Editor's note: This article was updated to include information on early morning hours for behavior health care at Fort Carson, and a statement from the 4th Infantry Division that was received after initial publication.
An armor officer at Fort Carson, Colorado, this week issued a new set of policies to his formation effectively banning soldiers from seeking mental health care, dental treatment and legal counsel in the early morning hours to cement time for exercising, according to a copy of the memo reviewed by Military.com.
"Soldiers are not authorized to schedule appointments before 0900," Lt. Col. Andrew Boyd, commander of 4th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, said in a memo Tuesday. "This restriction applies to medical, dental, behavioral health, and other types of appointments."
Boyd's policy proscription comes at a time when soldier quality-of-life issues have moved into the spotlight among Army planners and stakeholders on Capitol Hill, particularly during Army Secretary Christine Wormuth's tenure. Wormuth and senior uniformed leaders have focused on measurable quality-of-life boosts such as parental leave rights for soldiers unique to the service and an expanded focus on housing issues. They say that if soldiers are taken care of in their personal lives, they will be better focused on their warfighting tasks.
Some services are available before 9 a.m., including behavioral health, which starts at 7:30 a.m.
Boyd's memo notes that units may approve earlier appointments, but that soldiers must consult with their commander before making that appointment -- a move that can be complicated in situations in which health care providers may have to schedule follow-ups without delay.
"We are in the business of warfighting, and to fight wars successfully, we must be physically fit for war. The rigors of combat will not forgive suboptimal fitness," Boyd's memo says. "This policy memo protects the time to condition our bodies and minds to be fully ready."
Traditionally, decisions on whether a soldier may be excused from low-profile scheduled unit events, such as fitness training, are left to noncommissioned officers. It is unclear whether Boyd's squadron has seen a significant uptick in soldiers failing the Army Combat Fitness Test, or ACFT, and his rules are a reaction.
"What problem is this trying to solve?" one officer under Boyd said to Military.com on the condition of anonymity to avoid retaliation. "This is just going to create problems, not solve them."
While physical training is among the most important elements in a soldier's day, it is not considered sacrosanct within the Army's own fitness doctrine, which outlines exercising as one part of a service member's well-being, with other elements including nutrition, spiritual health, mental health and proper sleep.
"The 4th Infantry Division leadership is committed to the holistic health and fitness of our soldiers," Lt. Col. Joseph Payton, a spokesperson for the 4th Infantry Division, told Military.com in a statement after this article was originally published. "Anything that disrupts this aim is inconsistent with our responsibility to ensure our soldiers are fit to fight and are ready to take on any mission they may be called to support."
Boyd expects physical training to be conducted from 6:30 a.m. to around 8 a.m. Most day cares and schools for young children in the area open between 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., giving parents limited time to meet such a strict physical training schedule.
Boyd, who took command in June, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on X @StevenBeynon.