Troop Support resilience: Employee changes life through fitness

By Janeen Hayes DLA Troop Support Public Affairs

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This story is part of a series highlighting the resiliency of DLA Troop Support's workforce.

All it took was one photo posted by a friend on Facebook.

“It was not a picture that I was proud of,” Matthew Eckenrode, a Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support Industrial Hardware contract specialist, said. “It was something that kind of irked me because it highlighted how heavy I was at the time.”

That one photo, in 2009, prompted Eckenrode to make a lifestyle change; so he began by running.

“I would start running maybe a half-mile, get tired, my knees would hurt, I got shin splints and I would walk back home,” he said. “Next time, I would build it up to a mile and walk back. Next thing you know, I am doing two, three, four-mile runs.”

In the past seven years, what started as just running has turned into so much more for Eckenrode. Adding weight training and changing his diet have assisted him in completing multiple 5K runs, conquering the 10-mile Broad Street Run twice and losing 40 pounds.

When Eckenrode first heard about the four DLA resilience pillars ‒ Mental, Physical, Social and Spiritual ‒ it was the physical aspect that resonated with him the most.

"I started with the physical part and the other pillars just fell into place after that,” he said. “For my personal journey, the physical was the best place to start; that kind of builds up your mental awareness, your social and your spiritual.”

Resiliency is one of DLA’s core goals and is defined as how one “deals effectively with pressure, ambiguous and emerging conditions, and multiple tasks; remains optimistic and persistent, even under adversity or uncertainty.”

Eckenrode appreciates having leadership at DLA Troop Support, like Army Brig. Gen. Charles Hamilton, commander, offer ways to support his healthy lifestyle.

“I think one of the important things is that Brigadier General Hamilton recommends starting with the physical pillar as well,” he said. “The fact that there is a gym here is fantastic. Every day I go over to the gym. I know a lot of people here who are motivating and we exchange ideas.

One of those individuals is Ryan Guarnere, a contract specialist in the DLA Troop Support Medical supply chain.

Guarnere and Eckenrode met in a cohort for the DLA Pathways to Career Excellence program.

“Seeing [Eckenrode’s] dedication to a healthy lifestyle made me want to train with him,” Guarnere said.

The two workout together three to four times a week. Although they just began training together a few weeks ago, Guarnere says Eckenrode’s support has already made an impact.

“Training with him has helped increase my overall fitness level,” he said. “Matt is constantly encouraging me at the gym, which motivates me to work harder than I thought possible. This encouragement and motivation has already begun to produce noticeable results.”

When asked how he would encourage someone to start on a healthy living journey, Eckenrode said, “Just do it.”

“No one is going to push you to do it,” he said. “You just have to look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘am I happy with this person and who I have become?’”

There are a lot of resources available to help with living healthier, he said.

“There are all different types of websites dedicated to physical fitness and healthy eating,” Eckenrode said. “That starts the journey.”

Eckenrode now feels differently when he sees a current photo of himself.

“I feel a sense of accomplishment and pride, [to see] where I was and what I’ve become,” he said.