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Vicenza to test Army nutrition and fitness initiative

Troops with the 173rd Airborne Brigade and friends recover at Del Din in Vicenza, Italy, during a fitness run. The Vicenza garrison is one of eight chosen to test a new "holistic" health initiative.

NANCY MONTGOMERY/STARS AND STRIPES

By NANCY MONTGOMERY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 6, 2017

VICENZA, Italy — Vegan options in the dining facility. Vending machines that drop apples, not candy. Cigarettes moved out of sight at the shoppette. Gyms available all night, with a box breakfast served in the morning.

The Army is considering those ideas and more in a new effort to take on soldier obesity and unfitness that officials say has hurt readiness for years. One in 13 soldiers is overweight or obese, and 1 in 20 fails the physical fitness test annually, according to the Army Surgeon General's Office.

U.S. Army Garrison Italy in Vicenza is among several bases and the only one in Europe to be a test site for the “Holistic Health and Fitness” initiative. Officials with Healthy Army Communities will be visiting next week to discuss how various organizations such as Morale, Welfare and Recreation and the Army and Air Force Exchange Service can coordinate and contribute to the effort.

Several installations and fitness centers will make changes in accordance with the initiative, according the Army Training and Doctrine command. “At those locations, sports performance, nutrition and (physical training) classes will take the place of recreational activities, and will take place during nonpeak fitness hours,” the command’s sergeant major said in a statement.

The Vicenza garrison’s innovations are to be measured for efficiency and effectiveness over the next 18 to 24 months, the Army said.

It wasn’t clear why Vicenza was among the chosen, but the garrison is one of the few that recently began to offer 24-hour gym access.

The Army also chose eight installations for testing proposed new physical fitness tests in 2011. In the end, the Army did not change its PT test, which has been in place since 1980.

“I do think that we’ve been recognizing that what we are doing has not been working,” said Michael McGurk, director of the Research and Analysis Directorate at the Army Center for Initial Military Training, in a statement.

Besides Vicenza, the Army will be testing the new measures at Fort Belvoir, Va.; Fort Meade, Md.; Fort Riley, Kan.; Fort Sill, Okla.; Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Huachuca, Ariz.; Redstone Arsenal, Ala.; Fort Bliss, Texas; and Camp Humphreys, South Korea.

montgomery.nancy@stripes.com
Twitter: @montgomerynance

 

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