By: Jess Silvaggio
Columbia's Fort Jackson recently started the "Fueling Soldiers" nutrition program. It's just one part of a three-part series of the army's Soldier Athlete Initiative to better prepare troops for combat.
The most obvious change at the US Army's largest basic training facility is the "Go for Green" labeling system. There are the red, yellow and green cards on every food choice in the cafeteria. High performance food choices have green cards, moderate performance enhancing foods have yellow cards, and performance limiting choices are labeled with a red card.
Lieutenant Colonel Sonya Cable is head of the program at Fort Jackson.
"We've got a group of individuals coming into the training environment and they've been used to a certain way of eating and operating, but it is not the way that they need to be preparing themselves to be a soldier athlete," says Lt. Col. Cable.
The army decided to implement a program that would better prepare recruits for physical readiness training with better information on nutrition. Lt. Col Cable says the military is treating the soldier as an athlete to prepare them for basic training or their first assignment.
The army says research shows the physical fitness capacity and nutritional habits of youth in the United States are on the decline. The report noted army trainee injury rates have risen over the last six years and much of the problems were from poor nutrition and low levels of physical activity.
The report noted injuries like stress fractures are associated with excessive body fat and weight, an increased sedentary lifestyle, and a lack of physical conditioning.
New recruits PFC Donald Fru came into basic training weighing 250 pounds. He has been training for two months and says he can already tell a difference.
"I think the food I am eating here is really nutritious for my body," said Fru.
Soldiers in basic training eat at the base three times a day for six weeks so the cafeteria staff takes pride in ordering the best quality food to help fuel them.
Cafeteria manager Rosa Robinson has been working at Fort Jackson for 15 years. She knows first hand how important healthy eating is for soldiers as she has two former soldiers at home, her son and her husband.
"Our soldiers are the ones out there on the forefront so we have to make sure their bodies are not full of sugar, and that they are making the right food choices," says Robinson.
Lt. Col. Cable also said the "Go for Green" labeling system and the Army's Physical Readiness Training should optimize the soldiers' performances and translate into better preparation for the battlefield.