GREAT LAKES, Ill. (NNS) -- Small changes are making a big difference in the health and well-being of Recruit Training Command (RTC) Sailors.
Providing and promoting healthy lifestyle choices is part of the command’s larger initiative to address the unique physical and mental challenges facing RTC staff.
Command leadership is emphasizing the importance of engaging in healthy behaviors, utilizing leave time and spending quality time with family. The command has instituted policies limiting the number of pushes (eight-week period of training a division) each year for Recruit Division Commanders and mandating minimum days off between pushes.
To reduce staff reliance on caffeine, the leadership worked with the Navy Exchange to remove energy drinks and increase healthy snack options in vending machines. New food and drink guidelines and information displays were introduced in the galleys.
“These initiatives are beneficial by addressing many of the human factors our staff face both at work and at home,” Capt. Erik Thors, RTC commanding officer, said.
Earlier this year, the command established a Blue H Health Promotion Committee, led by Medical Service Corps Lt. Cmdr. Brian Lees and Chief Hospital Corpsman Reyes Camacho, to track risky health behaviors and promote a culture of good health.
The Blue H Health Promotion Committee consists of various pre-existing elements within the command, such as the command fitness leader, the drug and alcohol program adviser, safety officer and others. Together, they organize their individual efforts into a congruent message and strategy.
The Blue-H Navy Surgeon General's Health Promotion and Wellness program guides, encourages and rewards the promotion of health in Navy and Marine Corps organizations.
The Blue H program provides clear direction for building and strengthening a well-rounded health promotion program. Blue H data is quantifiable and specific and can be analyzed to determine health trends, measure return on investment and focus future health promotion efforts.
“Our health of the force approach is focused on providing an environment for our staff to succeed in mission while simultaneously decreasing risk and improving quality of life for both them and their families,” Thors said. “The Blue H process is simply an existing means to measure the effectiveness of our programs and aids in focusing our efforts to create a more productive command.”
Multiple in-house assessments showed RTC staff were experiencing high levels of psychological stress related to long working hours as well as interpersonal and emotional challenges of training recruits.
“Sailors are so committed to the mission that they work themselves so hard that the consequences can be negative, even to the point of failing the mission due to fatigue,” Lees said.
Early results from a Navy and Marine Corps Health Risk Assessment (HRA) begun in January 2019 revealed two-thirds of staff had reported sleep impairments and more than half were not eating the recommended daily amounts of fruits and vegetables.
“Scientific evidence shows that poor sleep leads to more errors in judgment and mood problems,” Lees said. “Eating a well-balanced diet, including fruits and vegetables, leads to a lower risk of many preventable medical conditions. While the vast majority of staff were ‘fit for full duty,’ how truly capable and for how long would each Sailor last if he or she was barely sleeping and not eating healthy?”
More than half of RTC staff members have taken the HRA and while it still early in the data collection cycle, the command has gotten out front to help them ‘live longer, live stronger’ — the tagline adopted by RTC Blue H Committee.
“The idea is to get out there and get the program started up; that we are here, this is what we are, this is what we do, and this is how we’re going to benefit you,” Camacho said. “Not just here at RTC, but down the road. With your career with your personal and professional life — we’re going to continue to help.”
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class Gregory Nelson welcomes the chance to live a healthier lifestyle.
“There’s more healthy choices out there,” he said. “We’re getting more fresh stuff on the (chow) lines. It’s helping in the ships and keeping people more focused on what we need to do. It’s helped me more personally, just having more options.”
Recruits also have benefitted from the program.
Recruit ship galleys have incorporated the ‘Go For Green’ campaign. Healthy food options are clearly marked with a green placard while less healthy menu items receive a yellow placard. In addition to entrée, side, soup and low-cal dessert options, recruits can choose from self-serve salad, yogurt and breakfast bars that include plenty of healthy fruit and grain options.
Menus in the recruit ship galleys include calorie, fat, carbohydrates and protein amounts for each item. They also include display screens stressing the need for foods high in iron to reduce anemia-related problems as well optimal hydration levels.
Boot camp is approximately eight weeks and all enlistees into the U.S. Navy begin their careers at the command. Training includes physical fitness, seamanship, firearms, firefighting and shipboard damage control along with lessons in Navy heritage and core values, teamwork and discipline. More than 35,000 recruits are trained annually at RTC and begin their Navy careers.
For more news from Recruit Training Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/rtc/
For more news from Recruit Training Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/rtc/.