By Capt. Olivia Cobiskey, 205th Infantry Brigade Public Affairs May 17, 2013
Columbus, Ind. -- First Army Division East trainer/mentors assigned to 205th Infantry Brigade provide pre-mobilization training to tens of thousands of Army National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers for deployment to Afghanistan and other contingency missions every year. In May however, the 205th added a new mission -- the "Let's Move" campaign launched by First Lady Michelle Obama to combat childhood obesity.
At a recent event at Southside Elementary School in Columbus, Ind., Command Sgt. Maj. Carlos Gonzalezpabon's deep voice filled the gym, drowning out the laughter and shrieks of hundreds of children.
"ATTENTION! REPEAT AFTER ME," he told the children.
The students low-crawled, ran in place, and did push ups -- all while counting with Gonzalezpabon, "One, two, three ... "
Gonzalespabon and Lt. Col. Aaron West, commander of the 1-290th Field Artillery Regiment, were concerned after hearing a statistic that 75 percent of America's youth are ineligible to join the military for a variety of reasons. Out of those ineligible, 17 percent are disqualified because of obesity. They decided to get involved to help change that.
"Our goal is to reach out to our surrounding communities and mainly our children on the importance of healthy nutrition and daily exercise as a way to prevent diseases and promote a healthy life style," said Gonzalezpabon, command sergeant major for the 1-290th Field Artillery Regiment, 205th Infantry Brigade, at Camp Atterbury-Muscatatuck, near Edinburgh, Ind.
"Children are the future of our nation. It is significant for them to take at least 30 minutes to conduct any kind of physical activity to prevent obesity."
West's wife, Paige, a teaching assistant at the school, thought a "mini boot camp" would allow the Soldiers to discuss how inactivity can lead to illness and disease with the nearly 500 students from kindergarten to 6th grade. The exercises and physical activity would keep the students engaged and excited. Gonzalezpabon contacted the vice-principal and set up a meeting to discuss Paige's idea. After a meeting with the principal and vice-principal, the "mini boot camp" was born.
Teaching assistant, Kirsten Mullins, thought the event was a great success. She said she wanted the command team to come back every Friday.
"It's great! The Soldiers are modeling many of the life skills we try to teach our students in school -- doing their personal best, active listening, respect for themselves and others, and being responsible," Mullins said. "It's wonderful for the children to have physical examples of what a healthy life style looks like."
It was a message heard clearly by fourth-grader Caroline Andress.
"If you grow up and you're not that healthy, it can be bad for your body, and things can be more difficult for you," said Andress, who plays basketball and exercises with her father. "I really liked that we exercised and did push ups."
The command team plans to continue mentoring local youth.
"We had a lot of fun, and the kids from Southside enjoyed every minute of it," Gonzalezpabon said. "It is an honor to serve our country and people, but it is greatness to be a mentor to our young generation."