Feature Article - March 2008
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Working With Warriors

Military Fitness and Recreation: Serving Those Who Serve

By Richard Zowie

Fit to Serve

While some military bases offer fitness activities and options as a way to help service members relax, there's also an overwhelming motivation to use these services to keep troops mission-ready.

"Fitness and physical conditioning are addressed from a mission-readiness perspective, rather than a recreation perspective," explained Jim Swilley, commander of the Fleet and Family Recreation Branch at Navy Installations Command in Millington, Tenn. "Each Navy installation's Morale, Welfare and Recreation department has the responsibility of helping sailors meet their overall fitness goals, and reduce health risks and future heath care costs, thereby improving Navy readiness." Swilley said the Navy Fitness Program consists of fitness programs and awareness and promotions.

Fitness centers can even be set up non-terrestrially, such as on board ships. Kerry Shanaghan, director of Morale, Welfare and Recreation at Naval Air Station Pensacola, said that on large decks of vessels such as aircraft carriers or amphibious assault ships, there's a civilian MWR fitness instructor to oversee fitness activities and programming onboard. Recreational activities are planned by a civilian MWR professional who sets up tours in ports, and plans recreational activities and programming while under way.

The Air Force is no different, and provides recreation and fitness for airmen serving around the world. "Fitness and recreation programs are included in the deployment packages the Air Force sends to wherever the mission requires," said Jerry Stanfill, 37th Services Division chief at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. "Airmen trained in morale, welfare, recreation, fitness, lodging and food service deploy throughout the world to support deploying AF units. The Air Force emphasis is on fitness, readiness and taking care of the Air Force family."

Lackland—where, among its many other missions, the Air Force trains its new recruits—offers six fitness centers totaling more than 148,000 square feet with more than 300 cardio and strength equipment machines, multiple basketball, racquetball and volleyball courts, free-weight rooms, and many intramural sports. Two slides were recently added to Lackland's family pool, and the pools, according to Stanfill, serve a dual purpose.

In addition to providing a little aquatic recreation, Lackland's pools are used for more serious pursuits. "[They] provide military training support for key technical training courses offered at Lackland," Stanfill explained.