The West Virginia National Guard added another layer to its newly re-worked fitness program this year by bringing a full-time dietitian to the Medical Detachment staff, the first position of its kind in the National Guard.
The position of dietitian, or 65C, has always been an active duty component military occupational specialty, until recently.
West Virginia Army National Guard (WVARNG) Command Sgt. Maj. James Allen was looking for outside the box ways to increase the readiness of the force through overall health and wellness changes, when he discovered the ability to allow the assignment of a clinical dietitian to the WVARNG Medical Detachment upon approval from the National Guard Bureau.
West Virginia Army National Guard 1st Lt.. Jeremy Mullins was brought on the fill the newly established role after having worked with WVNG Tactical Fitness and Nutrition Training (TFNT) program as the health and wellness coach since September 2015.
As a dietitian, Mullins counsels service members on diet plans and exercise techniques after screening for individual needs.
He helps service members set realistic goals by creating menus that coincide with their nutritional requirements based on meeting height and weight standards.
With the extremely high costs of recruiting and training new personnel, as well as the intangible experience and leadership lost when members are ineligible to reenlist or extend their service due to fitness or weight control issues, retention and the maintenance of a fit and ready force is an ever-present challenge throughout the ranks.
Through the TFNT program with the help of Mullins in the dietitian role, the Soldiers and Airmen in the WVNG are able to improve their long-term readiness, and that of the whole WVNG force, through comprehensive education on physical fitness, nutrition, lifestyle improvement and personal accountability.
“We have already seen success from having 1st Lt. Mullins on board through Soldiers and Airmen who have made huge changes in their life styles,” Allen said. “Some have lost as much as 50-80 pounds of weight, meeting the Army standards, enabling them to continue to service in the WVNG, and providing them the tools for success in fitness and nutrition throughout their career.”
Mullins coordinates exercise plans and develops and monitors an integrated social media outlet for service members that spotlights techniques that have proven useful in the military community.
“The biggest buy-in for me came after the first Fit Camp [TFNT],” Mullins recalled. “I got a message from a Soldier along the lines of ‘I appreciate your time and your effort. You basically saved my life and changed the way I think about this.’ That Soldier has now gone on to a promotion after having served as part of the cadre for the fit camp. That was my true emotional buy in to the whole program.”
Mullins said he is honored to be placed in such a position of responsibility and looks forward to being a useful asset to individual Soldiers and to the well-being of the Guard overall in his new role.