New courses help Minnesota National Guard stay fit to fight

February 18, 2021 (COTTAGE GROVE, Minn.) – Service members from the Minnesota National Guard participated in a Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) facilitator course at the General Vessey Readiness Center in Arden Hills on Jan. 11-13, 2022.

“I’ve been a part of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Course since 2019. I helped with some of the curriculum for the wellness portion,” said Army Warrant Officer Chet Merino, an electromagnetic warfare technician. “From there, I wanted to get more involved. I am honored to be a part of something that I think really helps cultivate Soldiers at the deepest level we can.”

Merino has worked as a personal trainer for 13 years and wellness coach for the last five years.
“The purpose of holistic health and fitness is to identify that the issues we have in life are never just at the symptomatic level,” said Merino. “It’s looking at the entire scope of the Soldier and what wellness means for them.”

The new U.S. Army Field Manual 7-22 for Holistic Health was recently published in October 2021, replacing an older version published in 2012. The older version heavily focused on physical fitness, whereas the new version takes a broader approach.

Holistic Health focuses on five domains: physical, mental, nutrition, sleep, and spiritual. These elements affect a service member’s performance level.

“It’s about exploring what it is we can do to help optimize ourselves beyond the idea of physical fitness but also understanding that by helping those other areas, our physical fitness will improve too,” he added.

The course is designed to empower commanders at the unit level to help Soldiers by giving an overview of the five domains. For Army Capt. Timothy Gearns, the course was insightful and interactive.

“The most important thing was seeing the paradigm shift in Army mentality and approach,” said Gearns, who serves with the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Red Bull Infantry Division. “I wholeheartedly believe the course sets conditions for better leadership. Being able to better relate to and understand those gaps in the domains will provide service members with a more supportive command who can help address the root causes.”

Gearns wanted to take the course to understand the new approach better. He also wanted additional knowledge and the ability to see and influence positive changes in the Minnesota National Guard.
He believes that those who take the course will give commanders another set of resources and, long term will help teach sustainable skills while improving health for service members in and out of uniform.
The H2F initiative aims to promote a more safe and healthy lifestyle in all aspects, not just from exercise. According to Merino, it is designed to give Soldiers the tools they need to remain physically, mentally, and spiritually ready to overcome any challenges they face.

“If you are passionate about the development of yourself and your Soldiers, this course is a cornerstone to really feed into that axiom,” said Merino.

In addition to the H2F facilitator course, the Minnesota National Guard is educating service members on the total Soldier concept through the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Course (CSFC). The course includes elements such as building relationships through communication, and it also helps Soldiers identify their vision and goals.

“These are tools and skills they can develop to help them with whatever they are going through in life,” said Merino. “When Soldiers are functioning optimally, the mission has no choice to function on the same level.”

During the week-long February CSFC course, Minnesota hosted visitors from the National Guard Bureau’s Center for Initial Military Training to observe how the state has integrated holistic health principles into the CSFC course.

“Here in Minnesota, they’ve taken their own program and really built that into a great example for other states as they look to build their own H2F programs,” said Army Maj. Ryan Short, Deputy Chief of Staff at the Center for Initial Military Training.

More courses will be offered throughout the year, with CSFC hosting courses April 24 through May 1 and September 11 through 18. The H2F2 will host its next course May 24 through 26.

Story by Army Sgt. Mashima Alkamooneh