Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Service Members Must be Physically Ready for Deployment, Troxell Says

By Jim Garamone, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. military’s mission is to fight and win the nation’s wars, and service members must be physically, mentally and emotionally ready to fight when needed, Army Command Sgt. Maj. John W. Troxell said in an interview May 10.

And in this tumultuous era, that could be at any time, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff added.

Troxell attended the inaugural DoD Readiness and Resilience Workshop held April 17 at Fort McNair in Washington. The workshop featured speakers and covered topics to optimize human performance through the body, mind, and spirit.

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan also participated in the workshop. Shanahan opened the workshop by joining service members in a workout.

“He’s in good shape,” the sergeant major said of the deputy defense secretary.

Be Ready for the ‘Worst Day’

Troxell said he constantly tells service members they must always be ready to engage in combat, which he describes as the “worst day.”

Troxell said he’s concerned about recent statistics regarding military deployability.

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis recently came out with a deployment and readiness policy. Essentially, the policy stipulates that if a service member is nondeployable for more than a year, then he or she is processed for separation. This does not affect service members wounded in combat.

“We have this deployability problem in terms of injuries and obesity -- we are talking about 100,000 service members,” Troxell said. “On top of that, 17 percent of the troops have been diagnosed as overweight or obese.”

The sergeant major said he brought together civilian and military fitness and dietary experts to discuss fitness, performance, nutrition and recovery at the Fort McNair workshop.

“I brought in 50 service members from around the services who are high-speed individuals -- the Marine martial arts instructors, master trainers from the Army, the Navy brought in a number of medical folks and dietitians,” Troxell said. “It was a lot of very physically fit people who were there to speak with each other and share best practices and strategies to address the obesity and the nondeployability problem.”

Promote Warrior/Athlete Culture

Noncommissioned officers and petty officers need to promote and encourage “a warrior/athlete culture and mentality” across the military services, Troxell said.

“Our special operations force[s] already do this very well, and there’s episodes in the services where it goes well,” he said. “But there are too many cultures out there where fitness training is just something we do for an hour in the morning and it is a ‘check the block’ kind of thing.”

And, some physical fitness training seems designed to prepare people to just pass the test, Troxell said.

“What physical training needs to be is a process to get someone prepared physically, mentally and emotionally for the conditions they may face on the worst day of their life,” he said.

That worst day comes in a variety of guises, Troxell said. For a soldier or Marine, it may be armed individual combat. For a sailor it could be dealing with disaster and firefighting. For an airman it could be in a convoy or on an airfield where disaster strikes or an enemy attacks.

“In any event, we shouldn’t be training to pass a fitness test,” he said. “We would be training for what we need to do on that worst day. We don’t do that enough.”

In extreme cases, there are service members who have been nondeployable for three or four years, the sergeant major said. Someone else still has to go. The sergeant major described one specialty with just 32 people. Only eight are deployable and they shoulder that burden.

Physical fitness helps mentally as well, Troxell said. “It’s a medical fact that the more physically fit you are, the more mental and emotional preparedness you are going to have,” he said. “You are already used to pushing against boundaries in physical training. You have already conditioned your body and your mind to handle adversity in training and that has a payout when you go through the worst day of your life.”

Medical experts who deal with post-traumatic stress say that developing physical fitness is a factor in combating that condition.

Making Change Happen

Troxell said he believes that the NCO and petty officer ranks need to make change happen.

“I want those mid-range noncommissioned officer and the petty officers to own this,” he said. “They need to say there won’t be unfit people in their formations. They have to have people they can count on physically, mentally, emotionally, technically to thrive on the worst day. They shouldn’t be discovery learning on the worst days of their lives that the buddies next to them can’t carry someone out of a bad situation.”

Regardless of how good the U.S. military is bad things can happen and “we have to prepare, and it starts every day with this culture of ‘I am a warrior/athlete,’” Troxell said.

He practices what he preaches. Troxell has embraced a tough physical training program. The 54-year-old senior NCO still qualifies in the Ranger School five-mile standard in under 40 minutes.

Passing a physical training test requires a 60 percent score. “We can’t be a 60 percent force,” Troxell said. “We have to strive for perfection.”

Travis Airmen Support Kilauea Volcano Relief Efforts

By Louis Briscese, 60th Air Mobility Wing

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --  A C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft delivered a double recirculating cement mixer trailer for use in support of Kilauea volcano relief efforts on Hawaii, the largest and southeastern-most of the Hawaiian Islands.

The aircraft delivered the equipment May 15.

An aircrew from the 22nd Airlift Squadron based here participated in the delivery. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Cole Rehse, a loadmaster, was given short notice for the mission.

“We had less than a 24-hour notice for this trip, which is out of the ordinary as far as notifications go,” Rehse said. “Anytime you have an opportunity to help people out and ensure their safety, that’s always fulfilling.”

The trailer has local ties to the Travis community as the company that owns it is based 20 miles away in Rio Vista, California. Alexander Morris, operations manager in Rio Vista, is grateful for the assistance Travis is providing.

Special Delivery

“This is the first time we’ve ever flown the double RCM trailer,” Morris said. “We normally send this equipment by boat, which takes almost two weeks. With assistance from Travis, we’re cutting that time down significantly.”

Getting the trailer to Hawaii quickly is critical because volcanic activity is disturbing wells at the Puna geothermal power plant. The trailer will help stabilize any potential hazards caused by volcanic activity.

“With the ongoing volcanic eruptions, they’re trying to mitigate any well control hazards,” Morris said. “It’s a preventive measure as well as to shut-in some of these wells.”

Loading the double RCM trailer onto the Galaxy was somewhat challenging because of its size. The trailer weighs more than 55,000 pounds and is almost 100 feet long. Securing the trailer properly took some time because it had never been done before. Air Force Senior Airman Jacob New, 60th Aerial Port Squadron air transportation journeyman, oversaw the loading of the trailer.

“The item was so unique that it was difficult to figure out how to secure it,” New said. “Backing the trailer into the C-5M with the semi-truck then finding the correct tie down locations took a lot of time.”

It took a team of 10 service members to successfully load the trailer. Once the trailer was secured, New reflected on the significance of what he and his team had accomplished.

“It’s always good to be part of the solution,” New said. “It’s what keeps me going.”

Air Force Capt. Thomas Tharp, 22nd AS aircraft commander, takes pride in knowing his crew is assisting people in need.

“It’s great to take a group of guys and do a mission that has a big impact,” Tharp said. “It’s very humbling to pull off a mission with less than 24-hour notification to perfection.”

Face of Defense: Army NCO Faces, Overcomes Adversity

By Annette P. Gomes,  U.S. Army Warrior Care and Transition

ARLINGTON, Va. -- After dealing with a back injury and several autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, Army Master Sgt. Aaron De Los Santos says his body paid a price.

“These diseases have really taken a toll on my health, both physically and mentally. I was not ready to [leave the Army], but my performance was slowing down and I just couldn't hang in with my team anymore,” De Los Santos said.

The Texas native, who is now on transitional leave from the Army, found support with another team: the adaptive reconditioning coordinators, coaches and trainers at the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Hood, Texas. The once-active sportsman began to develop a love for adaptive sports.

“I was hesitant at first, even for a guy like me who is active, physically fit and always competitive,” De Los Santos said. “I had issues with trusting those in charge.”

He continued, “I started with yoga and progressed with swimming and then cycling. I owe my success to Susan Wilson, Fort Hood's adaptive reconditioning coordinator; along with Carina Fleeman, my aquatics coach and trainer; and Robin Donald, my nurse case manager. They are awesome.”

Competing at Warrior Games

The first-generation soldier was also able to conquer another goal; making Team Army for the 2018 Department of Defense Warrior Games slated June 1-9 at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“I was scared and felt like I was done with not only the Army, but being active. I turned to my wife for motivation and purpose which ultimately got me back on track to keep on living,” De Los Santos said. “I was able to demonstrate to the Army, and to myself, that I still had what it took to fight, and win that fight.”

Instilled with strong values and family support, De Los Santos says he has a different approach to life when adversity happens.

“I am who I am, and I will never change. I stay humble no matter what. Some call me ‘Hug-a-Joe’ or ‘Softy,’ but that's who I am,” De Los Santos said. “I have learned that life isn't fair and it doesn't care who you are. It's what you're made of that counts.”

He added, “I found out what I’m made of when I was going through tough times.”

De Los Santos will retire in July.