AWC assessment wb.jpg

AWC Building wb.jpgKale Panetti, a health educator at the Fort Drum Army Wellness Center, administers a VO2 max assessment that tells clients how well their muscles use oxygen. Metabolic testing is just one of the many free services offered for Fort Drum community members. The Fort Drum Army Wellness Center offers a variety of free services and classes for 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldiers, Family Members, retirees and DoD civilian employees. (Photos by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)


Fort Drum Army Wellness Center staff offers
free services to build a healthier workforce


Mike Strasser

Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs


FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Oct. 9, 2019) – All members of the Army profession – Soldiers and civilians alike – are susceptible to health and wellness issues that can negatively impact job performance. It could be difficulty with weight management, a sleep disorder, stress or physical fitness.

Fortunately, no one has to face it alone. The Army Wellness Center (AWC) at Fort Drum provides a variety of free services to assist all members of the community with their personal goals.

This includes Department of the Army civilian employees, which makes up roughly two percent of AWC clientele. Ramie said that the staff has worked hard to increase the number of Family Members who use their services, and now their focus is on the workforce.

“We all have responsibilities as civilians who work with Soldiers and their Family Members to do our best for them,” said Chris Ramie, Fort Drum AWC manager. “So, our being physically healthy is important, because our jobs tie in directly with the readiness of our force.”

Ramie said that workplace wellness initiatives in the civilian sector became the trend because of the rising cost of health insurance and the number of missed work days.

“Corporations offering wellness initiatives really took off in the last 10 years, and some offer fitness facilities on site for staff to encourage them to be healthy,” he said. “In the long run, it helps the business out.”

Ramie said that Army Wellness Centers and the Civilian Fitness Program were established for the same reason.

“The Army understood that allowing employees to improve their health and wellness will benefit the entire force in the long run,” he said. “They’re going to be more productive, less sick, and they’re going to miss less time at work.”

Ramie said that the biggest hurdle for most people is just scheduling an appointment that fits within their work week. The center opens at 7 a.m. Monday through Friday, and closes at 4 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and 2:30 p.m. on Thursday. He said that they extended their hours until 6 p.m. on Tuesdays, specifically to accommodate civilian employees.

“That was the goal; by us staying open later on Tuesday, we were hoping our civilian workforce would find the opportunity to come and see us,” Ramie said.

Some of the services the AWC offers uses state-of-the-art equipment to provide clients with full body composition analysis, an aerobic fitness test and a stress management / biofeedback session. Ramie said it’s easy, fast and – most importantly – accurate. But sometimes people aren’t prepared to hear the results.

“I tell people all the time that you might not like what you learn, but you’re here and that’s all that matters,” he said. “Let’s look at all the numbers and then start building a plan where you’re going to start feeling better. It’s about the process and the journey.”

The AWC also has a monthly class schedule so clients can learn how to use their test results to achieve personal health goals. The AWC staff posts their monthly class schedule at

Jan Dawson, Fort Drum MEDDAC Information Management Division, first visited an Army Wellness Center while stationed in Landstuhl, Germany. She was interested in learning her test results but had no intention at the time of developing any health or fitness program out of it.

Today, she is enrolled in the Civilian Fitness Program and is using the Army Wellness Center to track her efforts.

“Time is something that I lack,” Dawson said. “Right now, my husband is in Poland and my son has something going on every single day of the week, except Friday. So between juggling work and home, if they are going to allow me to take some time out of my work day for fitness, I’m going to take advantage of that.”

The Civilian Fitness Program grants DoD civilians three hours of on-post exercise time per week for six months. To enroll in the program, participants must complete a health assessment at the Army Wellness Center and follow up with a post-assessment at the end of the program.

“I told myself that if I was going to use that program, then I was going to keep going to the Army Wellness Center,” she said. “I want to show that there was progress, and this is not taking away time from work for nothing.”

Dawson said that she wasn’t seeing the progress on her bathroom scale, but it was evident in the AWC’s BodPod, which accurately measure body composition.

“My biggest thing is that when I work out I focus on weight training, in lieu of cardio,” she said. “But when I do that, I don’t necessarily lose weight. That showed up when in the BodPod test – I wasn’t losing weight, but I was losing body fat and gaining the weight back in muscle.”

The results of her first BodPod test indicated that she lost nearly four percent body fat. The next time, her results showed further improvement. She talked with Hanson about modifying her eating habits and increasing her fitness training.

“The things I’m doing on my own in conjunction with what they offer at the Army Wellness Center has helped me stay on track,” she said. “I want to show that the program does work, if you take advantage of it and do the right thing.”

Jody Hanson, AWC health educator, said that clients like Dawson succeed in their goals because of their determination.

“I think just the fact that she is consistent is key to her success,” she said. “We talk about those ‘life happens’ moments where there are setbacks. She is very good at working through those, and she still finds time to come in and check on her results.”

Dawson said that her 8-year-old son is her motivation to stay physically fit.

“Honestly, the reason I started this program is because of my little boy,” she said. “He’s into so much now that I want to have the energy to keep up with him. It’s a combination of things – wanting to stay busy, do something positive and just improve myself.”

Hanson said that amazing “before and after” photos don’t happen overnight, and that people sometimes get discouraged by slow progress. She said that Dawson is an example of someone who puts in the time and effort, and she is committed to achieving long-term health goals.

“She has seen the results that everyone wants – she’s lost weight, lost body fat, lost inches,” she said. “I’ve seen her at the gym, putting in the effort, and she’s adapted her schedule so she can reach her goals.”

Dawson said that the numbers don’t mean as much to her as the fact that she has been able to create a healthier lifestyle.

“I definitely feel better now than I had before,” she said. “I think what I’m most proud of is sticking with the workouts – I might have cut back a little, but I am still working out as much as I can. Last week, I was able to get on the treadmill and run at a 10-minute mile pace. That’s something I haven’t been able to do for a long time, and I felt good while doing it.”

Ramie said that the AWC will continue reaching out to community members about their programs, and they can frequently be found at local health fairs, community expos, in-processing briefings and other events.

“Basically, our message has always been that everyone has to start somewhere,” he said. “We want to help people develop healthy lifestyle changes that will create long-term success.”

To learn more about the Fort Drum AWC, call (315) 772-4608 or visit

Civilian employees can enroll in the Civilian Fitness Program through the Army Substance Abuse Program, with pre- and post-assessments scheduled at the AWC.

For more information about the Fort Drum Civilian Fitness Program, call (315) 772-2597.