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CHIPS Articles: Lisa Sexauer

Lisa Sexauer
Fitness, sports and deployed forces support program manager
By CHIPS Magazine - October-December 2012
The goal of the Navy fitness program is to create "Fitness for Life" for the entire Navy population, including active-duty Sailors, family members, retirees and Defense Department civilians. The fitness program maximizes the fun factor via a variety of health, nutrition and fitness resources. Participation is designed to be an enjoyable, as well as a healthy lifestyle choice through aquatic and intramural sports programs that enhance the readiness, retention and quality of life of the entire Navy family. MWR’s Deployed Forces Support Program boosts the quality of life for more than 180,000 Sailors and Marines at sea and forward-deployed Navy ground forces. Sports, recreational programs, physical fitness equipment, social activities (parties/picnics), tours, subsidies/rebates and gear locker checkout are just a few of the morale-enhancing opportunities offered.

Deployed Forces Support coordinators (DFSCs) are located at major fleet concentration areas throughout the world, and assist ships and forward-deployed ground forces with programming, financial management, recreation administration, procurement and property management. Coordinators are civilian recreation and fitness professionals exclusively dedicated to supporting the MWR needs of the fleet and forward-deployed ground forces.

The Navy’s MWR Civilian Afloat Program is comprised of afloat fitness (fit boss) and recreation specialists (fun boss) who serve aboard aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships and tenders. Fit and fun bosses work together in providing fitness and recreation programs for shipboard Sailors.

CHIPS asked Ms. Lisa Sexauer, fitness, sports and deployed forces support program manager for Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC), to talk about the Navy’s fitness program in August.

Q: You must have one of the best jobs in the Navy. Can you talk about what you do?

A: The beauty of my job is that it is different every day. Working from HQ means everything from enlisting the expertise of our field to create large, impactful programs to soliciting and advocating for funding, thus ensuring our field [staff] have everything they need to serve their customers effectively. While sometimes initiatives take quite a while to roll out, the payoff in the end is worth it.

The fact is, this group of programs touches the lives of all those instrumental in operating the world’s greatest Navy, and it is powered by the world’s finest quality of life staff, at all levels. I am blown away by their dedication, work ethic and commitment. CNIC and Navy MWR is a collection of some of the finest people I know, and it has been amazing to work alongside each one of them. The opportunity to be involved in all of it is humbling and exciting!

Q: The Deployed Forces Support Program sounds like a great way to help service members reduce stress. Is there a method for measuring if the program is working? How do service members find out about the program?

A: Program measurement when it comes to quality of life programs is challenging. The most effective way to do so is to offer it to a group of individuals and to not offer to another group, and I am not sure the Navy is willing to do that. In a recent survey conducted at the OSD level, the Navy’s Fitness and Deployed Forces Support programs rated the highest of all the services when it comes to customer satisfaction. Most importantly, most of our customers agree both programs enhance readiness and retention.

The challenge for Navy is delivering seamless programs from the shore to the sea. Essentially, we have to deliver programs at all shore installations and aboard the Navy’s operational platforms. After all, Sailors are deployed during times of war and peace on a regular basis. Thus, the demand for support is tremendous for Navy, and we manage to meet the needs in both environments with a lower cost per Sailor than any other service. That is an amazing accomplishment!

Q: Where did the idea of a fun boss and fit boss serving on ships come from? What do they do?

A: Our fun and fit bosses serve as recreation (fun) and fitness (fit) directors aboard our large decks (carriers and large deck amphibs). Essentially, they provide all programming while at sea and coordinate all recreational activities during port visits. Fun bosses ensure that Sailors and all embarked units have opportunities for recreational stress relief. This may include anything from tournaments of all kinds, karaoke nights, talent shows, to coordinating trips and tours while in port. Fit bosses manage the fitness spaces aboard the ship, conduct a dynamic group exercise program, provide health and wellness training opportunities, support the physical readiness program and ensure all equipment is maintained in good working order.

Collectively, these two positions impact the lives of more than 100,000 Sailors and Marines. Since January 2012, over 4,700 recreational events were conducted with a total participation of 290,000. Additionally, there have been over 5,000 fitness events with a total participation of 66,899 and 3,500 preventative maintenance hours logged. This does not include those ships currently at sea as communication is difficult while they are underway. It blows my mind that all of this was accomplished by a staff of 35 people. I am not sure we could find a harder working group of people anywhere.

Afloat recreation positions began in the mid-80s and fit bosses were added in the late 1990s. I am not sure who inspired the stand up of the program as a whole, but it was taken in by HQ in 2000 to better standardize the program. It has evolved into one of our flagship programs as it provides for service members at the tip of the spear, where they need it most.

Q: Why did the Navy develop the Total Force Fitness concept and what does it include? Who was involved in the development and how do you get feedback from service members?

A: TFF is a policy signed out by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen. It is a comprehensive approach to wellness and is inclusive of much more than the physical aspects of wellness. Initially, Adm. Mullen challenged the military’s health and wellness experts to develop a total wellness program model, or in this case, [a] Total Force Fitness model (see Figure 1) that captures everything that impacts the readiness of an individual. The model includes spiritual, environmental, [and] physical among other wellness influencers. I think Adm. Mullen described it well in 2010:

"As I see it, readiness is all about being capable of being able to accomplish something you are called to do. The combination of these components is a 'state of being.' From this state, individuals must be capable 'to accomplish something they are called to do,' not just pass a PRT test twice per year."

In regard to feedback from the active duty population, I am not sure that they see all the components as a collective program. Rather, it is our responsibility as health and wellness professionals to ensure the Total Force has adequate resources in each of the TFF model areas to aid them in attaining and sustaining readiness at the highest level possible.

It is important to note that many programs and commands play a very important role in delivering programs and services that will complete the model for Navy. We are just one piece to the puzzle.

Q: The Fitness, Sports and Deployed Forces Support website ( is a helpful resource in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I like the exercise demos and recipes.

A: The website provides information in each of our program areas, a one-stop shop, if you will. Sailors can gather information about the All Navy Sports program to include application procedures, upcoming sports participation opportunities and past results from All Armed Forces and CISM (multisport military world games Conseil International du Sport Militaire) events. Afloat commands can connect with their local DFS (Deployed Forces Support) offices to request support, gather recreation fund management best practices and download relevant policies.

On the fitness side, our over 40 active duty population can connect with one of our SHAPE (Senior Health Assessment Program Enterprise) program pilot sites and download the SHAPE monthly newsletter. Further, anyone can access the Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling Series (NOFFS) workouts via the virtual trainer or virtual meal builder.

For our field personnel, the website provides convenient access to the program standards and metrics (a vital program management tool) and all relevant policies, as well as our latest posters and marketing tools.

In the near future, along with the movement of the day, there will be a nutrition tip of the week which will broadcast via the Navy Fitness Facebook page as well. The NOFFS virtual meal builder will be further enhanced so users will be able to populate their daily meal plan with their favorite high octane foods and the healthy recipe section will continue to grow. Quite frankly, the potential is endless, and we have no intention to allow this website to become stagnant.

Q: The CNO recently said that deployments will be longer due to an increased demand signal so will there be any changes to the Deployed Forces Support Program?

A: We are currently working on a pilot program to aid Sailors, upon return from deployment, to focus their energies on positive outlets such as outdoor recreation opportunities. While it is very much in its infancy, we are excited about the possibilities. Our homeports are located in some of the most beautiful places in the world and offering up or enhancing existing opportunities for structured outdoor recreation for Sailors and their families is an exciting endeavor. We still have a lot of program development prior to a launch but there will be more information available at a later date.

Regarding the remainder of the DFS program, the last 10 years have allowed us to refine our services and programs. I feel we are very well prepared to meet deployed Sailors’ needs in spite of any changes to the OPTEMPO (operational tempo). I think this applies to all MWR programs that service the fleet to include the Navy Motion Picture Service; Navy General Library Program; and Navy Entertainment.

The bottom line is our employees are dedicated and passionate about serving the Navy family and they have been stepping up to the plate for quite some time now. I know that won’t change because that is just what we do.

Q: Do all ships and naval bases have access to the Navy’s Fitness Program resources?

A: Absolutely! Occasionally, those programs, which require trained field staff, may experience a short gap due to employee turnover. We stay on top of those situations and when there is a strong demand signal, we find a way to deliver. Even when it means dispatching HQ or other regional or installation staff to deliver the requested program.

Q: What improvements are planned?

A: We are currently working on a joint service family fitness initiative. We have completed extensive baseline research and will meet again in September. We plan to leverage current research and program best practices to develop a new program. In addition, we are putting the finishing touches on NOFFS 2.0. There will be three new workout series and corresponding nutrition resources. Further enhancements include an iPad app for NOFFS 1.0, an Android app for the same and the aforementioned enhancements to the fueling series apps.

We recently hired Nick Aures, a registered dietitian, to further develop our nutrition education resources. He has the opportunity to build on the existing resources put in place by our previous dietitian. The weekly tips, performance nutrition articles, and Mission Nutrition Facilitator’s Course updates will be his primary focus the next six months. Nick is a former Sailor and his active duty experience provides greater insight into the challenges associated with living life in the Navy.

In January 2012, the new Command Fitness Leader Certification Course curriculum was released and we anticipate minor adjustments based on instructor and attendee feedback. The curriculum was developed in partnership with the Physical Readiness Program office and the Center for Personal and Professional Development. Last year, MWR fitness professionals trained 1,850 command fitness leaders and assistant CFLs across the enterprise, and we anticipate that volume to continue.

Finally, our two-day nutrition education course (also delivered by installation Navy fitness staff) will be updated. We currently collect nutrition behavior surveys up to three months following the course and any changes will incorporate the information we have gathered to date.

For More Information

Fitness, Sports and Deployed Forces Support -

CNIC Headquarters -

Lisa Sexauer
Lisa Sexauer

Figure 1. Total Force Fitness model that captures everything that impacts the readiness of an individual. The model includes spiritual, environmental and physical elements among other wellness influencers.
Figure 1. Total Force Fitness model that captures everything that impacts the readiness of an individual. The model includes spiritual, environmental and physical elements among other wellness influencers.

ARABIAN SEA (March 1, 2011) Brett Pelfrey, fit boss aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), and Airman Joel Metzger demonstrate an exercise to Sailors in the hangar bay during a tactical underway fitness program. The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is deployed supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher K. Hwang.
ARABIAN SEA (March 1, 2011) Brett Pelfrey, fit boss aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), and Airman Joel Metzger demonstrate an exercise to Sailors in the hangar bay during a tactical underway fitness program. The Carl Vinson Carrier Stri
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