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Families get healthy with Triad program

Madigan Public Affairs

Published: 12:00AM November 24th, 2015
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Gia Oney/ Madigan Public Affairs

Capt. Erika Hildebrandt, a behavioral health provider with the 555th Engineer Brigade, coaches Soldiers through proper sleep techniques like deep breathing and body positioning at the Triple Nickel Family Day Nov. 13.

It’s not every day that a training module for Soldiers would include lying down on yoga mats and simulating sleep techniques, but on a cold and wet November morning, more than 1,400 Soldiers and family members of the 555th Engineer Brigade did just that in support of the new Performance Triad program the unit is piloting for Army Medicine.

From pose running to performance nutrition, dental health to spiritual fitness, the Triple Nickel family day event proved to be beneficial for Soldiers, leadership and their families.

“The purpose of the Performance Triad is to improve overall resiliency, not just for the Soldiers of the Triple Nickel but across the Army as well,” said Capt. Marc Hodel, a brigade plans officer and the family day event coordinator.

The Performance Triad is a program developed by the Army office of the surgeon general that specifically focuses on healthy sleep, nutrition and activity habits. By encouraging a balanced fitness program in all three tenets of the triad, Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, the Army surgeon general and commanding general for the U.S. Army Medical Command, believes Army leadership can improve Soldier health and unit readiness.

The surgeon general also recognized the importance of having healthy families, and the Performance Triad addresses a variety of health and wellness topics for military spouses and children.

“(At our event,) we wanted to get families involved,” Hodel said. “It’s easy to teach Soldiers, but two of the main tenets of the Performance Triad, sleep and nutrition, come from home so we have to get families onboard.”

While most of the teenage family members were in school, the 110th Chemical Battalion event bay was full of young children who had the opportunity to run through a miniobstacle course, watch their moms and dads battle it out at the Performance Triad jeopardy station or see for themselves just how much sugar is in their tasty juice boxes.

“It all starts at home,” said Heidi Dillard, wife of Col. Larry Dillard, the brigade commander. “The health of our Soldier is important to us as a family, so our family’s health has to be important as well.”

Heidi works with the Triple Nickel Family Readiness Group to engage families about the Performance Triad and to encourage and educate them on healthy habits the whole family can practice at home.

The brigade is one of five units across the Army piloting the Performance Triad program. What was initially a tasking for Colonel Dillard to implement in his brigade evolved in to a broader approach to increasing unit readiness and boosting the health of his Soldiers.

“It’s a culture change,” Col. Dillard said. “But, if you can get people to make one small change, you will see a difference in their overall health, as well as your unit’s readiness.”

Dillard’s hope is that the Performance Triad pilot creates a “meet-in-the-middle” approach; his squad leaders and platoon sergeants can teach and develop the program to the junior Soldiers, while the brigade senior leaders support and provide opportunities to put the program into action. According to him, the Performance Triad is something that can be implemented and sustained by Soldiers of all ranks.

Dillard highlighted the importance of his unit leaders to create conversations about the Performance Triad with their Soldiers, noting that squad leaders are setting weekly goals and encouraging their teams to make simple changes.

In support of sparking conversations about the Performance Triad, 1st Sgt. Aaron Mang, with the 571st Sapper Company, 864th Engineer Battalion, indicated that he addresses sleep, activity and nutrition at company formations as well as individually with Soldiers throughout the day.

“The talks with Soldiers should be personal and meaningful,” Mang said.

As a vegetarian, Mang noted that, for him, concentrating on the nutrition piece of the Performance Triad has been beneficial for his own health, and talking about healthy foods with Soldiers in his company has helped him to keep a proper diet at the forefront.

Conversations about nutrition eventually turn in to talks about sleep, and Mang said he recognizes the danger of having overly tired Soldiers.

“(The unit) can’t be ready if the Soldiers aren’t well rested,” Mang said. “Quality sleep is important for Soldiers to be physically fit and mentally prepared for the mission ahead.”

The 555th Engr. Bde. will continue the pilot program through April with the support of Performance Triad coaches from the office of the surgeon general.

For more information on the Performance Triad, visit armymedicine.mil.