December 3, 2022

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Photo By Sgt. 1st Class Wayne Woolley | Ben Smith, the lead Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) instructor for the U.S. Army’s… read more read more
Photo By Sgt. 1st Class Wayne Woolley | Ben Smith, the lead Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) instructor for the U.S. Army’s 10th Combat Aviation Brigade leads a hip mobility class for Soldiers from the New Jersey Army National Guard at Fort Drum, N.Y. on July 25, 2022. It was the first time the 10th CAV has instructed National Guard Soldiers on the program, which seeks to increase health and wellness. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Wayne Woolley)  see less | View Image Page
By Sgt. 1st Class Wayne Woolley

FORT DRUM, N.Y. — Sgt. Kemoh Smith has gotten out of a chair thousands of times.

Yet on a recent day, with 1st Lt. Nicholas Pugliano coaching him on how to stand with his hips and rib cage aligned to minimize pressure on his spine, Smith struggled.

“Whew,” Smith said after coming to his feet. “Not easy.”

“It will get easier,” Pugliano, an infantryman turned physical therapist, assured him.

The encounter between Smith, a New Jersey Army National Guard Soldier, and Pugliano, who is assigned to the active-duty’s 10th Combat Aviation Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division, came about thanks to the Army’s Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) program.

The program, launched as a pilot in 2018, seeks to help Soldiers become more physically and mentally resilient and runs the gamut from increasing flexibility to learning how to sleep better, eat better and to embrace a spiritual belief system that will sustain them through difficult times.

The session in which Smith met Pugliano came on July 25, 2022 as members of the Jersey Guard’s 117th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion became the first National Guard unit to receive classes from the 10th CAB’s H2F team, which is led by Ben Smith, a former competitive weightlifter turned strength and conditioning coach.

The New Jersey Soldiers were at Fort Drum in support of the eXportable Combat Training Capability (XCTC) exercise for New Jersey’s 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. The Soldiers attended a class on hip and spine mobility and a class on learning to maximize sleep.

To New Jersey Army National Guard Capt. John Caemmerer, the sleep portion of the training might have been the most important.

“The Army is recognizing that sleep deprivation affects us on a microbiological level and affects almost every aspect of a Soldier’s fitness,” said Caemmerer, the Jersey Guard’s H2F coordinator. “In the end, lack of sleep makes for less combat-effective Soldiers.”

The Army implemented H2F in response to challenges to having a ready force. Among those challenges, according to statistics compiled by the Army, were the fact that more than half of active-duty Soldiers suffer a musculoskeletal injury each year and that more than a quarter of Reserve Component Soldiers were considered clinically obese.

Caemmerer said that the Army understands that the National Guard has unique challenges because most of its Soldiers also lead civilian lives.

“Even from state to state, the Army understands that there will be differences,” he said. “The goal is to create a program that works for our state.”

In a show of New Jersey’s support for H2F efforts, Brig. Gen. Robert Hughes, the Assistant Adjutant General, toured the 10th CAB’s H2F facility on July 27.

During the recent hip mobility class, Smith, the 10th CAB H2F director, told the Guard Soldiers that the objective is to learn proper body movements and maintain correct alignments in order to prevent injuries before they occur.

He used a weightlifting analogy to make his point.

“You might be able to do deadlifts for 10 years with a crazy curved spine and be fine,” he said. “Until the day you won’t. And then you’ll have a serious problem.”

After attending the hour-long mobility class, Smith, 46, the sergeant who was practicing hip alignment while getting out of a chair, said he’d use what he’d learned in the class. At this point in his military career, he said the aches and pains from a physically demanding job as a wheeled vehicle mechanic coupled with the sedentary life of driving a truck in his civilian job need to be addressed.

“I’m going to try to practice everything I’ve learned today,” he said.

1st Lt. Nicholas Pugliano, left, shows Sgt. Kemoh Smith proper hip and rib alignment during a a hip mobility class for Soldiers from the New Jersey Army National Guard at Fort Drum, N.Y. on July 25, 2022. It was the first time the 10th CAV has instructed National Guard Soldiers on the program, which seeks to increase health and wellness. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Wayne Woolley)

Ben Smith, the lead Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) instructor for the U.S. Army’s 10th Combat Aviation Brigade leads a hip mobility class for Soldiers from the New Jersey Army National Guard at Fort Drum, N.Y. on July 25, 2022. It was the first time the 10th CAV has instructed National Guard Soldiers on the program, which seeks to increase health and wellness. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Wayne Woolley)
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