FORT SILL, Okla.--Fort Sill's commanding general challenges the entire community students, Soldiers, family members and civilians to get involved with fitness at the spring Commanding General's Challenge Community Walk Wednesday. The walk begins and ends on the Fort Sill Polo Field.

The walk, which kicks off at 1:30 p.m., is open to the public and is held in conjunction with the Southwestern Oklahoma community and local schools. Everyone is encouraged to participate -- either on the Polo Field or at their locations.

The walk will be led by Maj. Gen. David Halverson, the U.S. Army Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general.

Walkers will notice several new things at this event, including health expo and fitness class demonstrations beginning at 11 a.m. on the Polo Field.

The health expo will feature preventive medicine and fitness testing. Reynolds Army Community Hospital will offer body mass index testing and blood pressure checks. There will also be several nurses, staff, onsite with information on tobacco cessation; radiology and mammography; Soldier medicine; children's vaccinations; alcohol and substance abuse; social work services and suicide prevention.

Fitness class demonstrations for Body Pump, Zumba, Family Functional Fitness and Kids Aerobics will be performed on stage beginning at 11:30 a.m.

"This is a fun event and it creates that excitement in the children about fitness," said Halverson. "We're going to do a lot more education and free tests for blood pressure and body mass index. Hopefully the children will take the information home to their parents to understand why this is important. I think it nests very well with the national campaign led by Michelle Obama. It's also linked to April, the Month of the Military Child and to getting the whole community fit," he said.

Halverson said the CG's Challenge, which promotes fitness and healthy lifestyles, is also an awareness campaign. "Just like the national fitness campaign, this whole program is about raising awareness making kids aware of the importance of eating right and in moderation and incorporating physical activity in their daily routine. If we save one kid, then we've done a good thing. It starts at the home and if we have to, we will educate the parents to make sure they teach their children to live healthy fit lives. It's not easy, but you have to understand it's important and good for parents and their children. Those of us in the military know how important being healthy and fit is as Soldiers but we want everyone to know this is important," he said.

Halverson said the challenge is one way to combat the statistics on the overall health in Oklahoma, which are not good Oklahoma is ranked 49 out of 50 states in overall health. "Almost 25 percent of the population smokes in Oklahoma. Over 30 percent of the population of Oklahoma is considered obese, and we need to do something about that for their health and the health of the entire community," he said.

This past October, more than 6,000 participants came out to run or walk with the Lawton-Fort Sill community. To date, 13,165 Soldiers have walked or run 4,816,963 miles; 832 family members and civilians have walked or run 49,869 miles; and 18,431 students, faculty and staff have walked or run 187,181 miles.

"We have had 25,428 participants in the CG's Challenge, and we want those numbers to continue growing," said Halverson.

"The Army has made a conscious decision to promote health and fitness. So now, today at 52, I can still work out and feel comfortable. I can hang with the young kids and I feel much better, and hopefully it will promote a healthy lifestyle. It's part of my culture now. I want to work out. I want to eat healthy," said Halverson. "That's very important; to know that a healthy lifestyle is something we can make a reality. We can make a difference by raising everyone's awareness. We have so much potential here in Southwest Oklahoma and this is just our way of energizing everyone."

Halverson went on to say that the support from the community has been great. "One of the things we're trying to do with the CG's Challenge is to log in miles. We've logged in 5,054,013 miles to date. This is a way to get fit without running a marathon. It can be a fun challenge for teachers to do this we have had great support from our local schools for this program. That's why, when you have that interaction and they're teaching the right things, it's really exciting, because kids want to achieve. They just learn behavior, so if we teach them what right looks like, give them an awareness of this, it really will promote a healthier society. Kids know what right looks like, and we just have to reinforce the right behaviors," he said.

The general believes that the health expo before the walk will be a great way for everyone to get a good picture of their health and fitness. "We're going to have a nutrition tent, and a body mass index tent, to show where you are by what your body fat is and why that's important. We're going to have a heart rate, blood pressure and tobacco cessation venue and we're going to do women's and children's health, because everyone is unique and they should all have their own self-awareness. We want people to know if they have high blood pressure, and what they need to do about it. I think that's very, very important," he said.

"It is really important, even with Soldiers, because we find that with persistent conflict and the stress of combat, our Soldiers need to have a release with physical fitness. Even though they're working hard, they're tearing down. They need to know about physical therapy and how it helps them because they are carrying heavy loads in combat, so we're working that whole thing," he said.

Halverson stressed that there will be fitness demonstrations this year, showcasing classes like the Body Pump, which is a total body workout that combines cardiovascular training with strength training. "It's so it's just not just running laps around a track, it is alternative things to do around the house and incorporate them into your workout," he said.

"We also will show the importance of yoga and stretching, because as you get older, your flexibility decreases. Your ability to stretch facilitates not injuring yourself when you do want to have physical activity," he said.
"The kids nowadays are much more sedentary. They like their video games and that helps with their hand-eye coordination, but it's not getting them out to do physical activity and we have to be able to ensure they get more active," he said.

Halverson noted that April is the Month of the Military Child, a time to focus on children and their sacrifices. "The reason we fight for our freedom is for our children - to give them a better life. I'm a firm believer that the strength of our Soldiers comes from the strength of their families," he said.
"We also need to prepare them physically, emotionally and spiritually for them to succeed. We are setting them up for success by teaching them to include fitness and an all-around healthy lifestyle. I have seen the difference in my family," he said.

Halverson also addressed the civilian workforce and the need for them to be healthy and fit, as well, believing it to be important to raise the level of awareness of civilians, too.

"We offer civilians and contractors the facilities to work out, and now we are educating them on healthy habits and nutrition. After work is a great time to work out, because we have the gyms here on post. Instead of going straight home, take a half hour or twenty minutes and do some aerobic exercise. We have instructors available to assist you with the right exercise for you," he said.

"Civilians need to understand they are important and they are needed, and they are a very important part of our team. The P stands for 'people' in Team PRIDE. They are very important, and we need to take care of them, too, and work with their supervisors to ensure that they have time for fitness. I encourage the whole community Soldiers, family members and civilians to get out and get fit," he said.