Army's Wellness Center at Carlisle Barracks opens doors to military retirees, others with valid military IDIn this age of benefit cuts, the Army at Carlisle Barracks will begin offering a new free benefit on Monday to anyone in the midstate with a valid military identification card. Military retirees and their families, National Guard and Reserve members and their families, and Department of Defense civilians all can use the Army Wellness Center, just inside the post’s main entrance off North Hanover Street in Carlisle. The key word is Wellness.
The Army is embracing the same concept of wellness to prevent disease — and cut costs — that the corporate world and other parts of government have been on to for years now, said Col. Stephanie Wilcher, director of the Dunham Army Health Clinic at Carlisle Barracks. But instead of limiting the center to the active Army soldiers who live on the post and their families, the Army is taking the big-tent approach.
The midstate has a boatload of people who carry some form of military ID, besides those on active duty.
Barracks and U.S. Army War College spokeswoman Carol Kerr said an estimated 51,000 military retirees live in Pennsylvania. Several thousands call the midstate home and already depend on the post to buy their food at the commissary and everything else at the Post Exchange.
Now, the wellness center will give them more reasons to come, such as biofeedback, stress reduction and learning how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and keep the pounds off by eating and exercising right.
Wilcher said folks don’t already have to be enrolled in the military’s health care system — known as Tricare — or be registered with the Veterans Administration to use the center. All they need is that military ID card, and an appointment. The center won’t accept walk-ins.
Carlisle Barracks is just the third Army post in the country to get a wellness center, after Fort Bragg, N.C., and Fort Hood, Texas, where the centers opened in 2011. Center Director Cory Erhard, one of six civilians staffing the North Middleton Twp. center, said the Army plans to eventually locate wellness centers on all major active Army installations nationwide, including Fort Meade, Md. The goal is a consistent standard of wellness no matter where a soldier and his or her family is stationed, he said. The center’s outreach will extend beyond serving the ID-card carrying community outside the post. Erhard said a mobile version of the center will offer screenings and services to students at Cumberland-Perry Vocational Technical School. The school was chosen because it takes in students from a cross-section of area school districts. Kerr said the Army picked Carlisle Barracks to be among the first posts to get a center because the Army’s future leaders are here, referring to the U.S. Army War College students who spend a year at Carlisle Barracks to prepare for assignments higher up the Pentagon ladder.
The center is a welcomed addition, in contrast to the threat the barracks and the Army War College have been living under for the past few years due to Pentagon budget cuts. The Army Physical Fitness Institute — similar in concept to the wellness center but not open to people outside the post — was eliminated and three other institutes downsized. Pentagon budget-cutters proposed closing the Army Heritage and Education Center and moving it to the Washington, D.C., area, but that plan appears to have been abandoned for now and center funding remains intact. “It’s definitely an investment in the Army War College and Carlisle Barracks,” Kerr said of the center. “I think our future looks bright.”
If you go
WHAT: Army Wellness Center at Carlisle Barracks
WHEN: Opens Monday
HOURS: 6:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday
PROGRAMS: Health assessment reviews, development of individual physical fitness programs, nutrition counseling and education, stress management, tobacco cessation and overall wellness education
INFO: To schedule an appointment, call 245-4004.