Captain J. Russell Linderman Teaches Heroes to be Match to Serve 

Many people are as well-known or better known for their nicknames than their birth names, Captain J. Russell Linderman is the Deputy Director of the Consortium of Health and Military Performance (CHAMP), a designated United States Department of Defense Center of Excellence. Many people in his circle better know him as “Crazy Juice” or just “CJ”. He wasn’t able to fully disclose how he earned that nickname, but he expressed that it fits him well.

“That’s classified,” he said with a smile. “In this community you’re going to be called something because you have a funny name or you earned it. Mine was something I earned in part because of my optimism and positive energy.”

Captain J. Russell Linderman is not known for sitting still. He’s always got something to do, and he’s committed to giving his best efforts towards whatever is in front of him, whether it be his career, family, or himself through fitness. He’s used to that, though, because he described his childhood self in a similar manner. He was always active and never bored.

“I was one of those kids that was outside all the time – whether it was riding my bike, running through the woods, or playing sports,” he shared. “My mother saw that and made sure I was involved in some type of system that helped me stay more organized, which is why I was into sports early on. I was quite a handful.”

The native of rural Pennsylvania played several different sports as a kid such as football, volleyball, soccer, and he wrestled as well. His father had him doing other activities such as rock-climbing, skiing and scuba diving. Aside from the activities themselves, they helped him develop skills working within a team and pushing himself to achieve more, which has served him well in the years since. He credited fitness as a big reason for who he is today, and he’s adamant about its importance for others, whether they serve in the military or not.

“Fitness is so important because it can touch so many aspects of your life, and society needs healthy,  well-balanced individuals.”

Courtesy of Captain J. Russell Linderman

Captain J. Russell Linderman had wanted to serve in the military going back to his younger days, and he even felt compelled to help in other ways as a kid in school.

“Going back to elementary school or junior high, I always liked helping other people. Whether it was something simple or if another kid was being bullied. When the topic of serving in the military came up, it always appealed to me.”

Even though his passion to serve was there, his path to the military was an uncertain one at various points. He had suffered undisclosed injuries that postponed his entry into the United States Navy. He focused on education as well, earning his B.S. in Premedicine from Penn State University and a Ph.D. in Physiology from the West Virginia University (WVU) School of Medicine. He also completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Medical College of Wisconsin, where he studied brain tumor angiogenesis, growth factor control of blood vessel development, and vasoactive hormone receptor localization in the microvasculature. Throughout his college years, his outlet was hours in the gym clanging and banging with the weights, which at that time earned him another nickname “Russellman the Muscleman.”

While he was excelling in school and the gym, he did persevere through the injuries thanks to fitness and his personal will to succeed, and he was commissioned into the Navy as a Lieutenant in 1999. He credited his passion for personal excellence as a key to going through those processes.

“It’s been something that I’ve heavily relied on for so many reasons,” said Linderman. “It feels great to come in after a workout, feel that sweat and those endorphins. It can help you reset your mental state. It’s very important to me, even now.”

In 2000, Captain J. Russell Linderman went on to work as a Naval Aerospace and Operational Physiologist. His job was to help the pilots, aircrew, and other warfighters perform better through physical performance and fitness.

“I got to teach about human performance, I got to fly, I also had the opportunities to do research. What job could be better?”

Captain J. Russell Linderman wake boarding on a lakeCourtesy of Captain J. Russell Linderman

The husband and father of two transferred to the Uniformed Services University School of Medicine in October 2021, where he shares his passion and commitment to fitness and wellness with others in his current role with CHAMP. His objective is to enhance warfighter readiness through evidence-based human performance optimization knowledge, guidance, and operational support. In other words, he helps those he serves apply proven, evidence-based, information to be their best so they can continue to excel as a part of the greatest military force in the world.

“We get to help servicemembers and their families perform better. That’s what CHAMP does.”

Captain J. Russell Linderman explained that there are four efforts to help provide the information and guidance for those they work with – education and training, research and scholarship, leadership, and operational support. The guiding principle for their work is Total Force Fitness, which Linderman described as a holistic approach to preventative medicine.

“I’m like the drum major,” he said. “I keep beating the drum to let people know that there is this great resource for military members. I made this unofficial tagline that CHAMP is made for the military, and it’s good for you.”  The “you” in this case being every person that has a computer, or mobile device, and can access the CHAMP website.

There are many resources that servicemembers and families can use to improve themselves that Linderman hopes they will take advantage of. One of those is Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS), where dietary supplements can be screened for safety.

“This is a big thing. Say you go to a local store and buy a dietary supplement. You may think since it’s over the counter and says it does this, you should try it. However, there may be a compound in there that military members shouldn’t take. I wouldn’t want to take that risk.”

Another is Warfighter Nutrition, which serves as a strategy and guide to help servicemembers optimize performance through their nutrition, even in the most rigorous conditions. He shared another recent resource called Rehab, Refit and Return to Duty, also known as Rx3. There are several more platforms that range from rehab to sleep to gratitude and everything in between. Linderman’s focus is to increase awareness of these platforms and programs while also finding new ways to continue optimizing the performance of the heroes in uniform and their families.

“Resources like that are extremely important, and they can benefit from knowing and using all of them. They are right there for them.”

Linderman’s career could be considered a template for future advocates of service and fitness. He clearly lives the way he wants to help others live as well. He hopes that his work and experience can serve as a positive example for why younger Americans should consider service for themselves in the future as well.

“It’s been a pretty darn good gig. You get to see the world, you get to connect almost immediately to a community, and all the people you serve with become like a family.”

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