FORT EUSTIS – The ink has dried on the Army’s updated physical fitness doctrine, which now includes a section on holistic health that aims to prevent injuries, increase Soldier lethality and be an essential component of individual readiness.
Holistic Health and Fitness was published Oct. 1 within Field Manual 7-22, which covers the force’s doctrine on physical readiness training. In regard to H2F, Maj. Gen. Lonnie G. Hibbard, commander of the Army Center for Initial Military Training, said he plans to “hit the ground running” into fiscal 2021, especially as the Army Combat Fitness Test becomes official this month.
“(H2F concepts) will be the supporting blocks of the ACFT,” he said, adding that’s why it is being rolling out at the same time.
The updated doctrine is focused on the individual Soldier and includes postpartum training for the first time. “We’ve made leaps and strides (with H2F), by not looking at Soldiers as carbon copies of one another, but as individuals,” Hibbard elaborated.
H2F is an all-inclusive initiative designed to integrate personnel, equipment, facilities, programming and education to produce physically and mentally tough Soldiers ready to defeat enemies in future warfare.
“(It) is the framework to encompass all aspects of human performance to include physical, sleep, nutritional, spiritual and mental fitness,” Hibbard said. This “optimizes Soldier’s readiness, reduces injury rates, improves rehabilitation after injury, and increases the overall effectiveness of the total Army.”
The initiative comes as part of the Army’s cultural shift in the way commanders train, develop and care for the most important weapon system, Soldiers. The single governance structure of H2F consolidates other Army health campaigns – such as Performance Triad, Go for Green, Army Wellness Centers, and others – into one.
According to Hibbard, commanders will have subject matter experts on their staff who advise them on implementing doctrine that supports the holistic fitness system. These H2F Performance Teams – consisting of physical therapists, registered dietitians, occupational therapists, athletic trainers, certified cognitive performance experts, and strength and conditioning coaches – will support brigade-sized elements, providing far-forward medical care and performance expertise.
"How will this affect Soldiers?" Hibbard posed, and then said the key is preventing injuries and increasing lethality.
As of February 2019, more than 56,000 Soldiers were non-deployable – the equivalent of a little more than 13 brigade combat teams. Also, more than 21,000 Soldiers were on temporary, and over 15,000 on permanent, profiles. In 2018, more than half of all Soldiers were injured at some point, and 71 percent of those were lower extremity micro-traumatic musculoskeletal “overuse” injuries.
The 2018 report also revealed more than 12 percent of Soldiers had some form of sleep disorder and 17 percent were obese, both of which can lead to an injury.
In other words, how Soldiers trained in and out of the gym was yielding counterproductive results, the experts concluded. This health care burden wasn’t just impacting operational readiness as the musculoskeletal injuries racked up a half billion dollars of patient care costs among active-duty Soldiers.
The new doctrine “goes after” those readiness issues, Hibbard assured, and will “increase the overall effectiveness of the total Army.”
The holistic health push coinciding with the overhaul of fitness assessment testing is no fluke, Hibbard further stated. The changes couple together, with H2F providing the help Soldiers need to achieve total health and wellness. The ACFT was developed to reduce injuries and prepare Soldiers for the modern demands of warfighting. Similar to H2F, the six-event, gender- and age-neutral replacement won’t be one size fits all.
“Your strengths and my strengths are going to be different,” the general emphasized, and reiterated that it’s all part of an integrated health approach to physical training, tailor-made for “the individual Soldier” at all levels of their career.
The Army also considered the decrease in pre-enlistment physical activity of recruits, which is partly due to physical education classes being cut from public school education requirements. Many who join the military have never engaged in an organized fitness program. “H2F is going to empower and equip Soldiers to take charge of their health and fitness,” Hibbard said.
Moving forward, H2F training facilities, known as Soldier Performance Readiness Centers, will serve as unit-owned 40,000 square-foot fitness hubs to deliver integrated health experiences to individual personnel, according to Hibbard. The hubs will include a standardized obstacle course, a testing area, sheltered strength training racks, containerized strength equipment, and physical readiness fields with climbing pods. The modernized gyms will begin to be built in FY 2023. Until then, performance teams will use existing facilities.
Once construction begins, it will take between six-to-18 months to complete, Hibbard estimated. New equipment is expected to come sooner, or has already been delivered, to Army gyms across the force.
Leaders at CIMT, which falls under Training and Doctrine Command, understand these changes won’t necessarily impact every Soldier in the Total Army at the same time.
“When you start looking at Army National Guard or Reserve, it gets a bit more complicated,” Hibbard said. “Teams are looking to resource H2F by implementing creative solutions – including partnerships, technology applications, mobile platforms, and leveraging other subject matter experts in their states or regions.”
Both components are also implementing pilot programs to assess the functionality in their units. The National Guard has 14 programs in various states, and the Reserve will begin their pilot program in the third quarter of 2021. Pilot programs will include fitness apps, virtual education, commercial off-the-shelf training equipment purchases, partnerships with academia and industry, and other state-run initiatives.
Army leaders continue to research how the H2F system can best align with their specific requirements, Hibbard said.
“We will continue to evolve (H2F), especially with the Guard and Reserve developing their programs,” he said. “Soldiers are the ‘why’ behind all of this. We are asking a lot from them physically, and as we change the culture of fitness in the Army, H2F is here to help them succeed.”