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Jacob Wiegand, KSL

Utah National Guard soldiers healthiest in the country, report says

By Jasen Lee, KSL | Posted - Jan 21st, 2019 @ 4:00pm

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SALT LAKE CITY — A new military report shows that Utah citizen soldiers are the healthiest in the nation.

The 2018 Health of the (National Guard) Force report focuses on measuring various factors that can affect mission readiness for soldiers in Army National Guard units throughout America and its territories.

The Army National Guard Health Index ranking by state and territory found the Beehive State in the top spot above Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, South Dakota and Wisconsin in the top five. Utah also ranked first in dental readiness and second in medical readiness, just behind West Virginia, according to the report.

"Our noncommissioned officers especially have made a push to really improve on our physical and medical readiness," said Maj. D.J. Gibb, public affairs specialist for the Utah National Guard. While Utah has both Army National Guard soldiers and Air National Guard airmen, this report was specific to Army National Guard personnel, he noted.

"We place special emphasis in all of our training exercises and all of our focus on readiness for soldiers to be medically and physically ready to deploy," he said.

He said the report offers insights into how Utah trains soldiers for military success "because of our mental and physical readiness."

"It says a lot about, not just our organization, but also the people of Utah," Gibb said. "We rank high on a lot of parameters because of the people of Utah and the way they raise their kids."

"We're in a rich environment for recruiting based on our population of 3 million people," he said. "We have a very strong military presence because people are willing to serve and make the sacrifices they need to be ready to deploy and accomplish those (military) missions."

The report relied on administrative data collected and maintained independently by the Army National Guard and on self-reported information collected through the Periodic Health Assessment during the annual soldier medical exam.

Individual soldier medical readiness is critical to building and maintaining the Army National Guard as an operational force that is warfighting-capable and governor-responsive, said Lt. Gen. Timothy Kadavy, U.S. Army director, Army National Guard. As part of the U.S. Army Public Health Center’s ongoing Health of the Force series, the report highlights key health metrics about soldiers. He said understanding the statistics allows the military to recognize what is being done well and where they need to focus on to achieve "total health and total readiness."

"As citizen soldiers, our personnel live and work in every aspect of their communities," Kadavy said. "The (Army National Guard) must be ready when called upon to defend our nation both at home and abroad."

"As leaders, we must continue to maintain our physical and mental fitness," he said. Maximum readiness means increased attendance at annual training, attendance at schools, promotion, career progression impacts, increased retention rates, lower costs associated with disabilities, and better health for the overall Army National Guard community, he added.

Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to the Air National Guard. The report references Army National Guard readiness.

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