The U.S. Army is launching an effort to increase soldier performance by outfitting active brigades with special teams of fitness coaches, nutritional specialists and physical therapists by 2026.
The Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) strategy is designed to work with unit leaders and individual soldiers to hone performance and decrease the risk of injuries, which can affect combat readiness, officials from the Center for Initial Military Training (CIMT) said Thursday.
The goal of the service-wide effort is to outfit 110 active-duty brigades with performance teams and a dedicated training facility, a long-term effort that will require 500 uniformed personnel, 700 Army civilians and 1,900 contractors.
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In fiscal 2021, the Army has budgeted $110 million for 28 brigades to receive H2F performance teams. After that, up to 18 brigades will be resourced each year through fiscal 2026, according to Maj. Gen. Lonnie Hibbard, commander of the CIMT, which is overseeing the effort.
“If you look at the number of active-duty soldiers who are medically non-deployable, that equates to being short about nine brigade combat teams … that can’t deploy,” Hibbard told reporters Thursday at a virtual roundtable during the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting. “If we can reduce these non-availability rates for our soldiers just by 1%, the cost savings alone will pay for the cost of this program.”
As of Oct. 1, the service officially replaced its outdated Army Physical Fitness Test with the more challenging Army Combat Fitness Test, which is designed to build core strength and reduce common injuries that keep many soldiers from deploying, Hibbard said.
“We have to stop breaking our soldiers and, in order to do that, we have to prevent these injuries and preserve their long-term health. … The only way to do it is by embedding these H2F professionals in the brigades,” he explained. “For many years, we have called our soldiers ‘warrior athletes” … now we are actually starting to resource them just like any other professional sports team.”
The performance teams will include physical therapists, registered dieticians, occupational therapists, cognitive enhancement trainers, athletic trainers, and strength and conditioning coaches at the brigade level, Col. Kevin Bigelman, director of Holistic Health and Fitness, told reporters.
“H2F performance teams will assess each soldier’s ability to meet the demands of their military occupational specialty, assignment or combat-specific tasks during a soldier’s career,” he said. “These teams advise commanders on performance readiness issues and integrate H2F into organizational training, mission planning and even personnel decisions.”
The brigade type will determine how large the H2F performance teams are, Bigelman said. Tier-one brigades such as infantry brigade combat teams will be outfitted with 37-member teams that include uniformed and Army civilian physical therapists, occupational therapists and registered dieticians, as well as seven contracted athletic trainers and 14 contracted strength and conditioning coaches.
Tier two brigades, such as an artillery unit, will likely need only a 25-member team
Public health experts are growing alarmed that the Trump administration is increasingly embracing scientists who argue against lockdowns and restrictions as a means to control the coronavirus pandemic.
Those scientists maintain that the costs of locking down society and closing schools and businesses outweighs their benefits in combatting the virus. In a document known as the Great Barrington Declaration, signed earlier this month, they embrace a concept known as “herd immunity,” in which a population builds up enough resistance to a pathogen that it runs out of victims to infect.
On a call with reporters on Monday, two senior White House officials cited the declaration, authored in part by an economist with close ties to Scott Atlas, the radiologist who has become one of Trump’s chief advisors on the coronavirus pandemic.
But to public health experts, allowing the virus to run its deadly and devastating course is an unacceptable option that would lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths beyond the 217,000 Americans who have already succumbed to the disease.
“If you just let things rip and let the infection go, no masks, crowd, it doesn’t make any difference, that quite frankly, George, is ridiculous,” Anthony FauciAnthony FauciTrump fields questions on coronavirus, conspiracy theories in combative town hall Chris Christie says he ‘was wrong’ not to wear face mask at White House Overnight Health Care: Georgia gets Trump approval for Medicaid work requirements, partial expansion | McConnell shoots down .8 trillion coronavirus deal MORE, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told George StephanopoulosGeorge Robert StephanopoulosSix takeaways from Trump and Biden’s dueling town halls Biden draws sharp contrast with Trump in low-key town hall Biden leaves door open to adding Supreme Court justices MORE on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday.
“You’ll wind up with many more infections of vulnerable people, which will lead to hospitalizations and deaths. So I think we’ve just got to look that square in the eye and say it’s nonsense,” Fauci added.
In a statement Thursday, groups like the National Association of County and City Health Officials, the American Public Health Association, the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health and the Public Health Institute condemned the declaration and the flaws in its arguments.
“Covid-19 carries a much higher risk of severe disease and death than other infections where herd immunity was attempted before a vaccine was available,” the groups said. “It is illogical to ignore public health and scientific evidence when so many lives are at stake.”
Some experts pointed to an underlying flaw of the declaration: An assumption that someone who has recovered from the coronavirus will become immune to reinfection in the future.
“We just don’t really understand coronavirus immunology well enough to know whether this is going to be a minor, moderate or major concern,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Prevention at the University of Minnesota. “We have learned so much about Covid-19 over the course of