News: Performance Triad Pilot Program to debut at JBLM
Story by Sgt. Ryan Hallock
JOIINT BASE LEWIS MCCHORD, Wash. - “And when the machine breaks down, we all break down. And I ain’t gonna allow that in any of you. Not one.”
Staff Sgt. Bob Barnes from Oliver Stone’s Vietnam War film “Platoon” knew the importance of keeping soldiers on the right track and Army medical professionals do too.
The Army is getting back to the basics with the Performance Triad Pilot Program to ensure soldiers get the education they need to get proper daily activity, nutrition, and sleep.
The new program, which debuts on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Sept. 9, addresses the three key components to prevent injury and maximize performance in the Army. Optimal performance is achieved when activity, nutrition, and sleep are addressed simultaneously.
“Your health is determined by the choices you make,” said Col. John O’Brien, chief of operational medicine and deployment health, Madigan Army Medical Center. “Many reasons people have chronic diseases are because of poor health decisions.”
Two-thousand and three hundred soldiers were discharged last year due to being overweight, thus decreasing their unit’s readiness to deploy. The Performance Triad Pilot Program takes a proactive approach toward living a healthy life by implementing the fundamentals through squad leaders.
Soldiers from the 3rd Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment, 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade will be the first to test the program in September. Squad leaders will use guidebooks to conduct a 26-week program on Army physical readiness training, nutrition for performance, and proper sleep habits.
Squad leaders will educate their soldiers on weekly topics such as extreme conditioning programs, dietary supplements, deployments and field nutrition, and sleep tactics for sustained operations.
“The commanders will see better readiness,” said O’Brien. “They’ll see fewer soldiers that are chaptered out of the Army for being overweight. They’ll see fewer soldiers develop diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and things that may make it so they can’t deploy.”
The Army trains Master Fitness Trainers so units will have leaders to instruct physical readiness training to standard and teach the key components of the Performance Triad Pilot Program.
Getting proper activity is only one piece of the pie. To promote health-conscious food selections, the Army has introduced its Go For Green Program in its dining facilities. It’s a food identification labeling system that educates soldiers on the nutritional value of dining facility food items.
The Performance Triad Pilot Program stresses a strong relationship between nutrition and quality of life. Following the program will enhance performance, weight maintenance, disease prevention, and healthy aging.
Each day of proper activity and nutrition ends with the head hitting the pillow. Sleep is like finishing a marathon; you want to finish strong so the last 20 miles weren’t for naught.
The current Army guidance is seven to nine hours of sleep per 24-hour period; soldiers on average are getting less than six according to U.S. Army Medical Command statistics.
“I went to Ranger School and we didn’t sleep at all,” said O’Brien, who explained lack of sleep on a regular basis worsens performance and decision-making. “You can function and you can do it, but at what cost?”
The cost can be steep. Soldiers who only get four hours of sleep per 24-hour period for five to six consecutive days have an equivalent of a blood alcohol level of 0.09.
During the program, 3-38th Cav soldiers will wear Fitbit Flex Wireless Activity and Sleep Wristbands, which digitally monitor how many steps per day they take and how much sleep they get.
Fort Bliss and Fort Bragg are next in line after JBLM to undergo the Performance Triad Pilot Program. By April 2014, the results of the three test sites will be analyzed and then reviewed by the Chief of Staff of the Army before the program goes Army-wide.