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Ellis: ‘We are not your father’s Army’

By Richard Doty


Four keys to a healthy lifestyle for the Army— and all Americans— were outlined by Gen. Larry Ellis in a talk at IU Bloomington last week.

Ellis, who holds a master’s degree in physical education from the IU School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, discussed “Leadership and Living Well through Healthy Lifestyles” as this year’s Marian Godeke Miller Lecturer. 

The four-star general named the four keys: physical training, weight control, comprehensive medical care and reduction of health risks.

“We are not your father’s Army,” he said throughout his speech, noting that personal fitness has become a high priority as “the root of well-being for today’s soldiers.” 

“Physical training is the foundation of all we do in the Army,” he said, and training starts for Ellis with an hour of exercise at 5 a.m. each day. “Soldiers with a deep sense of well-being will have the confidence and motivation to succeed. It’s all about readiness,” he said. Soldiers need to pass physical training tests twice a year to maintain fitness, which reflects the priority of physical training in today’s Army, he added.

As commanding officer of the U.S. Army Forces Command, Ellis is in charge of all soldiers in the continental United States—a force of several hundred thousand people. His duties include the physical readiness of American soldiers. 

The 34-year Army veteran said weight control is carefully monitored by Army leaders. He said soldiers today cannot receive awards or promotions if they are not fit. The Army also places a major emphasis on comprehensive medical and dental care for soldiers, and that concerns over risky health habits address tobacco, alcohol and drug abuse. All workplace sites and buildings in the Army are smoke free and “happy hours” are no longer offered (which helps control alcohol consumption). Ellis also said the Army is leading the way in drug testing, with soldiers subject to checks three times a year at any time.

“Our soldiers must be healthy and fit to perform, and the bottom line goes back to readiness,” he said, noting temperature extremes in Afghanistan and other locations where soldiers are stationed can vary from higher than 100 degrees to sub-zero.

He mentioned that one of the greatest benefits he received from his studies at IU was a positive attitude toward health and fitness that has lasted throughout his lifetime. He attended IU through a partnership with the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in preparation for duties as a physical training officer.

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Publication date: January 31, 2003
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