Expecting fathers get a taste of what's to come when their babies arrive

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - Being a Soldier is tough, but perhaps being a father is tougher.

Soldiers prepare themselves for a life of service to their country through extensive training and preparation; however, according to many Soldiers, nothing prepares them for fatherhood.

"Fatherhood is new to me," said Sgt. Gerald Mempin, 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment. "I felt I needed to better prepare myself."

Army Community Service presents "Daddy Boot Camp" as part of the New Parent Support Program to give expecting fathers a taste of what life has in store for them as new parents.

"Just like everything I have done in the Army, I decided to seek out more information about something I knew little about," said Mempin.

The program for new dads began in Hawaii as a joint effort between Tripler Army Medical Center and Navy Region Hawaii in 2001. The program soon spread to Schofield Barracks and has continued to prepare new fathers for the unexpected.

The class meets every third Saturday of the month to share information and techniques of caring for newborns. From changing diapers to quieting a crying baby, Daddy Boot Camp addresses all the trials and tribulations of parenthood.

During the relaxed curriculum, Brandon Willie, prevention specialist for ACS' Family Advocacy Program, talks about his own experiences as a father and offered advice.

"Planning for a child will ensure a better life for you and baby," said Willie.

Expecting fathers asked questions and were relieved to find their many concerns, and even fears, were common among dads-to-be. Serious subjects, including shaken-baby syndrome and postpartum depression, were also discussed.

"We want to assure new parents," said Willie, that they can handle "what they will encounter and prepare them with all knowledge they need to be a good dad." He added: "This allows them to bring up any concerns they may have, big or small."

Many fathers expressed their desire to demonstrate the virtues of a good father, including patience, emotional availability, anger-management and communication skills.

Willie explained how to respond to a child's needs as well as care and nurture the relationship with mom.

As the hands-on course continued, Willie demonstrated how to change a diaper and swaddle a newborn using a life-sized doll.

The dads-to-be were then asked to wear a pregnancy empathy belly to simulate, at least for a few minutes, what moms experience physically. They were put through paces while wearing the empathy belly. They bent over to tie their shoes, picked up things from the floor, and even laid down in anticipation of taking a nap.

"I have a better appreciation for what (my wife) is going through," said Mempin.

Fatherhood is forever and comes with numerous rewards and challenges, the program pointed out. Through Daddy Boot Camp, Soldiers learn and prepare for life in the trenches as a new parent.