Government Recreation & Fitness recently spoke with Veterans Affairs (VA) Recreation Therapy Service Director Larry N. Long, MBA, CTRS, whose role is to support the clinical mission of all 21 Veterans Integrated Service Networks, and to lead a diverse group of employees consisting of 800-plus recreation and creative arts therapists, who provide treatment services to veterans at 152 VA medical centers, 126 community living centers and 35 domiciliary programs. He is also responsible for providing leadership at the national level in planning patient care services for veterans, and strategic direction for recreation and creative arts therapy programs.
GRF: Please talk about the strides recreational therapy has taken in the past 10 years in gaining legitimacy within the VA (and DoD as well) as an important element in the overall care and treatment protocol for service members and veterans.
LONG: Recreational therapy is an important therapeutic service offered within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), as well as the Department of Defense (DoD). Over the past 10 years, employment opportunities in Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities have increased for recreational therapists.
A strategic plan for VA Recreation Therapy Service has been developed that provides a road map for recreation and creative arts therapy services to meet the healthcare needs of veterans and their families.
Employment of recreational therapists is projected to grow 13 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. As the large baby-boom generation ages, recreational therapists will be needed to treat age-related injuries and illnesses, such as strokes.
Access to recreational therapy services has also been expanded through TeleRecreation Therapy (TeleRT) initiatives. Master Preceptors for TeleRT training were identified, and the number of Recreation Therapy Service Telehealth programs increased by 10 percent. ...
The Army is having great success with its Warrior Zone recreation centers, which blend hi-tech entertainment and gaming with traditional forms of recreation such as billiards, music and other gaming activities. Open late, and in some cases 24 hours a day, such as the Warrior Zone at Torii Station, USAG Okinawa, Japan, these facilities cater to today’s young soldiers, providing a common meeting place to watch sporting and other events, partake in numerous gaming tournaments, or plan a trip, activity or event.
Sergeant Maj. Dave Abbott, USA, the Installation Management Command’s (IMCOM’s) top noncommissioned officer (NCO) for Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation (FMWR), recently visited Torii Station to get a better look at the installation’s one-of-a-kind Warrior Zone.
Abbott toured Torii Station’s MWR facilities including The Warrior Zone on the last leg of his fiscal 2015 Pacific Region Better Opportunities for Single Soldier (BOSS) training tour. Like many other Warrior Zones at other installations, the high-tech recreation center provides soldiers a venue for entertainment in a fun, relaxed environment as an alternative to simply staying in their barracks.
“I’m impressed … this far, far exceeds my expectations of what I was expecting to see here,” said Abbott. “That’s what the intention of BOSS is — to really look for those better opportunities for our single soldiers … pull them out of the barracks and keep them out of the bars … and give them other avenues of entertainment, and help them use their off-duty time a lot wiser.” ...
Overall, Army fitness programs and facilities “continue to provide soldiers, civilians, family members and retirees with a variety of directed and self-directed activities and services designed to build life skills, enhance readiness and increase self-reliance,” noted Sam Sakorafis, chief, Operations, Installation Management Command (IMCOM), G9 Soldier & Community Recreation. “Functional training continues to be very popular. More and more garrisons are developing local programs, tailored to match local resources with patron demand. HQ IMCOM G9 will continue to support local efforts through its Bulk Buy program.”
Army also had another successful “Strong B.A.N.D.S.” campaign, an annual program held in May that was developed in recognition of National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. B.A.N.D.S., which stands for Balance-Activity-Nutrition-Determination- Strength, is the largest Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation campaign of the year, according to Brigitta St. Armand, HQ IMCOM, G9 Soldier & Community Recreation Aquatics director.
“More than 75,000 participants took part in a total of 407 events at 62 IMCOM locations, two Reserve Centers and one Defense Logistics Agency location,” she explained. “One of the campaign’s major goals is to heighten awareness of garrison fitness and health opportunities available to soldiers and eligible users. The 2015 event partnered with the Performance Triad, the Exchange, Human Performance Resource Center, Army Community Service and Survivor Outreach Services. Thirty-four locations conducted a ‘Run to Honor’ to increase awareness of Surviving Military Families, and the meaning behind the symbols of honor they wear.” ...
According to Air Force Fitness Program Manager Scott Nunnelly, Air Force fitness programs and facilities are thriving. “Based on the 2015 annual report, nearly all installations are greater than 90 percent compliant with the Department of Defense (DoD) Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Physical Fitness Center standards,” he noted. “We continue to refine how we deliver fitness programs, with a focus on improving overall efficiency and effectiveness. For example, at most locations we’re utilizing fitness kiosks to provide ‘virtual’ instructors for group exercise classes in lieu of contracting for instructors. We anticipate the forecast for FY16 and beyond will be similar to what it is now.”
Nunnelly pointed out that a short-term goal is completing the rollout of Fitness Access (FA), a program that allows airmen to have physical fitness training opportunities beyond the normal operating hours of the fitness center. “The Fitness Access program implementation is going well,” he explained. “FA is now installed at 56 installations. Forty of those installations have gone live, and customers are very pleased with the results. We have encountered a few delays with local minor construction projects at a few installations. FA installs for the five remaining bases in Round 1 are projected to be complete by November 2015. We are already planning the next phase, and in 2016 we intend to expand the program to include another 10-20 fitness centers.”
Air Force Fitness is also having great success with its fitness kiosk initiative, and has already worked with Wellbeats to purchase and deploy fitness kiosks at more than 70 locations Air Force-wide. The system brings a virtual instructor to group exercise classes, providing a wide variety of classes, from yoga to kickboxing, in any setting.
“The fitness kiosk initiative has been very successful,” noted Nunnelly. “Some installations have been using the programs for unit Physical Training (PT), and others have implemented the program for their daily group exercise classes. The kiosks are easy to use and available 24/7.” ...
The overall state of fitness in the Marine Corps continues to remain strong, according to Catherine Ficadenti, head, Semper Fit & Recreation Branch, Marine & Family Programs Division, Marine Corps headquarters. “Our staff continues to deliver robust and comprehensive fitness programs to our Marines, their families, retirees and civilian personnel,” said Ficadenti. “As we move into fiscal 2016, we will extend hours of operation to ensure that fitness centers are accessible to all Sailors and Marines, regardless of work schedules. The Marine Corps began operating some of our fitness centers 24 hours, 7 days a week. We currently plan to assess impact late in our fiscal 2016 third quarter and early fourth quarter.”
Semper Fit has focused a lot of attention the past few years on High Intensity Tactical Training (HITT), a comprehensive strength and conditioning program specifically designed to focus on mission-essential physical tasks.
“The program emphasizes key components with relation to superior speed, power, strength, endurance and overall combat readiness, while reducing the likelihood of injury and ensuring that all Marines are physically prepared for realtime combat/tactical situations while in theater,” Ficadenti explained. “Specific emphasis is dedicated toward proper periodization of training as it relates to physical resiliency.” To accommodate the HITT program, Semper Fit has created HITT spaces within fitness centers, constructed eight stand-alone HITT Centers, and purchased scalable/mobile fitness space called HITT lockers. “Currently there are 106 HITT lockers across Marine Corps installations and Training and Education Command (TECOM) schools/academies,” she noted. “Additionally, in an effort to virtually support Marines and Sailors, a HITT website and mobile application has been developed and implemented that provides virtual coaching to include detailed exercise description/execution for over 450 exercise videos and has over 150 predesigned workouts available for download. The website for HITT is www.usmc-mccs.org/HITT, and the free mobile app can be downloaded to any mobile device by visiting iTunes or Google Play.” ...
Building on a firmly established culture of fitness, the Navy continues to deliver standardized physical fitness programs for the entire military community, according to Doug Butts, program manager, Navy Fitness, Sports, Aquatics and Deployed Forces, Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC).
“For FY16, Navy Fitness programs main focus is on implementing Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling (NOFFS) Zones, improving aquatics programs/services and improving training for field personnel,” he explained. “We continue to focus on staff development/training and provided two Command Fitness Leader (CFL) Train-the-Trainer courses, two Mission Nutrition courses, three NOFFS courses and one NOFFS SES (strength, endurance and sandbag) course. Additionally, we are working with Kansas State University to develop a standardized training program for field personnel.”
For NOFFS, the Navy and EXOS partnered to develop three new workout series — one for strength, one for endurance and one for sandbag training — to provide sailors with a workout specific enough to meet their individual performance requirements and special interests. In addition, the newly added Regeneration Series helps facilitate recovery and assist sailors with mitigating nagging aches and pains. Each series is accompanied by a fueling strategy and options for scheduling workouts that accommodate the user’s schedule, and provides various options for workout schedule, duration, equipment, recovery and optimal fueling. The new workouts and fueling strategies are accompanied by a mobile app and webbased virtual trainer. ...