By Maj. Penny Zamora, 157th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division EastFebruary 26, 2013
Two days, 15 soldiers, 200 students, a little drill and ceremonies, and a lot of sweat added up to the beginnings of a beautiful relationship.
Parkside Elementary School of Columbus, Ind., recently called upon the neighboring Soldiers of the 157th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East, Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center, Ind., to assist the school with the Healthy Hoosier Award Competition.
The fourth and sixth graders and the Soldiers bonded over the two early morning boot camps.
"There are always ways to improve our strengths and weaknesses and by having Soldiers here, it's been awesome because kids love them, we bond with them…and they are teaching us more about nutrition, fitness, and the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle," said Nora Coleman, physical education teacher at Parkside Elementary School.
"We care about the places our children are being raised and taught, and it is so important to build those relationships. We want to contribute to the wellness and fitness of all children, and this step is just the beginning," said Sgt. Maj. Mark Jackson, the 157th Brigade Operations Sergeant Major.
Riveted on the Soldiers, the students listened as the Soldiers taught each group different military drill and ceremony movements including "attention," "present arms," "right face," and "left face." Before long, the children snapped into position like seasoned Soldiers.
"I think it was awesome; it was a really cool experience. I want to thank Camp Atterbury for letting us have this unique experience," said Emily Wessel, a fourth grader.
These new listening and execution activities became key to conducting a large group Army-style physical fitness warm-up routine before the big work out. The students learned quickly. The mass of children became a cohesive group working in unison in a short time.
With the warm-up completed, each Soldier took charge of 10-12 students for their workout.
The workout consisted of 10 different stations with each exercise focusing on the different muscle groups or cardiovascular fitness. The teams participated in several rotations with each rotation time getting shorter and shorter.
"It was a hard and long workout, but I learned by looking at the Soldiers that fitness is for life," said Jarrett Embry, a sixth grader.
In 2011 -- 2012, 113 elementary, middle and high schools received the 2011 -- 2012 Healthy Hoosier School Award -- the most ever. Action for Healthy Kids is a nationwide initiative dedicated to improving the health and educational performance of children through better nutrition and physical activity in school.
Last year, Parkside Elementary took first place out of 113 schools and is committed to achieving their goals again with the help of the Soldiers from 157th Infantry Brigade.
During an all school walk-a-thon last year, Coleman introduced herself to one of the new families of Parkside Elementary School including Col. Brandt H. Deck, commander of the 157th Infantry Brigade and his family. Coleman decided it was the perfect opportunity to enlist the help of Soldiers in the quest to compete in the Healthy Hoosier School Award.
"Today we have Soldiers that have volunteered from the units within the brigade to spend an hour and a half…doing a boot camp and a little drill and ceremonies, but it's mainly about practicing good habits of exercise, having a little fun, interacting and giving back to the school," said Deck.
At the end of both days, it was unclear which group had more fun, the Soldiers or the students.
"It was fun participating and giving back to our community. They give so much to us throughout the year with military appreciation days and the huge events such as Veterans Day," said Sgt. 1st Class John A. Roames, 157th Infantry Brigade.
"I would like the Soldiers to come back again, and maybe do some other things with us," said Natalie Owings, a sixth grader.
With a new friendship and bond formed in a short time, Parkside Elementary School invited the Soldiers to take part in an upcoming Dr. Seuss reading event. The 157th Infantry Brigade Soldiers said they look forward to continuing the partnership with Parkside Elementary School.