USS IWO JIMA, At Sea (NNS) -- The medical departments aboard multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72), and the guided-missile destroyers USS Ramage (DDG 61) and USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), all part of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group received the 2008 Force Health and Wellness Unit Award (Green H) March 5.
The Green "H" is an annual award that recognizes excellence in medical readiness, physical readiness and health promotions programs. In order to qualify, ships must maintain medical readiness standards throughout the year and demonstrate the impact that the health and fitness programs have on their Sailors. This was Iwo Jima's eighth and Roosevelt's third consecutive Green "H" award.
"The credit for the award itself belongs to our outstanding crew," said Lt. George Sterns, Iwo Jima's medical administrative officer. "The Green 'H' has evolved, particularly in the last few years, into a program that is a ship-wide concern rather than just an emphasis on the medical department's performance alone."
The health promotions committee is made up of representatives from not only medical but also from safety and training departments; command fitness leaders; food service representatives; mental health and religious services representatives; Morale, Welfare and Recreation and the Drug and Alcohol Program advisor, according to Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman (SW/FMF) Joseph Burmeister, Ramage's senior medical department representative.
"The Green 'H' award is often looked at as an achievement of the medical department; however, it is a command-wide achievement," said Burmeister. "Ramage was selected for this award due to the hard work of many entities on the ship."
"The award demonstrates that the chain of command and all Sailors, from the captain to the seaman recruit, are engaged in creating a healthy environment," said Chief Hospital Corpsman Rich Tomlinson, senior medical department representative for Roosevelt. "This award demonstrates our team-oriented approach to accomplishing our mission."
Studies have shown approximately 65 percent of all premature deaths and illnesses in the United States are the result of avoidable injuries and unhealthy lifestyle habits. Key contributors in an operational setting are stress, lack of exercise, tobacco use and alcohol abuse.
The winning ships have a variety of well-managed programs available to help Sailors make healthier lifestyle choices and stem the tide of harmful habits.
One of the most popular programs is the ship's tobacco cessation program.
"We have an aggressive tobacco cessation program, with a new four-week session beginning the first Thursday of every month," said Sterns. "Overall, 15 Sailors successfully quit tobacco in fiscal year 2008."
Offering healthy lifestyle choices and education in dealing with the demands of life in today's Navy can improve the quality of life for Sailors. This in turn enhances the command's operational readiness.
Ships that receive the Force Health and Wellness Unit Award are authorized to paint a Green "H" on the bridge wing, with hash marks to denote subsequent awards and a green star after five consecutive awards. Ships must remove the Green "H" if they fail to qualify the following year.
"Iwo Jima has earned the award every year since the ship's commissioning," said Stern. "We didn't want to be the team that lost the "H", so there is this huge, positive pressure to manage the program to a very high standard. We are very proud of our crew for earning the 8th consecutive Green "H" award."
The Iwo Jima ESG is deployed to the U.S. Navy's 5th and 6th Fleet Areas of Operation in support of maritime security operations (MSO). MSO help develop security in the maritime environment. From security arises stability that results in global economic prosperity. MSO complements the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations and seeks to disrupt violent extremists' use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.
For more news from Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group, visit www.navy.mil/local/iwoesg/.