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Health Report Credits Fort Carson for Letting Soldiers Sleep In

Fort Carson
Fort Carson

A Fort Carson physical training plan that tangled traffic in the Pikes Peak region gained plaudits from Army health officials in a report that measured the fitness of the force.

Having soldiers come in to work later and exercise in the afternoon in a 2014 pilot program was one of several factors that made Fort Carson stand out in the recently released Health of the Force report, said Col. Deydre Teyhen, assistant chief of staff for the Army Medical Specialists Corps.

"The people of Colorado Springs don't like their traffic patterns changed, but it did make a big difference for soldiers and their families," she said.

The report reviewed the health of troops at the Army's largest installations and looked at workplace injuries, tobacco use, obesity and sexually transmitted diseases, among other factors.

Fort Carson soldiers are above average in their medical readiness for combat, the report found. It also noted the post's obesity rate of 11.1 percent is lower than other installations. Fort Carson soldiers also suffer fewer injuries than their peers and have a lower rate of mental illness and chronic disease.

Fort Carson was nicked, though, in accounting of tobacco use -- 37.4 percent of Fort Carson troops use tobacco, compared with a 32 percent Army average, the report found.

The change in the Fort Carson exercise schedule, a 2014 experiment at the post, was credited for countering the Army's chronic problem with sleep deprivation. Teyhen and other experts say a lack of rest is one of the Army's biggest health concerns.

"We are sleeping much worse than the average American," she said, noting that 85 percent of soldiers lack adequate sleep.

The Fort Carson experiment allowed soldiers to sleep in by moving physical training, normally conducted before sunrise, to the end of the duty day.

Teyhen said that improved sleep for troops, especially the post's youngest soldiers.

It also earned the ire of Pikes Peak region commuters by pushing about 20,000 soldiers onto roads when civilians were heading to work. Epic traffic jams led to the scrapping of the program.

The health report, though, could bring it back.

Army leaders need soldiers who are fit for combat, but nearly a fifth of soldiers are medically barred for deploying due to health issues at any given time. Sick, overweight and injured troops also cost the Pentagon big money for treatment.

Teyhen said healthier troops are also happier troops, making lifestyle changes a priority in the Army.

"This is a part of the investment we need to make in those who defend our nation," she said.

The report, though, won't be used to drive major Pentagon initiatives. Instead, Teyhen said, local leaders will be expected to review the findings and do what's best for the health of their soldiers.

"They know where their starting point is so they can make better-informed decisions," she said.

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This article was written by TOM ROEDER from The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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