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Vandenberg's new HAWC chief 'fit' for role

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Jonathan Low, the 30th Medical Operations Squadron’s Health and Wellness Center health promotion program manager, stands in front of an informational poster board in a classroom at the HAWC Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Steve Bauer)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Jonathan Low, the 30th Medical Operations Squadron’s Health and Wellness Center health promotion program manager, stands in front of an informational poster board in a classroom at the HAWC Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Steve Bauer)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Jonathan Low, the 30th Medical Operations Squadron’s Health and Wellness Center health promotion program manager, tosses a large object while participating in the Scottish Highland Games in Colorado in 2009. (Courtesy photo)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Jonathan Low, the 30th Medical Operations Squadron’s Health and Wellness Center health promotion program manager, tosses a large object while participating in the Scottish Highland Games in Colorado in 2009. (Courtesy photo)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The lead position of the Health and Wellness Center here remained unoccupied for more than eight months while staff members searched to find the right match for the job. Candidates from all over the country applied to be the director of Vandenberg's HAWC, but that position was recently filled by one gregarious health enthusiast.

Jonathan Low, from Colorado Springs, Colo., joined the 30th Medical Operations Squadron as the HAWC's health promotion program manager in October. Standing at about 6 feet 4 inches tall with a 250-pound muscular frame, he is no stranger to the world of athletics - particularly sports requiring a great deal of physical endurance.

Low was a linebacker at Minnesota State University Moorhead prior to walking on to Colorado State University's football team as a defensive end for about three years while finishing up his bachelor's degree in sports medicine in 2004. He later followed his academic pursuits by earning a master's degree in health and exercise science from California University of Pennsylvania, Pa., in 2006.

The years following Low's college football days were spent lifting weights in his off time, but for other, more unique, purposes than to increase his chances of pummeling pigskin-carrying quarterbacks.

"I weight lift for a specific reason," said Low. "I compete in what is called the Scottish Highland Games."

The Scottish Highland Games are a series of weightlifting-type events with a Scottish or Celtic culture twist. For example, the contestants wear kilts during the competition and the playing of bagpipes is often a background staple heard throughout the game yards.

In 2009, Low won the B-Class National Championship for sheaf toss, which is an event that requires contestants to use a pitchfork to hurl a burlap bag stuffed with straw over a horizontal bar located above the contestant's head. Low plans to participate in at least five Scottish Highland Games competitions in the upcoming year.

Another interest of Low is animals, notably reptiles and amphibians. For a short stint, he worked with orangutans while employed by the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado and is currently the pet owner of a snake, frog, three dogs and three lizards.

As the HAWC director, Low plans to revamp the organization's classes, programs and services. The HAWC provides several classes including Tobacco Free Living, Weight Loss and Fitness, Road to Managing Your Diabetes, Healthy Eating and Exercise and Be Well.

"We also offer specific classes to meet the needs of the Vandenberg community," Low said. "For example, our dietician also has a cholesterol and hypertension class and our exercise physiologist does specific programming to help Airmen who are concerned about particular portions of their PT (physical training) test."

Low teaches the Tobacco Free Living class on the first and third Monday of each month and continues to remind the base populace that the HAWC is here to help.

"We are not a hole in the wall people come to when they fail their PT test, but rather, we are here for everything," he said. "All of our classes are free and open to not just active-duty personnel, but also their dependents, civilians and contractors."

The mission of the HAWC is to ensure all Vandenberg military personnel are healthy and physically able to carry out their mission, and promote a healthy lifestyle throughout the entire Vandenberg community through prevention and treatment education.

Additionally, Low wants to emphasize the importance of mental health at the HAWC.

"I am going to start spreading the wellness here to include mental health, because I believe it is a big part of total wellness," said Low.

Part of the mental health initiative is a room designated specifically for relaxation at the HAWC. The Relaxation Room, equipped with a massage chair, is a place where people can come to get away from life's stresses for a 30-minute retreat.

"To be efficient at processing information, your body has to be efficient at processing information," Low said. "I am not saying you need to be a leader-type athlete, but you need to train your body and your mind. I want to make sure that anyone who comes into the HAWC has every tool they need."

Prior to his current position at Vandenberg, Low served as a strength and conditioning specialist at Fort Carson, Colo., teaching the Army's physical readiness manual and profile system to Soldiers. He has a National Strength and Conditioning Association certification.

Although Low has had an extensive formal education and is credentialed as a physical trainer, he attributes his personality as the biggest asset he posses in his current position.

"Since I am outgoing and because I have no problem being at the front, I am kind of hard to miss," Low said. "Not because of my size, but rather because of my personality and what I want to accomplish. I am very health oriented and that's why I started going this way. I wanted to affect change in more people, and you can't do that when you're quiet."

The HAWC has not only gained a leader by filling the head position, but also an innovator who wishes to make changes at Vandenberg by increasing the base's overall wellness.

For more information about the HAWC's services, call 606-2221.