Fort Hood began opening its gyms to active duty Soldiers Monday, 12 weeks after they closed due to heightened safety measures in response to COVID-19.

Waiting anxiously for the Harvey Functional Fitness Center to open were Sgt. Brandon Wicks and Sgt. Michael Dandrea, who arrived at 4:45 a.m., 15 minutes before opening. The two sergeants from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade, said they have been trying to stay in shape, while preparing for the upcoming Army Combat Fitness Test, by using the III Corps track and obstacle courses. Although he said he was “in pain” following his workout Monday, Dandrea maxed his bench press.

“It’s been a slow process trying to bring back the gyms safely,” Dr. Peter Craig, director of the Fort Hood’s Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare & Recreation, explained. “We limited it to active duty only to start, to try to support mission readiness.”

Craig said they are starting by opening three gyms at 25% capacity, along with three times the number of employees, so they can monitor how much the facilities are being used, as well as how much cleaning and sanitizing it will take.

“As we open and as we figure out how to keep everything clean, we’re gonna open more,” Craig promised. “It’s not a day, it’s not a week, it’s probably over the next two to three months.”

He said his decisions will be made based on how things look medically. As hospitals begin to see dramatic decreases in the number of people infected with the virus, they will begin increasing the number of open gyms, as well as increasing the capacity.

Staff Sgt. Cheddy Emile, 1st Battalion, 7th Cav. Regiment, said he is enjoying the last few days of workout time at the gym, before others realize the facility is open. The 1st Cav. Division Soldier said he doesn’t have weights at home, so he was trying to stay in shape by running when the gyms were closed.

Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Jurewicz, 181st Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense Company, 2nd CBRN Battalion, agreed, saying there’s only so much Soldiers can do without the right equipment.

“You can only do so much with your own body weight if you want to get stronger,” Jurewicz said. “I kept up in one area, but got weaker in another.”

Spc. Taylor Osborne, 499th Head and Neck Detachment, 11th Field Hospital, 1st Medical Bde., said he has been trying to do everything he can to stay in shape by using body weight workouts and going to the track to run.

“I think it’s about time (the gyms opened), considering the transition from the APFT to the ACFT,” Osborne said. “It’s definitely part of our functional training, to prepare us for that.”

Harvey FFC, Starker FFC and the West Fort Hood Gym are open from 5-9 a.m. and 4-8 p.m., Monday to Friday. The facilities are open, at limited capacity, to active duty only. The locker rooms, saunas and showers are closed. If distance cannot be maintained inside the facility, a face mask is required. Harvey FFC can be reached at 254-287-0195, Starker FFC can be reached at 254-287-9639 and West Fort Hood Gym can be reached at 254-553-2010.

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