Major General John Kline is the Commanding General for the United States Army Center for Initial Military Training, United States Army Training and Doctrine Command. He has been a driving force in helping current soldiers be prepared to serve their country. Another focus of his is to make sure that future recruits are in the best position possible to succeed, which is why he has been committed to the growth of the Army’s Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) system.
“This is incredibly important right now,” Kline said.
H2F is designed to help soldiers achieve optimal health in five key domains – physical, mental, nutritional, spiritual, and sleep. The Army started establishing interdisciplinary teams at the brigade level in 2020 to support those goals. Members of these teams have roles that call for their expertise to address one of the domains, such as occupational therapists, physical therapists, strength and conditioning coaches, dietitians, and chaplains, among other fields. The team size is dependent on the level of action that the brigade might see. Groups that are more likely to see close combat have larger teams. The teams are located within the footprint of the brigade they are supporting. Kline expressed that H2F is like the concept that some college and pro sports teams have implemented.
“If you look at some pro teams, it’s been going on for a while. At the collegiate level, it’s been going on for over 20 years,” he explained. “We want our soldiers to be like athletes.”
Kline credited General Mark Milley for the origin of this program, which was inspired by Tactical Human Optimization Rapid Rehabilitation and Reconditioning (THOR3), a program used by Special Operations to optimize human performance. The success of THOR3 led to senior leadership deciding that all members of the Army should be involved with this.
One goal of this program is an obvious one – human performance optimization. Soldiers are learning to lift and train properly, eat correctly, become more flexible, and minimize the risk of injury. This is crucial because recruits that haven’t been active before entering basic training may be more susceptible to injury either during that time or later while they are on duty. According to Kline, musculoskeletal injuries are a large reason behind the creation of H2F.
Should a soldier get injured or need help, having a H2F team to help that soldier recover in all five domains will help shorten that recovery time so they can resume their duties. The dietitian can recommend the proper foods to support recovery, spiritual leaders can help address needs in that aspect, and sleep needs can be addressed.
Imagine someone that was on the sidelines for months being able to get back into the field within a matter of weeks or even days.
Kline explained, “A soldier that may have taken months to recover from an injury before can heal faster if we have the resources at the point of need, and they don’t have to leave the [brigade] footprint.”
While H2F teams can help soldiers better recover from injury, the system is designed to help prevent injuries by helping soldiers improve their overall fitness through all five domains.
Kline expressed that H2F could have a positive impact on the culture of the Army beyond those that are active today. Generations of Americans may feel the effects of this program in a good way.
“We want to affect the folks well after they leave the Army,” he shared, discussing how those active soldiers will transition into veterans. H2F can help shape the health and wellness of heroes so they live a longer, healthier life. Aside from the financial impact of that, they will show future generations that may consider service that their health and well-being will be of the utmost importance.
“What parent wouldn’t want their son or daughter to join an organization that cares that much about their health?”
Army leadership isn’t waiting for these soldiers to join their ranks before addressing those five domains. They’re taking the initiative with future soldiers thanks to the Future Soldier Preparatory Course (FSPC) in Fort Jackson, SC, which is also under Kline’s leadership and stood up in 2022. The goal of the FSPC is to help individuals overcome academic and physical barriers to become Fit to Serve. Kline shared that over 9,200 people have completed the course and have met the Army’s enlistment standards. The objective is not to lower the bar, but rather help those interested be able to clear the bar that is already set.
“We have not lowered our standards within the Army,” said Kline. “We are meeting society halfway by helping them overcome obstacles in their paths to becoming soldiers.”
H2F is growing and gaining popularity throughout the Army at a rapid pace. There is a financial commitment that comes with it, but Kline shared that the return on investment will be well worth it. It has already paid off in multiple ways, including a decrease in suicides and other harmful behaviors and an improvement in mindfulness and performance. In short, young soldiers are becoming better soldiers and humans thanks to the connections and relationships that are being created through H2F.
“It’s a team event, all around the well-being of that young soldier because they care about that soldier.”
About 40 teams have already been created since 2020. The original plan in the beginning was to field teams to 110 brigades by 2030. However, they have since accelerated that goal, and they now plan to have all 110 teams by 2029. Kline said that while that number won’t be able to support the entire Army, it will be a large amount.
To do that, they will need the help of a lot of coaches, dietitians, and trainers. By the end of 2024, the Army plans to have more than 500 strength and conditioning coaches and almost 280 athletic trainers on staff. If you’re a strength and conditioning coach that would like to serve America, Kline is confident you can find work in the Army.
“We’re going to deplete America of strength and conditioning coaches,” he stated. “Considering how many teams we’re standing up, and that we’re trying to do it in a short period of time, we’ve been hiring for a couple of years now.”
To help, Kline said they are working to establish an H2F Academy and are developing a 12-week curriculum for non-commissioned officers.
“They would become strength and conditioning coaches, but they would be versed in the other four domains as well.”
Members that enter the Army and get certified through H2F could also have a bright future. Their roles in H2F could help them secure other jobs once they transition into civilian life, and Kline feels that may not even be the best benefit.
“Hopefully they will live better overall lives as well. All the lessons they learn both personally and professionally can be carried with them into retirement.”
More information about H2F is available at the Center for Initial Military Training website.