Fort Carson soldiers lead wellness program for students

By Erin Prater Published: December 3, 2013 | 2:00 pm 0

It was not your typical physical training session.

As a soldier readied his troops for the bend-and-reach stretch, they squealed with enthusiasm.

"Reach for the sky, up high in the sky!" he encouraged them as they threw their hands in their air and giggled.

"Are you ready to run?" he asked.

They screamed with delight.

Hundreds of tiny troops - kindergarten and first-grade students at Fort Carson's Patriot Elementary School - participated Nov. 20 in a modified version of soldiers' daily workout routines as a part of the "Fueling Your Future" kids' health and wellness program, launched by local Army wife Nicole Leth.

The sessions were run by soldiers of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team's 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment - apropos given that Lt. Col. Allen Leth, husband of Nicole Leth, commands the regiment.

Nicole Leth came up with the program a couple of years ago while working on her graduate degree in public health.

When she and her husband transferred to Fort Carson earlier this year, Nicole Leth met with Patriot Elementary Principal Gary Duncan about implementing her program at the school.

"I said, 'Does it cost anything?'?" Duncan said. "She said 'no,' and I said 'let's go.'?"

Each month, Nicole Leth has distributed two lesson plans about healthy eating and exercise to the school's teachers, who are free to implement them as they choose.

She also has planned monthly healthy living events such as "walk to school with a general day" and Zumba sessions lead by the post's Morale, Recreation and Welfare employees.

She hopes to bring the program to all Fort Carson elementary schools next fall.

Why place so much emphasis on the health of military children? Children share the lessons they've learned with their parents, and healthy military families "make our military strong," Nicole Leth said.

"Keep your hands behind your head to pull yourself up!" a soldier encouraged as hundreds of children bobbed up and down in a bid to see who could do the most situps.

Afterward, they appeared exhausted - for a moment.

"Who wants to go outside and run?" the soldier asked.

The children cheered and bolted for the playground, around which they ran several laps.

"You totally beat me," Spc. Francisco Leyva said to a boy after the first lap.

Leyva had helped lead physical training for older students at the school two days prior.

On Nov. 20, he was back for more - by choice.

"I liked this so much that I said, 'Why not do it again?'?" he said. "The kids' energy makes me have energy."

His hope for the children who participated in the PT sessions: that they would "stay physically fit and go to school - and if they want to be a soldier someday, more power to them."

For Leyva's comrade, Pfc. Robert Taylor, the Nov. 20 session was a first.

But he'd help out again in a heartbeat, he said.

"This is awesome," he said. "We're having fun together and exercising together. It's fun to act goofy again."

The workout session with soldiers was a dream come true for 5-year-old Cameron Lake.

Cameron loves running and, until that day, had always wondered why he saw soldiers running every morning as his parents drove him to school.

Now he knows why - and wants to be a soldier.

"Or a race-car driver," he said.

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