Representatives from Atkins Functional Fitness Facility talk with Soldiers about the fitness programs and strength and conditioning workouts that attract people to their gym during the 101 Days of Summer Health and Wellness Fair on June 13 at the Exchange. (Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs Office)


Health and wellness representatives
host community fair on Fort Drum


Mike Strasser

Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs


FORT DRUM, N.Y. (June 17, 2019) – Whether it was some helpful reminders or a discovery of much-needed support and services, there was something for everyone to learn June 13 at the 101 Days of Summer Health and Wellness Fair on post.

The fair was hosted by the Fort Drum Prevention Programs Fair at the Exchange, and it offered attendees a chance to familiarize themselves with organizations on post, to include the Ready and Resilient Performance Center, Environmental Health, Army Public Health Nursing and the Fort Drum Safety Office.

Amy Ingersoll, health educator, talked about the services available to community members at the Army Wellness Center, such as a metabolic assessment, the body composition (BodPod) testing, biofeedback sessions and wellness coaching.

“We also have a couple of new classes like ‘Fueling for Health,’ where we go over good sources versus better sources of carbohydrates, fats and proteins,” she said. “We also talk about vitamins and minerals and how to stay hydrated. Our ‘Meals in Minutes’ class teaches people how to make healthy meals quickly that can fit into their lifestyle and budget.”

Ingersoll said that the Wellness Center has helped many people achieve their health and fitness goals, but she also encourages people to schedule return visits for re-assessments and to plan for long-term needs. The success stories she is most proud of are not necessarily about people who lost a lot of weight or cut minutes off their running records, but the accumulation of little victories that made an overall impact in their lives.

“I like it when someone does something significant to take control of their health,” Ingersoll said. “Like someone who was drinking soda every day but stopped that habit. Those smaller changes have longer-lasting effects.”

Jackie Mewha, health promotion technician, is one of the friendly faces clients will meet when visiting the Army Wellness Center (AWC). She said that sometimes people really want help, but they are either hesitant to ask or not comfortable with the process. So, Mewha can offer some reassurance and guide them into taking those first steps.

Not too long ago, someone had canceled an appointment for a physical fitness assessment, and she followed up to find out why. Mewha was able to assure the client, who was discouraged by a lack of weight loss, about the advantage of having the AWC team on her side rather than struggling alone.

“What we found out was that there was no change in weight, but that her body composition had changed,” she said. “There was a gain in lean muscle and she lost fat, but her weight was the same. She left so happy and thankful. The scale doesn’t always tell you everything.”

To learn more about the Army Wellness Center, located at Bldg. 10550, 5th Armored Division Drive, call (315) 772-4608.

Representing the Fort Drum Safety Office, John Drozd spoke with attendees about motorcycle safety and the required training courses offered on post.

“This is motorcycle riding season, so our focus is making sure everyone knows about the mandatory training required to ride on and off post,” he said.

He also fielded questions about the required gear that motorcyclists must wear, including helmet, full-fingered gloves and long pants.

Drozd also said that Soldiers returning from deployments or training rotations may require refresher training to get their minds back on proper riding techniques.

“They’re excited to be back home, and that extra training kind of eases them back into riding,” he said. “We go over some of the basics and make sure the bike is inspected, so when they go on the road they are comfortable, calm and safe.”

To learn more about the Fort Drum Traffic Safety Program, call (315) 772-4672.

In addition to this being motorcycle riding season, it is also tick season in the North Country, and there has been a disturbing rise in its population in recent years.

Ray Rainbolt, from the Natural Resources branch, and representatives from Environmental Health, addressed this topic at the fair.

“It is just about always the season for ticks,” Rainbolt said.

He was talking about this very subject at a family gathering, only to discover when he returned home that he had been bitten by ticks.

“I had all the textbook symptoms,” he said. “The chills, body ache and fever. I felt like I had a 48-hour flu.”

He also had the ring-shaped rash on one bite area that is the signature of many tick bites.

“That’s when I knew for sure,” he said. “Forty percent of the time, the rash will develop.”

Rainbolt said that there is about a 50-50 chance that an adult tick carries the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

“A tick isn’t born diseased,” he said. “It isn’t until it has its first blood meal, and if that animal is infected – whether it is a mouse or chipmunk that they fed on – that’s where they get the bacteria.”

Rainbolt said that there are many ways to protect yourself against tick bites. That includes using repellents for the skin, treating clothing with permethrin repellent, and vigilantly checking for ticks when outdoors. If a tick is embedded in the skin, tweezers are the best tool for removal. But in a pinch, fingernails will suffice, as long as the tick is removed by the head and not the body.

Pvt. Zoe Gautreaux, with Environmental Health, said that people should not try to burn ticks off or use any lubricant to remove one.

“Because they are so prevalent in this area, it’s important to have this information so you know what to do,” she said. “If you get a tick bite, you don’t want to be searching for what to do.”

She said that Soldiers and their Family Members can receive a free tick test kit from Environmental Health.

“You can go to Guthrie Health Clinic to have a tick removed, or you can remove it yourself and put it in the vial and send it to us,” Gautreaux said. “We send it to U.S. Army Public Health Center for testing, and the results are returned, usually, within two weeks.”

Soldiers conducting field training are highly susceptible to ticks, and Gautreaux said that they can protect themselves if they keep their pants bloused and their shirt sleeves tightly cuffed. Applying DEET repellent and frequently checking for ticks are also recommended.

“Check your buddy often,” she said. “Ticks like to hide out in your hair, under your arms, back of the knees.”

The Fort Drum Bike Patrol is back on the streets, and Pvt. Zachary McCoy and Sgt. David Reyes attended the fair to let people know how they support the community.

“We are very open and accessible to community members, especially in the housing areas, so they feel comfortable about coming to us with any problems or issues,” said McCoy.

Reyes said that they spend a lot of time at community centers on post where they talk with residents and build rapport. They frequent areas where neighborhood children tend to gather, and places that are harder to reach by patrol car.

Reyes said that the Bike Patrol can assist other military police officers by calling in license plate numbers and vehicle descriptions if motorists are speeding or driving unlawfully.

Staff and trainers from Atkins Functional Fitness Facility extolled the virtues of physical fitness and what makes their gym different from the rest.

“It’s fitness for your everyday life,” said Emily Broda, personal trainer. “We focus purely on developing your functional fitness and health, but also with things that are going to make you feel better in your day-to-day activities. That’s what Atkins is all about and (what) makes it different from other facilities.”

She said that functional fitness can be daunting to people unfamiliar with the sorts of workouts that incorporate huge medicine balls, weighted sleds, ropes and tires.

“It’s extremely intimidating at first,” she said. “But people learn to try new things, and then they love it. As personal trainers, we love to show off the benefits of functional fitness, and we take pride in what we do. I basically live at Atkins, and it’s a fun environment. The staff there is always making people feel as welcome as possible.”

Because functional fitness is a little unconventional, Broda said that people shouldn’t begin this training alone. They should seek guidance from staff or trainers to learn the basics.

Spc. Aaron Lytle, a 10th Combat Aviation Brigade Soldier, works the front desk at Atkins, and he admitted that he didn’t like the gym initially.

“I was kind of scared, because I’m used to going to gyms where there’s actually machines that tell you what to do,” he said.

Eventually, he became accustomed to the total body workouts at Atkins. And more Soldiers are frequenting the gym to take advantage of the customized training that will help them perform better at the new Army Combat Fitness Test.

Broda joined in some of the ACFT familiarization sessions as units were reserving training time at Atkins.

“I’ve had many Soldiers approach me with the intention of improving or even becoming familiar with the ACFT,” she said. “It’s a huge step for them to take, because their career depends on them taking this test. So, I found this extremely interesting. It has kind of transitioned the way I train people, because this is their main goal now. I’ve learned a lot, and it was interesting to see why these events were selected and how the test will be conducted and how it is being received by the Soldiers.”

If people can get after their physical fitness goals at places like Atkins, the Ready and Resilient (R2) Performance Center can help them with their mental fitness.

“That includes goal setting, motivation, anxiety management, breathing techniques – all to improve performance,” said Laurie Korcz, a master resiliency performance expert. “It’s kind of like mental coaching.”

The R2 staff assists units, teams and individual Soldiers with all of the mental aspects of performance, whether they are preparing for weapons qualification, a Soldier of the Year board or a military competition, such as Best Ranger.

“We would find out what their specific needs are for what they are about to do,” she said. “So if it is a team going to a sniper competition, we would teach a skill like deliberate breathing in order to lower heart rate, which would affect their trigger squeeze. The benefits of practicing that skill is that it improves their accuracy (and) increases concentration, precision, motor control.”

Soldiers going to Ranger School will put their bodies through a lot of physical demands. One skill they can learn through the R2 Performance Center is thought intensification.

“The idea is to train your brain almost to detach itself from the physical fatigue and pain they might experience from 24-hour activity,” she said. “We talk about our program as being PT for the brain. These skills, like any physical training, requires practice to get better.”

Korcz said Soldiers tell her that a lot of their activity is half physical and half mental. She responds by saying if that is true, then Soldiers should spend just as much time training their minds as they do their bodies.

“If they say that 50 percent or 80 percent of their PT is physical, then why don’t we target that other 50 percent or 20 percent for mental training?” she said. “Soldiers on a ruck march will be tired and fatigued, but their legs can still move. It’s their minds that will give up before their bodies.”

Jim Delity, R2 Performance Center manager, said units that incorporate an effective resiliency program are more likely to have fewer Soldiers attending other programs to treat depression or substance abuse.

“We find that if you lay it out like that, people understand it better,” he said. “You’re spending the same amount of time with these Soldiers – do we want to do it in a preventative manner or do it in treatment where they are no longer deployable? We want to ensure that they stay on the healthy side.”

Additionally, Fort Drum Family Members can benefit from performance and resiliency services.

“A lot of times when Families have student-athletes – that is very much in line with our performance training,” he said. “The other aspect where we could benefit Family Members is on the academic performance side, where we can help those who are experiencing test anxiety, stress or maybe could use memorizing techniques.”

The R2 Performance Center is co-located with the Army Wellness Center in Bldg. 10550, 5th Armored Division Drive. For more information, call (315) 774-2321 or visit