A new Army Wellness Center officially opened at Fort Stewart this week with a ribbon cutting by 3rd Infantry Division and Stewart-Hunter Commander Maj. Gen. John “Mike” Murray, Winn Army Community Hospital and Stewart-Hunter Medical Activity Command Commander Col. Kirk Eggleston, Winn Preventative Medicine Chief Lt. Col. Shannon Ellis, Wellness Center Director Megan Amadeo and Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Training Center manager John Gaddy.
Also attending were the Marne commander’s wife, Jane Murray, and 3rd ID Command Sgt. Maj. Edd Watson.
According to Winn public-affairs officer Michelle Gordon, Army Wellness Centers are part of Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho’s “performance triad” program, which includes activity, nutrition and sleep. She said wellness-center services include metabolic testing, physical-fitness testing, stress management with biofeedback, and tobacco, nutrition and general wellness education.
Gordon said the first Army Wellness Center opened in 2005 in Heidelberg, Germany. The center on Stewart is the 17th opened by the Army, she said.
“We have a huge problem in this country,” Eggleston told guests. “Our population is not fit. We’re out of shape. We’re overweight. We don’t eat right. We don’t sleep right, and we don’t get enough exercise.”
He said the Army Wellness Center is designed to encourage wellness or preventive health. When patients come to Winn, he said they already are in the second stage of prevention. He said something already is amiss, and now the hospital’s medical team has to fix it.
Eggleston said the Army will have 19 Wellness Centers by the end of this year, with a goal of having 38 centers throughout the Army. He said soldiers, their families and — if space is available — military retirees and their families can come to the center for a free evaluation, risk assessment, nutrition advice and general wellness education that could prevent them from having to visit the hospital.
He emphasized that what the center needs most is for commanders to tell their soldiers about the wellness center and encourage them to use it.
Murray echoed many of Eggleston’s remarks, saying the center is about teaching better lifestyles and better stress management. He also stressed the importance of encouraging soldiers and families to use the center.
“I would hope that this center is overbooked and overused,” Murray said. “I hope the hours that we have posted are not nearly enough and we have to get some additional staff.”
Following the ribbon cutting, Amadeo and Ellis escorted Murray and other guests around the new facility, pausing in each room to explain how risk-assessment equipment works.
According to Gaddy, the center essentially is a life-skills training facility. He said there is a distinct difference between a fitness center and a wellness center.
“Instead of being reactive to physical challenges, we can be proactive,” Gaddy said. “Any soldier can walk in here and make an appointment for an assessment. We can train one-on-one or as a unit.”
Amadeo said the center’s staffers are professionals with specialized certifications or master’s degrees in exercise science or other health fields.
“We’re more of a primary preventive and assessment program,” Amadeo said. “We’re not diagnosing; we’re assessing where they are. We’re trying to (help) them before they have to go get treated for things like diabetes or some other chronic disorder.”