A few male Soldiers got an unexpected addition to their Army Combat Uniforms last week - not to mention an interesting change to their silhouettes.

The first ever Expectant and New Parent Health and Wellness Expo at Wilson Sports and Fitness Center tested male Soldiers' endurance by putting them in empathy bellies, 30-pound strap-on stomachs that simulate the look and feel of pregnancy.

They then attempted the basic tasks faced every morning by their actually pregnant female counterparts - getting out of bed, tying their shoes, and yes, even physical training.
The idea was to give the guys a taste of what life is like as a pregnant Soldier. "Some of these guys have never been married, never had kids," said Spc. Jennifer Kauffman, 4th Squadron. 6th Air Cavalry Regiment.

Kauffman came out to take part in the pregnant PT session - something she does every day anyway. Her captain has always been supportive of her, she said, but she would have loved him to see what a day in her world is like.

Captain Tina Latisha Hill of Army Public Health Nursing walked the men through each session. It started with them lying down on mats, then "waking up" and going through a morning routine. Picking up clothes, sitting in armless chairs and taking part in aerobics were all included. "I was laughing; I said it felt like body armor, but it's heavier," Col. Jerry Penner III, commander of Madigan Army Medical Center, said of his experience in the empathy belly.

Penner also tried a few Wii Fit balance exercises with the empathy belly. Poised on an electronic balance board, he stood on one foot and did arm extensions. When he finished, the screen told him exactly where his center of balance was.

"It's not too bad," Clifton Connell, husband of Spc. Jessica Connell, 42nd Military Police Brigade, said. "It's a little harder, mostly bending over or doing anything that involves moving forward."

"We're both first-time parents and we thought (coming to the Expo) would be a good way to get more information," Jessica said.

In the end there were lessons for everyone. "For our ladies, to make sure they keep themselves in shape throughout their pregnancy, because it is a tremendous strain on the body," Penner said. "It's probably good for our guys, too, to be a little more empathetic."

Marisa Petrich: marisa.petrich@nwguardian.com

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16