Photo by Regional Health Command Europe
Photo by Regional Health Command Europe

Mission Cobra: Commit to Fit

by Alain M. Polynice
Regional Health Command Europe

HOHENFELS, Germany – The staff of the U.S. Army Health Clinic Hohenfels, also known by their nickname, Cobras, pride themselves as an organization leading the way. The Cobras are once again leading the way as they embark on a new mission that entails getting healthy and physically fit, for themselves and for their community.

March 1, 2019 officially kicked off the start of Mission Cobra: Commit to Fit for the Hohenfels clinic.

Mission Cobra is an employee get fit – weight loss program and competition. The idea came about as a way for clinic staff members to challenge themselves on being healthy and physically fit – commit to fit – while at the same time aiding those looking to shed some pounds in their weight loss journey.

“We want to be an example to the community,” said Emily Hobgood, AHC Hohenfels immunization nurse and occupational health facilitator.

Hobgood, a native of Bremerton, Washington, cited how soldier readiness and being physically fit is paramount for the military to be combat-effective and ready, and it only made sense the people entrusted to provide medical care to these soldiers should also be healthy and physically fit as well.

“We are Hohenfels clinic,” Hobgood said. “We are setting the example for the community. We might not be perfect, but we are a work in progress.”

Currently the Army has wellness and fitness programs already in place for those wanting to engage in a regular program of exercise and in other positive health habits. One of those programs is the Army Civilian Wellness Program: intended to encourage civilian employees to improve readiness, resilience and health by influencing optimal performance through positive sleep, activity and nutrition behaviors; and supporting healthy working environments.

While there are some similarities with the civilian wellness program and Mission Cobra, the differences in the two make Mission Cobra more appealing to the Hohenfels clinic staff’s commitment to being fit.

“With the civilian wellness program, the policy does not apply to our local nationals,” said Matau Masaga, community health nurse for AHC Hohenfels. “We started the employee fitness program so we could include them. We wanted to make sure it was open to all staff.”

Masaga and Hobgood worked together on developing Mission Cobra into the competition-type format that it is, while making participation open to all staff: civilians, local nationals and military service members.

“We wanted something all-inclusive for the clinic and that’s where the Mission Cobra part came in,” said Hobgood.

Military service members are already required to conduct physical training to maintain soldier readiness. Mission Cobra offers them an additional opportunity to get more physical fitness to maintain soldier readiness.

The main difference between the civilian wellness program and Mission Cobra is that Mission Cobra is not conducted during duty hours. With the civilian wellness program, subject to mission requirements, commanders or supervisors may approve up to three hours of administrative leave per week for civilian staff members to participate in a command-sponsored formal training program. Mission Cobra is conducted during non-duty hours.

“We call it ‘your race, your pace,’” said Masaga, a native of the American Samoa. “You do it on your own time. The program happens when it is convenient for the individual. We all have different schedules, so it is pretty much on your own time.”

There are a total of 19 clinic staff members participating in the competition. Each participant finds different ways to commit to being fit. They are able to choose the activities or processes that will work for them in order to lose the weight and win the competition. Winners are determined by percentage body weight lost as opposed to pound loss.

“We give each other encouragement,” Hobgood noted. “It’s important to know that you can fall back down and you can get back up. It’s a lifelong commitment.”

The nearly six-month competition ends August 14, 2019 with the final weigh-in conducted that day. The winners will be announced the next day.

“We wanted to make sure that [the competition] was a long period of time,” explained Hobgood. “We wanted to promote healthy weight loss and focus more on health goals then just percentage of weight loss. So we really wanted to make sure it was five to six months long so that habits can change and that they can have a supportive environment.”

Chances are if Mission Cobra proves to be successful, Masaga and Hobgood are not ruling out a possibility of Mission Cobra II from occurring.

“We would love to have it as a yearly thing,” said Hobgood. “We [would] run this program six months at a time. Hopefully we can have more enrollment next time.”

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