Maj. John Raines, the Army National Guard command sergeant major, said it will be a phased approach so they can assess the program and adjust accordingly.

“When we talk about the human performance teams, the five people we are programmed to bring on board … that’s going to be phased, depending on what state you are in, we’ve got a five-year roll-out plan,” said Raines. “You’ll start seeing our human performance teams come about in Fiscal Year ’26, and every subsequent year after that.”

In a change from the previous H2F Symposiums, the top H2F programs from across the Army were recognized for their performance in categories that included interdisciplinary and each of the five domains of H2F.

- Interdisciplinary: 42nd Military Police Brigade, Joint Base Lewis- McChord, Washington
- Physical domain: 197th Infantry Brigade, Fort Moore, Georgia
- Nutrition domain: 17th Field Artillery Brigade, Joint Base Lewis- McChord, Washington
- Mental domain: 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Liberty, North Carolina
- Sleep domain:  82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, Fort Liberty
- Spiritual domain: 193rd Infantry Brigade, Fort Jackson, South Carolina

Dr. Andrew Thompson, a Research Physiologist with CIMT, also gave an update on some of the latest statistics that compare H2F resourced units to comparable non-H2F resourced units, with the increased access to care and preventative nature of H2F resulting in less musculoskeletal injuries, less behavioral health profiles, and less non-deployable Soldiers.

“Units with H2F are helping Soldiers get back into the fight faster and become deployable,” said Thompson. “When you do the math…H2F in the total Army would add an entire division moving from the red to the green in readiness every year.”

“In summary, units with H2F have better injury control, better return to duty outcomes,” stated Thompson. “The Soldiers have less negative behavioral health issues, they’re shooting better, they’re moving better and they are more fit and they are increasing they’re deployability at a faster rate.”

Brig. Gen. Deydre Teyhen, the Defense Health Network Director for the National Capital Region, noted those H2F teams are also doing this with about one third of their formation changing out every year, making those results even more impressive.

Weimer may have summed it up best when he described why H2F is so important to the Army as it prepares for future conflicts.

“We do hard things in the Army,” Weimer said. “H2F exists so that we can be ready to do the hard things that the nation needs and is expecting us to do.”