Emerging from more than two years of pandemic precautions, Fort Belvoir’s Armed Forces Wellness Center has been helping thousands stay fit and resilient, said Nicole Leth, the center’s director, on the occasion of its first anniversary May 18.

While the Army maintains dozens of wellness centers, this is the first to be branded as an Armed Forces Wellness Center and treat service members from all branches, as well as military families and government civilians.

The center can provide assistance with meal planning, advice on safely losing or gaining weight, or help increasing muscle mass and core strength, Leth said. Injuries are significant across the armed forces, and her teammates have the expertise and skills to help individuals build a customized fitness plan.

Col. Joshua SeGraves, Fort Belvoir Garrison commander, said the team encourages each participant with boundless positivity.

“Positivity doesn’t mean that things are always great, but what it really means is that we collectively demonstrate and develop this growth mindset, so that when things aren’t great, we can continue to move forward,” SeGraves said.

He added that it’s important not to lose sight of the importance of serving each other. “It’s about servant leadership: We’re making each other better. And we’re doing good things.”

SeGraves noted that major companies spend thousands of dollars per employee to provide the types of benefits offered at the Wellness Center, because of the long-lasting changes that can result in health and morale.

Capt. Saira Aslam, Fort Belvoir Community Hospital’s chief of staff, spoke at the event on behalf of Col. Kathleen Spangler, the hospital’s director. She noted that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is not just a team effort, but one with a holistic objective.

“The Armed Forces Wellness Center reminds us that health care is far more than just treating the physical; it’s really about the total force fitness that integrates every aspect of the mind, body and spirit, discovering and maintaining new ways to promote performance, readiness and overall wellness,” Aslam said.

She added that the wellness center team has seen over 3,600 individuals in the past year.

“The Wellness Center is a shining example of how effective engaging people can be. They bring ideas of wellness into places where they live, work and relax,” Aslam said. “They’ve provided evidence-based primary prevention programs designed to promote and sustain healthy lifestyles, to improve the overall well-being of active duty servicemembers and their families and the Department of Defense civilians and retirees.”

Leth said her multidisciplinary staff’s ability to tailor diet, exercise and mental health guidelines for each attendee has a profound effect.

“The personalized, one-on-one appointments quite literally change people’s lives every day,” Leth said. “What you do is so vital to this mission and taking care of our family members and civilians and retirees and I just can’t say ‘thank you’ enough.”

Paul Lara covers the military beat. Reach him at plara@insidenova.com

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