CAMP ZAMA, Japan –
In observance of the global campaign known as One Health Week, Capt. Vernell McDonald demonstrated just how healthy he was by lifting more than half a ton of weight.
McDonald, the chief of Industrial Hygiene for Public Health Command – Pacific, was at the Yano Fitness Center here Nov. 4 to attempt the 1,100-Pound Challenge, in which he was required to lift that amount across three events. He successfully completed the challenge with a 275-pound bench press, a 395-pound squat and a 430-pound dead lift.
One Health Week, observed this year Nov. 1 through 6, began in 2018 as a way to address shared health threats at the human-animal-environmental interface. The U.S. Army Public Health Center sponsors One Health Week to provide flexible scheduling of One Health events at installations across the Army Public Health Enterprise.
The theme for this year’s observance was “One Health for a Bright Future,” which McDonald said is indicative of how the Army is working to move forward, be proactive and think ahead about ways to protect the health of Soldiers. McDonald trained for about a year to prepare for the challenge, and said he had a reason for specifically choosing to attempt the event.
“Doing the 1,100-Pound Challenge shows how to build up and maintain your personal readiness, but it also shows the proper techniques to prevent injury,” McDonald said. “Ergonomics is the science behind maintaining safety in the workplace, and as Soldiers, we have a variety of locations where our workplace can be at any given time.”
Injury prevention is critical in the military, McDonald said. Participating in and promoting One Health Week is a great way for Soldiers to create awareness for the prevention of injuries not related to combat wounds, known as “disease and non-battle injuries,” or DNBI, he added.
“One Health Week targets protecting the health of the force,” McDonald said. “If we can prevent illnesses related to non-combat wounds, we are maintaining readiness and increasing the capabilities of our force.”
As McDonald worked his way through the three events, there with him was a group of supporters from his unit, including Master Sgt. Juan Polanco, the noncommissioned officer in charge for PHC-P, Headquarters Japan. Polanco said McDonald leads from the front when it comes to his unit’s physical training every weekday morning. And having an officer in the formation who sets such a dedicated example is what can help other Soldiers take an interest in the One Health campaign, Polanco said.
“One Health has to have that strategic approach down to the tactical level—the doers,” Polanco said. “If your strategic leaders aren’t really focused on injury prevention, long-term gains, the readiness of the force, the training and program management ... we’re not going to be successful.”
Although the One Health campaign is tied closely to the missions of the Army’s medical, environmental and animal health units, Polanco stressed that any Soldier or Army team member can participate.
“One Health ... should be practiced by all [Army] communities,” Polanco said. “It can’t be something that’s isolated within the medical community because then our injury rates go up, our progress slows, and then the awareness goes nowhere. It should be something that envelops all community members.”
After completing the 1,100-Pound Challenge, McDonald had his photo taken and pinned it on a cork board on the wall in the Yano weight room, next to the few others who had completed the elite event. As his friends and co-workers congratulated him, McDonald said he hopes the One Health program will continue to benefit the rest of the Army—an outlook he will personally work to fulfill.
“I think One Health will continue to grow because when I leave Japan, I am taking this initiative with me to my next unit,” McDonald said. “To me, that shows initiative and it shows how important protecting the force is.”