JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. (Army News Service, Sept. 13, 2013) – “We’re very excited about being selected for the first Performance Triad pilot, said the commander of the 7th Infantry Division here.
“We can offer a lot of value to the Army in terms of the outcomes of the study,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen R. Lanza.
He added that Soldiers, himself included, are “probably guilty of violating some of those (Performance Triad) principles” of not getting the right amount or quality of sleep, nutrition and activity.
Eleven squad leaders from 3rd Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment, 7th ID, began two weeks of training from health and medical professionals, Sept. 9. Following their training, they will be responsible for imparting their knowledge and mentoring their Soldiers over the course of 24 weeks.
Two other pilots are planned using the same schedule and instruction: one at Fort Bliss, Texas, involving Soldiers of 4th Battalion, 6th Infantry, beginning Sept. 30; and the other at Fort Bragg, N.C., with Soldiers of the 189th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, starting Oct. 28.
“The idea that sleep, nutrition and activity impact performance is not necessarily new,” said Lt. Col. Bruce Vitor, 3-38’s commander. “But if we can find ways to better emphasize that message and deliver improved performance, then that will be a big plus for our readiness.”
GETTING WORD OUT
That squad leaders will be the ones responsible for the success of this initiative is a logical choice because “they are the ones who know their Soldiers best and can have the most impact,” said Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, just before the start of the pilot.
Success will also be up to their Soldiers, she added, because they are the ones who will ultimately decide whether or not to choose a healthier lifestyle.
Horoho saw first-hand the importance of sleep, activity and nutrition on mission outcomes during a deployment to Afghanistan. She said she realized that improvements in those areas can most impact performance, reduce injuries and increase the readiness and resiliency of Soldiers.
A team of Performance Triad subject-matter experts from Horoho’s office are on the ground at Joint Base Lewis-McChord this week and next, delivering the training, which is both classroom and hands-on. Once they leave, it will be up to a staff of dedicated Performance Triad medical and health providers from Madigan Army Medical Center to provide guidance and assistance to those in the pilot.
Data analysis and program evaluation follows the 24-week period, according to Barbara Ryan, a registered nurse with the Army surgeon general’s office and the lead for Performance Triad training, education and communications.
Once all the data and feedback are collected and reviewed, consolidated program recommendation for Army-wide implementation of Performance Triad will be delivered to the Army chief of staff and vice chief of staff in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2014, according to Ryan.
The eventual goal, Ryan said, will be to include family members and retirees in the program.
On a typical training day, the squad leaders receive Performance Triad training straight from their pocket guidebooks: “Performance Triad: A Leader’s Guide and Planner.” They also get training on how to get their Soldiers excited about the benefits and setting realistic goals.
This training is then followed by role-playing, with two or three squad leaders playing the parts of Soldiers and themselves. Here’s an example of a role play:
“What activities you got planned for this evening?” asks the squad leader of one of his Soldiers.
“Oh, not much, maybe Xbox or Halo, then hang out with some of the guys; maybe go out later around 10 (p.m.) for some wings and beers.”
“Sounds like fun. Maybe before you go out you can join some of the others for a game of basketball. They’re looking for an extra player and you can probably shower and be ready to go out by [9 p.m.].”
“I can do that.”
The next day, the conversation goes something like this:
“So, how was the game?”
“Went well. Turns out they needed a center so I filled in.”
“And you finished in time to go out?”
“Yep, stayed out all night.”
“I’ve done that a lot. Kind of hard though to play catch-up on missed sleep.”
“I found that I feel much better throughout the day if I get seven hours. Even better with eight.”
“I’m only getting four, maybe five at the most.”
“I know eight hours seems a lot, but maybe you could steal six, and if it makes you feel better, maybe seven later on. You’ll still be able to go out for a decent amount of time.”
“An extra hour shouldn’t be too hard.”
“Terrific. And you can save some money too by nursing two beers instead of five. You’ll still get a good buzz.”
“I’ll try it with three and see how it goes; maybe two later.”
“That’s the spirit, hooah.”
“Oh, and I know a place outside the gate that rustles up a mean salad. Between me and you, I got one to go, brought it home, took out the chicken slices and weighed them with my wife’s food scales. Turns out there was more chicken in the salad than in their overpriced chicken sandwich. And I know how much you like their fried chicken.”
“Thanks for the tip. Seems like a no-brainer.”
“Just don’t tell them I told you that. They might start putting less chicken in to save money.”
They laugh and the following day they compare notes again for just a minute or two.
The squad leaders really got into the role playing and told some good jokes along the way, livening up the role-playing session. Critiques followed.
Goal-setting was another part of the training. Sgt. Maj. Michel Pigford, a Performance Triad instructor at the Army Surgeon General’s Office, told the squad leaders to find out what makes each of their Soldiers tick.
He provided an example of a Soldier he met from The Old Guard who had a great desire to become a Ranger. His biggest hurdle was getting through the school, which is tough mentally and physically. Pigford told him how he could improve his chances through better sleep, eating and activities. He followed some easy steps and was successful.
Some Soldiers may have other goals, like maybe losing some weight for a promotion or overcoming post-traumatic stress disorder. Using the Performance Triad plan, the squad leader can help Soldiers attain those goals, he said, and often it is just doing a few simple things like getting an extra hour of sleep or pushing away from the desk to go for a stroll every hour or so.
To help Soldiers measure those goals, they will all be issued books similar to the ones the squad leaders receive, minus the instructor notes. As well, all squad leaders are being issued “personal readiness devices,” or PRDs.
The PRD measures activity, nutrition, and sleep and provides real-time feedback to the user through data that can be viewed daily, weekly or monthly to track progress over time. The data is uploaded and stored to the user’s account via Bluetooth connection between the device and the user’s personal computer or smartphone.
Pigford said years ago he was stationed at then-Fort Lewis as a junior enlisted infantryman. He said he still recalls his own squad leader, Sgt. Pryor, who offered him helpful advice and a healthy dose of motivation.
The success of this program, he said, “depends on you. Your Soldiers look up to you for guidance and encouragement. If you lead, they will follow.”