JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
Once they complete basic training, Army medics receive an array of training to ensure they are ready to deploy around the world at a moment’s notice.
The new Gladiator program, which was initiated by the Soldiers in Training Physical Therapy Clinic at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, is designed to improve the physical readiness of Soldier medics throughout their training.
“Gladiator begins with initial screening by senior drill sergeants, identifying Soldiers who need a physical therapy evaluation for new or lingering injuries from Basic Combat Training,” said Army Maj. Nicole Brown, the officer in charge of Outpatient Physical Therapy at the Capt. Jennifer Moreno Clinic at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston. “Soldier medics are then either medically cleared or placed into the new Gladiator program where they take part in rehabilitative physical training.”
The training for Soldiers in rehabilitation can include pool therapy, standard physical therapy, and training designed to help them with the Army Combat Fitness Test. Since its inception, the 232nd Medical Battalion, the unit to which the medics are attached while in training, has seen an increased return to duty, increased on-time graduation rate and decreased medical evaluation boards.
“The treatment and care of these new Soldier medics are fully integrated with their training and takes place both in and out of the military training facility," said Army 1st Lt. Emily Whitby, OIC for the SIT Clinic. “The Gladiator program allows for Soldiers to participate in rehabilitative physical training without missing classroom time during their rigorous and fast-paced curriculum. Soldier medics take place in challenging physical training during Gladiator PT, all while rehabbing their injury and allowing for healing.”
Army Capt. Cristina DeHaas, the company commander for Soldiers in the Gladiator program at the 232nd Medical Battalion, said one of the challenges Gladiator program leaders faced was a shortage of personnel trained to ensure Soldiers who needed to be enrolled in the new program were properly screened and identified. Staff Sgt. Timothy McCoole, relocated to the Gladiator Program to work as the non-commissioned officer in charge. His experience as an Army physical therapy specialist was invaluable in the early days of the program. Since then, DeHaas said four additional drill sergeants have been recruited to the program because of their “knowledge and passion about sports medicine and overall fitness.”
“The program has relied on the support and partnerships with various installation resources,” DeHaas said. “The Vogel Resiliency Center and the JBSA Aquatic Center, in particular, have been instrumental in the success of our program. They have supplemented and provided the resources needed for our trainees; going so far as adjusting their schedules to accommodate our mission throughout the pandemic.”
Since the program started, nearly 300 Soldier medics have participated. More than 100 of those Soldiers have returned to full duty and graduated their training programs, and about 150 Soldiers are still in the program and going through their training at JBSA Fort Sam Houston. DeHaas said the program has saved the Army more than $8.5 million in lost training funds since the program began
“I am incredibly honored to command this program because we are making an impact on the lives of individual Soldiers as well as the Army as a whole,” DeHaas said.