The Army’s new all-around fitness program may be coming to your unit sooner than previously planned.
Acting Army Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George has approved an accelerated fielding of Holistic Health and Fitness equipment and staff that will increase the annual number of brigades from 10 to 15. The overall effort began with 28 brigades fielded in fiscal year 2021, with a goal of hitting 110 fielded brigades by fiscal year 2029.
The announcement came at the Maneuver Warfighter Conference at Fort Moore, Georgia this week. George and Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Weimer both doubled down on the Army’s commitment to the program in opening remarks.
George said at the conference that he’s looking to double the funding on H2F fielding to get it to units rapidly. This will be the largest personnel contract in Training and Doctrine Command history, hiring 1,041 strength coaches and 413 athletic trainers among other staff.
A key component of H2F is the Army Combat Fitness Test. Though roundly considered by most experts and Army leaders to be a superior fitness measure than the previous Army Physical Fitness Test, the ACFT has received its share of pushback.
That has culminated in recent efforts in a Senate bill to kill the ACFT as the fitness test of record. No comparable bill has come out of the House of Representatives.
Over the summer, past Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James McConville and former Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston immediately responded to the news of the Senate bill saying that the Army was sticking with the ACFT and H2F.
George and Weimer echoed the message this week, noting the early successes they’ve seen in only the past two years.
“The ACFT is really helping us change the culture of fitness in the United States Army, and H2F is an extension of that,” Weimer said. “That has really been critical for us in the entire arena of health and fitness. I look forward to taking a whole bunch of ACFTs.”
Col. Jason Faulkenberry, H2F health program director, provided a detailed presentation on the fielding plan and early results of measures of both resourced and non-resourced brigades.
The program includes physical, mental, spiritual, nutritional and sleep health areas.
A full complement of nearly two dozen contracted staff members includes an H2F program director, nutrition, injury control and mental health directors, registered dietician, physical therapist, athletic trainers, strength coaches, cognitive performance specialists and occupational therapists among others.
On the equipment side, each brigade will receive a deployable medical equipment set, deployable “gyms in a box,” garrison equipment sets and a Soldier Performance Readiness Center at garrison.
H2F launched in fiscal year 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic and has since hit its stride as the Center for Initial Military Training under TRADCO has rolled out the program in subsequent years.
The 110 brigades receiving the staffing and equipment still only make up slightly less than half of the Army’s active duty brigades. None of the Guard or Reserve brigades are slated to receive the resources.
Early, non-peer-reviewed data shared previously with Army Times shows better body composition numbers, higher physical training scores, and lower incidences of negative behaviors among soldiers in H2F-resourced brigades.
The brigades are primarily the close combat formations such as infantry and armor units along with their enabling units.
In April, H2F officials announced that they were working with senior Army officials to create both an Additional Skill Identifier and a Special Qualification Identifier for soldiers who’d received training in H2F.
The ASI training will be for junior non-commissioned officers and can be conducted virtually, allowing for Guard and Reserve soldiers to receive education and then serve as H2F-guided trainers for their units.
Those same officials are refreshing the Master Fitness Trainer course and would rename the U.S. Army Physical Fitness School to the Holistic Health and Fitness Academy.
The SQI will be more involved, requiring an in-person course at the H2F Academy. And that course will focus on senior enlisted leaders who will coordinate physical training and other aspects of the program with their unit and H2F staff, officials said.
Based on Faulkenberry’s presentation at the maneuver conference, officials plan to have the ASI, SQI, Academy changes and a data management system for H2F in place by late fiscal 2025.
George also endorsed adding H2F to leadership training at career courses such as the U.S. Army War College, School for Command Preparation and Drill Sergeant Academy, further entrenching the new program within the Army.
An entire day of the nine-day instruction during the command preparation course will now be devoted to H2F, Faulkenberry said at the maneuver conference.
Over the summer, CIMT staff released a Center for Army Lessons Learned H2F handbook for more detailed instruction beyond the doctrinal changes that took effect in recent years.
The ACFT has changed already since its introduction, most notably the leg tuck exercise was removed from an early version.
But changes to the test should be the norm, George and others have said. The older Army PFT didn’t change for decades, which hardly paralleled changes in knowledge about physical fitness or increasing demands on soldiers.
“I think the standards are going to adjust and change,” George said.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.