Health award stays with Okinawa's Semper Fit program

by Lance Cpl. Peter Sanders
U.S. Marine Corps

CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan – Okinawa’s Semper Fit health promotion program earned the Blue-H Surgeon General’s Health Promotion and Wellness gold star award in May for the third consecutive year.

The award promotes the creation of and participation in health programs within Navy and Marine Corps installations. The Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center maintains the annual award, which units earn in Fleet, Medical or Semper Fit categories.

Earning the award for Semper Fit solidifies the creative, hard work that organizers and participants are already aware of, according to Bert Griffith, a retired Air Force medical services officer and chief of Semper Fit, Health Promotion office, Marine Corps Community Services Okinawa.

“We don’t plan our programs intending to win any award – I think the award is a testament to the work everyone does every day,” said Griffith, a Brooklyn, New York, native. “We plan our programs to have the most impact on the participants. The award is a push when we need a little extra.”

Okinawa earned its spot on top of the list by offering a wide variety of services, including maintaining gym facilities, providing a variety of fitness classes, and health programs such as the body composition program, which are offered throughout the year, according to Griffith. This makes it a vital participant in the military’s mission.

“You can’t win the Blue-H the last month of the year,” said Griffith. “We have to maintain positive impact year-round.”

Semper Fit’s focus on functional fitness, all-around well-being and positive morale also helped win the award, according to Mami Andrew, a yoga instructor with MCCS.

“Health is more than strength training,” said Andrew. “We teach people how to build their minds, spirits and bodies, so that they can have more than just strong muscles.”

MCCS-run health services like Semper Fit are important for all Marines to participate in, according to Greg N. Hammond, the health and wellness director for MCCS Okinawa’s Semper Fit.

“Semper Fit is a program the commandant stresses to ensure Marines and their families have the highest quality health, fitness and recreation programs available to them,” said Hammond, an Augusta, Georgia, native. “We stay motivated by our love of fitness. Whether or not it’s mandatory is irrelevant to us because of this devotion.”

Effective Semper Fit programs are neither an accident nor an independent act, according to Hammond.

“We tailor our programs based on the needs of each individual camp,” said Hammond. “It does no good to have events and programs Marines are forced to attend. We involve the (service members) and their families, so that each camp has a set of programs they want, need and can use.”

Regardless of awards, the staff will continue to do what they love, providing successful health strategies to service members, status of forces agreement personnel and local community members with base access, according to Andrew.

“At the end of the day, it’s about heart,” said Andrew. “We live, eat and breathe what we teach, and we hope everyone who participates will pick up on and perpetuate it in their daily lives.”

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