Aircraft Carrier Adopts New Culture of Fitness

PACIFIC OCEAN -- Ninety-seven thousand tons of steel sails the seas 24 hours-a-day and the more than 5,000 Sailors who operate the U.S. Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) have created a culture to remain resilient and ready through exercise, nutrition and competition.

 George Washington's warrior fitness schedule and nutrition classes allow Sailors to easily customize a fitness program to enhance personal fitness levels and goals around the demanding schedule of operating forward.

 "The command is simply trying to execute what the Navy has put out for its fitness program for the last few years, which is promoting a culture of fitness," said Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Floreen Johnson, George Washington's fitness enhancement program (FEP) coordinator. "I don't think it is the Navy's intention for people to work out just for the sake of passing the [Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA)], rather it is to make fitness a way of life, make it a culture."

 The command's warrior fitness schedule lists 45 available fitness classes per week that meet in ship's hangar bay or spin room. One of the most attended programs is Total Body Fit.

 "Total Body Fit began with 12 people two years ago," said Master Chief Cryptologic Technician (Collection) Kyuccaali Simpson, Total Body Fit creator and lead instructor. "The class exploded to more than 100 Sailors after we implemented new music and a sound system."

 A majority of the Sailors who initially attended Total Body Fit were Sailors in FEP according to Simpson. Many participants saw results, giving Simpson the opportunity to communicate the importance of staying fit, pushing to get results and having fun while doing it. Today, there are more than 200 Sailors who attend regularly.

 "Since coming on board, things have come a long way," said Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Jasmine Tatman, a warrior fitness instructor on George Washington, from Bakersfield, Calif. "I see a lot more people who could have been on FEP or who are on FEP pushing themselves 10 times harder than they ever would have. It is a great atmosphere that we are setting."

 Another key ingredient to fitness is nutrition. It plays an instrumental role to stay healthy according to Lt. Lauren Moses, physician assistant aboard George Washington.

 "Nutrition is what provides the fuel to achieve physical goals," said Moses. "Depending on those goals, nutrition can make or break you."

 Ten nutrition classes are held each month that cover specific topics teaching Sailors about good and bad eating habits, and giving them original ways to eat healthy meals on the ship.

 "We can pinpoint what our Sailors need and how we can help them not only from a nutritional aspect, but a nutritional aspect on the boat," said Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Danielle Greene, nutrition team instructor aboard George Washington, from Charlotte, N.C. "It is necessary for us to be creative with the food we eat on board and that's what I like to teach in my classes to make it fun."

 The topic taught in this month's classes was behavior modification. According to Greene it is the ABC breakdown of the psychological side of eating unhealthy. "A" being the reaction a person has before eating, "B" is the action of eating and "C" is the consequences a person feels after eating unhealthy.

 "Sometimes eating right is more critical than the amount of exercise you participate in," said Moses. "You have to re-train your stomach and mind to realize what and how much you eat. We understand that it takes time and education and that's what our nutrition team is trying to provide."

 In support of having healthier options available, mixed nuts, trail mix, nutrition bars, protein bars and powders, and V8 juices have replaced many of the candy, junk food and soda that sat on the shelves in the ship's store.

 "What I've seen here is something that I haven't seen in the last 19 years," said Johnson. "Most commands promote the Navy's mission by advertising and marketing the benefits, but we've actually provided the resource. This command does not only preach fitness, we do it. Because of it, the infused pride of fitness aboard [George Washington] has gone beyond just trying to be more physically fit, it has created camaraderie between officers, enlisted, senior and junior. I think that's good for morale and plays a positive role in the quality of life on board."

In addition to fitness and nutrition classes, George Washington has released an incentive program for Sailors to improve on their PFA. Sailors who improve from their previous score will receive special liberty days. Those who earn a perfect score will receive a letter of commendation from Capt. Greg Fenton, George Washington's commanding officer, a certificate of accomplishment, a 48-hour special liberty and an evaluation entry for fitness.

 "I don't know the origin of the strong culture we've built," said Johnson. "There are a lot of motivated people on this ship from all ranks who see the need for it. I don't know where it is going to go, but it will only get better from here."

 George Washington and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing Five, provide a combat-ready force that protects the collective maritime interest of the U.S. and its partners and allies in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

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