by MSG David V. Martinez Jr.
Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) provides the core structure to build organizational readiness within the United States Army (Department of the Army [DA], 2020). The development of physical and spiritual characteristics within Soldiers remains an essential aspect of building a competent and flexible force. The tenets within H2F provide organizational leaders with the ability to empower Soldiers to meet future demands within large-scale combat operations (LSCO). Organizational leaders combine the objectives of enhancing spiritual resilience and optimal performance through precision, progression, and integration to establish a culture of readiness.
Expanding Physical Vigor: Benefits and Detriments
Army operations in conflict and training often occur in austere conditions and environments, directly exposing Soldiers to substantial physical and cognitive stressors. Recent studies within the field of human performance indicate that the physiological and psychological qualities of endurance and mindfulness directly influence Soldier performance. The study by Nindl et al. (2018) claimed the development of muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance influenced the subsequent growth within all other H2F domains at high rates. Through the proper application of precision, progression, and integration, leaders capitalize on the advantages of physical fitness while avoiding the disadvantages associated with it.
Precision, Progression, and Integration
Effective physical readiness programs combine precision through proper movement patterns, progression with appropriate stimulus, and extension to occupational tasks with integration (DA, 2020). Although independent constituents, the correlation of precision, progression, and integration provides a structured approach to meeting the physical demands of service. The transition from citizen to Soldier that occurs within basic combat training (BCT) highlights the connection between these principles and meeting military requirements.
Standardized Army mission-essential tasks (MET) provide basic combat training commanders with individual performance metrics required to meet the Army’s core missions (DA, 2021). For example, movement under prescribed external loads remains an occupational task and a quantitative metric for individual and organizational readiness. Within BCT, precision begins with the exposure to continuous marching, combined with prolonged durations of standing, to create motor patterns. This approach exposes Soldiers to the tolerance of one’s own body weight and stimulates cognitive connections with associated movement patterns. The repetitive exposure subconsciously develops the foundation to build upon precision and incorporate proper progression.
To develop physical adaptations to increased workloads and capacity, proper overload techniques within progression remain vital. Wheeler and Wenke’s (2018) research showed that trainees, specifically within basic combat training, retain a high propensity for lower-extremity stress fractures from overuse. The recent shift from traditional boots to running shoes during the initial phase of BCT encountered backlash from the political and veteran communities. The outcry vocalized accusations of systemic weakness within the United States Army combined with the lowering of standards would create national security risks (Cox, 2020).
However, the medical data refutes the perceived notion surrounding degraded military standards within basic combat training. The research of Jacobs et al. (2014) pointed out that generational and nutritional environmental changes decreased bone density within the targeted recruitment population. The transition to running shoes combined with nutritional approaches displayed a cultural shift in the approach to physical readiness within BCT.
The supplementation of vitamin D and calcium combined with the transition to soft shoes enabled trainees to progress through BCT while reducing injuries. The combination of nutritional and physical readiness approaches for trainees generated progressive adaptations to culminative stress. Progressing from the individual to collective training phases, the introduction of Soldier tasks integrates the physical and non-physical elements required for Soldiers to win in combat.
The physical readiness principles manifest with integration and the ability for Soldiers within basic combat training to execute warrior tasks and battle drills. The structured progression within BCT highlights the importance of proper precision and progression through measurable metrics. The execution of timed road marches and live fire exercises under a combat load highlights the intersection within the physical readiness principles. At the organizational level, the physical readiness principles present benefits and disadvantages to physical training approaches and methods.
Benefits and Detriments
The doctrinal approach to physical readiness within H2F presents advantages and disadvantages at the organizational level for achieving optimal performance. For example, the ability to incorporate the physical readiness tenets parallel to unit training and deployments enhances operational success through the timing of peak performance. Conversely, task paralysis related to perfecting training plans combined with a focus on specific principles decreases fitness adaptations and reduces unit effectiveness. Leaders maximize the benefits of physical readiness through the continuous development of spiritual and psychological growth.
The DA (2020) stated that spiritual readiness enables Soldiers to conquer adversity within all facets of life through their intrinsic selves, regardless of beliefs and religious affiliation. The diverse composition within the United States Army extends beyond the demographics of Soldiers, the baseline for resilience also differs. These differences require multiple avenues and approaches to build spiritual resilience at the individual level. The objective of spiritual readiness is to connect individual psychological motivations to extrinsic factors through perception and comprehension (Sykes, 2022). Noncommissioned officers (NCOs) set the tone for organizational climate and culture through individual example, education, and prioritization.
Taking the Lead
Often used synonymously, organizational climate and organizational culture possess inherently different traits. Outward expressions and the observable environment create the organizational climate, while identity and values drive organizational culture. The senior NCO serves not only as a role model but also a glimmer of hope in times of high stress and adversity. The attitude and actions of the senior NCO directly influence the outcomes of events.
For example, a pessimistic approach creates a climate of insecurity, increasing stress and anxiety within the organization. However, mindfulness of one’s actions and words, along with optimism, creates a unified front within the organization to overcome obstacles. Attitude drives performance: the ability to demonstrate composure presents opportunities to educate and encourage growth within organizations.
Initiatives to build psychological resilience and a performance mindset provide senior NCOs with the ability to influence climate and culture simultaneously. The work of Nindl et al. (2018) stated that the importance of what we put inside our Soldiers, remains more important than what we put on them. For example, the priority of building self-efficacy within the organization remains comparable to building weapon proficiency, both influence mission accomplishment. Through the prioritization of psychological growth, senior NCOs create a proactive approach, investing in the total health concept.
Techniques to achieve proactive health include free exercise of religion, therapy, and recovery methods to increase spiritual, emotional, and physical domains (DA, 2021). Through prioritizing approaches to the education of individual growth, senior NCOs build organizational readiness and lethality. For instance, creating regular social networks under the direction of the chaplain or cognitive therapist encourages open communication and a spirit of ownership and dedication to the organization. This provides Soldiers with the ability to build cohesion and process shared experiences, regardless of rank or position. The continual development within the physical and spiritual domains enhances the Army’s ability to deploy, fight, and win in any environment.
The methodology within the Army’s Holistic Health and Fitness doctrine provides units with the foundation to build the capability and capacity necessary to prevail in combat. Although distinctly different, the connection between physical and spiritual readiness provides leaders with the foundation to build and sustain a ready and resilient force. The principles within Holistic Health and Fitness shape the overall readiness and lethality of the Army. The proper application of these tenets and principles reinforces the unbeatable will of the American Soldier.
Cox, M. (2020, September 18). No more Drill Sergeant ‘shark attack’: Army moves toward kinder basic training start. Military.com. Retrieved November 8, 2023, from https://www.military.com/daily-news/2020/09/18/no-more-drill-sergeant-shark-attack-army-moves-toward-kinder-basic-training-start.html?utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook#Echobox=1600458701
Department of the Army. (2020). Holistic health and fitness (FM 7-22). https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/ARN30964-FM_7-22-001-WEB-4.pdf
Department of the Army. (2021). Training (FM 7-0). https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/ARN35076-FM_7-0-000-WEB-1.pdf
Jacobs, J. M., Cameron, K. L., & Bojescul, J. A. (2014). Lower extremity stress fractures in the military. Clinical Sports Medicine, (4), 591–613. Retrieved November 8, 2023, from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.csm.2014.06.002
Nindl, B. C., Billing, D. C., Drain, J. R., Beckner, M. E., Greeves, J., Groeller, H., Tein, H. K., Marcora, S., Moffitt, A., Reilly, T., Taylor, N. A., Young, A. J., & Friedl, K. E. (2018). Perspectives on resilience for military readiness and preparedness: Report on an international military physiology roundtable. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 21(11), 1116–1124. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2018.05.005
Sykes, W. (2022). Spiritual readiness: The missing link of the H2F program? Tactical Training and Conditioning. Retrieved November 8, 2023, from https://tacticaltrainingandconditioning.com/article/spiritual-readiness-the-missing-link-of-the-h2f-program/
Wheeler, A. R., & Wenke, J. C. (2018). Military fractures: Overtraining, accidents, casualties, and fragility. Clinical Reviews in Bone and Mineral Metabolism, (16), 103–115. Retrieved November 8, 2023, from https://doi.org/10.1007/s12018-018-9252-1
MSG David V. Martinez Jr. is a native of Phoenix, Arizona, and enlisted in the United States Army in August of 2005. He attended One Station Unit Training as a Cavalry Scout at Fort Knox, Kentucky. His deployments include Operation Enduring Freedom (3), Kosovo (KFOR), Albania (DE-21), and European Assure, Deter, and Reenforce (Georgia).
He has served in every leadership position within the Armor community from Gunner to Troop First Sergeant. His assignments include Troop First Sergeant within the 4th Security Force Assistant Brigade, Fort Carson, CO. Troop First Sergeant and Platoon Sergeant 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, CO. Ranger Instructor, and OPFOR Platoon Sergeant 4th Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, Fort Moore, GA.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.