LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Physical fitness is one thing the Army stresses; each and every soldier must be fit to perform their duties to meet the Army standards. Physical fitness is a priority that for most units, physical training is the first thing they do in the morning.
U.S. Army Capt. Jeremy Fletcher, from Baton Rouge, La., is the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team or Vanguard Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division’s physical therapist, and he stresses nutrition as a means of being successful in physical therapy, as well as fitness.
Since arriving at Forward Operating Base Shank, in Logar Province, Afghanistan, nearly nine months ago, Fletcher has seen about 100 patients per month, only needing to send a handful to receive a higher level of care. He credits a lot of his success to using nutrition as a tool for healing.
“There are other aspects to rehabilitation, it’s not necessarily just how much exercise you do, but also what you feed your body,” said Fletcher. “Sometimes I have to get involved in patient’s nutrition plans as well.”
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Roger Whaley, a communications spectrum manager with 4th IBCT, and a native of Orangeburg, S.C., saw Fletcher for a knee injury he sustained early in his deployment. Whaley had been preparing himself mentally and physically to compete for a place in the Sgt. Audie Murphy Club, which is comprised of the top two percent of the noncommissioned officers in the Army, a prestigious honor that Whaley is still working hard to achieve.
“I wanted to have a high PT (physical training test) score going in to the Audie Murphy board, and I knew with that pain, I wouldn’t be able to run,” said Whaley. Fletcher gave Whaley a routine of simple exercises and a change in diet that included removing sugary foods. “Basically, the diet consisted of meat, vegetables and fruit,” said Whaley.
Whaley expressed his skepticism about being able to cut the sugar out of his diet, due to snacking at his desk, so Fletcher gave him pecans to replace snacks. “I guess the diet picked up my metabolism, because I eat all the meat and vegetables I want,” said Whaley. Since starting the program with Fletcher, Whaley has lost more than 30 pounds, and has alleviated the pain in his knees.
Another success in Capt. Fletcher’s deployment came not from an injury, but from someone seeking advice. The 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th IBCT, Command Sgt. Maj., Michael Mosier, a resident of Richmond Hill, Ga., was training to run a marathon. He felt that weight loss would aid in his training, and set a goal to lose 25 pounds.
“I’d been trying to lose weight,” said Mosier. “I started off at 225 (pounds) and my goal was to get down to 200.” Mosier reached his goal on his own, but after speaking with Fletcher and following his advice, Mosier reached 190 pounds. “He tortured me for a month,” joked Mosier. On a serious note, Mosier said that he generally felt much healthier, and wanted to push to lose another ten pounds.
“Doc Fletcher’s been good. Not only with me and Staff Sgt. Whaley, but with the whole brigade,” said Mosier, 46. Fletcher’s only assistance comes from U.S. Army Sgt. Jarret Henley, his physical therapy noncommissioned officer in charge, and a native of Dalton, Ga.
The two support the entire brigade’s physical therapy needs, and do it well.
“I guess the best part of the experience was that Capt. Fletcher shows you that he cares. When someone shows you that they care about you and your progress, you want to succeed,” said Whaley.