By Mr. Jorge Gomez (USAREC)March 3, 2010
MILWAUKEE -- Slushy roads and snow-covered parks limit the venues available for physical fitness training in Milwaukee, especially for mass formations involving Future Soldiers. For this reason, squad leaders Sgts. Kevin Weyler and Richard Bernard take their Future Soldiers to Hamilton High School where hallway PT is the norm.
As a result of an established relationship with the school's JROTC program, Weyler and Bernard assemble Future Soldiers and JROTC cadets twice a week at the school both for PT and common task training. They use the auditorium for stretching and warm up exercises; and the hallways for cardio training and circuit drills, just as the school's basketball team does.
Retired Master Sgt. Stephen Randall, JROTC Army instructor, said the relationship benefits both the Future Soldiers and his JROTC cadets. The cadets get the same training as the Future Soldiers, and the Future Soldiers get to use the school's facilities.
On a snowy Monday afternoon in February, more than 40 Future Soldiers and cadets could be seen extending into a rectangular formation and sounding off to exercises after school hours. In this case, the warm up is led by Hometown Recruiter Assistance Program Soldiers.
"Whenever possible we like to have our HRAP Soldiers lead the warm-up and calisthenics exercises because they demonstrate the type of leaders the Future Soldiers will become in just a few months," Weyler said.
After the warm up, the squad leaders take the Future Soldiers to the second floor where they use the empty hallways to lunge from one end to the other. They run down a flight of stairs, go across another hallway, and return up to the second floor where they started. Squad leaders and recruiters are posted at various ends and corners to ensure safety and to keep the Future Soldiers motivated.
Staff Sgt. David Eder, Future Soldier squad leader, said he likes to see the Future Soldiers get a good workout from these functions.
"We try to make this a morale booster experience," Eder said. "We challenge them but not to the point of breaking them. Our goal is to build them up."
Nicholas Hall, a Hales Corner native, was able to join the Future Soldier program in January only after losing about 30 pounds since the Fall when he first tried to enlist. Now that he's reached the Army's body fat standard for enlistment, Hall said he's pleased to be part of the FS program.
"I never liked PT until now," Hall said. "I look forward to it every week because I feel that it's preparing me for basic training."
Brittany Bellows, a University of Wisconsin-Whitewater graduate, said she's not used to running in the hallways of a high school but likes the group setting nonetheless.
"This (PT program) pushes me because as soon as I see someone run past me I pick up the pace," Bellows said. "Or sometimes I'm the one who's helping others push a little harder."
Bellows said she works out plenty on her own but doing PT with other Future Soldiers and the squad leaders makes her feel like part of a team where everyone supports each other.
Weyler said it is not uncommon for the Future Soldiers to share the hallways with members of the basketball or wrestling teams. This serves an additional benefit of raising Army awareness among a group of youth who already value physical fitness and teamwork.
Bernard said he's been approached by four members of the wrestling team and one basketball player to ask questions about the Army as a result of the exposure.
"Doing PT in the school's hallways is helping us as recruiters to get our faces out there," Bernard said. "The students are starting to recognize us."