Col. Christopher Witter, mission support group commander, 914th Air Refueling Wing, Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station in Upstate New York said, “You need to be mentally and physically fit to do the mission we do every day.”
He said this two years ago, during a groundbreaking ceremony for a new fitness center at the Reserve Station. This year, the center is being completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District. The new center will help keep Airman in top physical and mental shape so they can continue to fulfil their important mission for the nation.
The Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station is a U.S. Air Force Reserve Command military installation located up near the Canada-New York State boarder. Presently, there are over 1,700 personnel assigned to the station that include Active Guard Reserve, Active Reserve Technician, Traditional Reserve, DoD Civilian, and contracted 914th Air Refueling Wing personnel.
Second Lt. Lucas Morrow, 914th ARW public affairs officer said, “All Airman have the core mission, which is to train, perfect and provide full-spectrum rapid global mobility to the joint force, whenever, wherever.”
Michael W. Williams, 914th ARW Sustainment Chief said, “The new fitness facility is state of the art and incorporates all the latest in the fitness world. The direction of fitness in the military today is Functional Strength Training. Our new center will be the first fitness center in the Air Force Reserve Command to have an area totally dedicated to this training. This facility will allow our Airman to be ready to perform their mission whenever called upon.” Williams has been working on getting a new gym built at the Reserve Station for 25 years, so this is a huge achievement for him.
The station has a physical fitness center that was built in the 1950’s that is undersized and in poor condition. Jeremy Pagoada, Project Engineer, New York District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said, “There are significant deficiencies with the facility due to the aging and inefficient construction materials used, maintenance costs, and utility costs that will continue to be high and worsen with time.”
This old facility is being replaced with a modern one that will meet the physical and mental needs of today’s Airmen.
The new fitness center will be approximately 22,000 square feet in size and the one-story building will be 40 feet tall and will accommodate approximately 250 persons daily.
The center will be open all day, every day and will have a large asphalt parking lot to accommodate the times of the year when there is more Airman at the station, such as during training weekends.
The new fitness center will include a lobby, administration area, locker room and showers, and a fully trained staff that will help the military personnel meet their fitness needs.
Pagoada said, “The new fitness center will have an open concept that will allow plenty of space for strength and cardio fitness, group classes, a Functional Strength Training Room, and fitness equipment, including weight machines, free weights, dumbbells, cages and racks.”
There will be plenty of space for basketball, racquetball, and volleyball courts.
He added that there also will be greater flexibility for future reconfiguration. For example, the basketball court will have 6 retractable basketball goals and additional court lines that will allow the main court to be divided into two smaller courts and a retractable divider curtain will be planned for between the two smaller basketball courts.
In addition, the fitness center will be designed to meet the latest antiterrorism and force protection requirements for buildings and will be fully accessible for wounded vets and senior retirees.
The reserve knows that physical well-being goes hand in hand with mental well-being and the new fitness center will recognize this. Williams said, “We are reshaping the role of our exercise physiologist who will be working at the new fitness center. In this new role, the exercise physiologist will be working on the total well-being of all our military members. The new fitness center will provide a great opportunity to incorporate health and wellness into the day to day life of our Airmen.”
Pagoada added, “The Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station provides employment for thousands of military, and civilian personnel and is an integral part of the Niagara County community and surrounding communities in Western New York. The mission readiness of the 914th Air Refueling Wing is largely dependent on the health, fitness, and morale of assigned Reserve and civilian employees. A properly sized and efficiently configured physical fitness center is essential to improve all of these attributes.”
Dr. JoAnne Castagna is a Public Affairs Specialist and Writer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Improving Mental Health
According to psychological and physical fitness experts at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, the fitness center will benefit the Airman and the community.
Paul Hackett, Exercise Physiologist, 914th Airlift Wing, Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station said, “According to the Mayo Clinic, doing 30 minutes or more of exercise a day for three to five days a week may significantly improve depression or anxiety symptoms. Regular exercise may help ease depression and anxiety by releasing feel-good endorphins, natural cannabis-like brain chemicals (endogenous cannabinoids) and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being. Also, regular exercise can take your mind off of your worries so you can get away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression and anxiety.”
Dan Norton, Director of Psychological Health, 914th Airlift Wing, Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station added, “I encourage my clients, especially those who are anxious and depressed to go to the fitness center. He added, “There is much evidence that shows exercise helps with anxiety and depression. According to an article in Psychosomatic Medicine (2007), the mood-exercise connection was studied through a series of randomized controlled trials. In one study, sedentary adults with major depressive disorder were assigned to one of four groups: supervised exercise, home-based exercise, antidepressant therapy or a placebo pill. After four months of treatment, it was found that patients in the exercise and antidepressant groups had higher rates of remission than did the patients on the placebo. It was concluded that exercise was generally comparable to antidepressants for patients with major depressive disorder.”