GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Soldiers at Vilseck will get an extra 19 hours of potential gym-time each week with the help of military manpower.

Command Sgt. Maj. John Gioia of the Joint Multinational Training Command (JMTC) said the plan to use soldiers to increase opening hours at the Vilseck Physical Fitness Center was green-lighted by officials on Friday. The issue of gym opening hours was raised by audience members at a town hall meeting in Vilseck in January.

Gioia said officials followed up on the issue by surveying gym users in Vilseck and Grafenwöhr and discovered demand for longer hours is limited to Vilseck.

The longer Vilseck gym hours will be modeled on a system in place at Bamberg, where officials use borrowed military manpower to add to 90-hours-a-week of gym time funded by the U.S. Army in Europe, he said.

“At Bamberg the gym is open 109 hours a week. They use five or six soldiers to go from 90 to 109 hours. That is what we are going to do in Vilseck. The garrison will task the (Vilseck-based) 2nd Cavalry (Styrker) Regiment to provide the soldiers needed to run the gym,” he said.

Soldiers who work at the gym need to be trained and certified, so the system will not be on-line until late April, Gioia said.

The plan for longer gym-hours was approved by the garrison’s monthly Board of Directors meeting, a new venue for unit leaders from Grafenwöhr, Vilseck and Hohenfels to air and deal with community concerns, Gioia said.

The meeting also approved a request by 2nd Cav to allow soldiers to work out in the gym at any time wearing their uniforms, minus their ACU blouse. Previously soldiers at Vilseck were only allowed to work out in uniform at lunchtime.

Gioia said other posts do not allow soldiers to work out in uniform because combat boots can scuff up basketball courts. But since there is no basketball court at the Vilseck facility, that is not a problem, he said.

The Vilseck Fitness Center is currently open from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday to Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and public holidays; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

Once the change is in place, the center will be open from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends and public holidays.

The Grafenwöhr Physical Fitness Center will remain open 90 hours a week, closing at 8:30 p.m. weekdays and 6 p.m. on weekends.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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