Story and photos by Spc. Robert Holland
3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
The bell rang at 7:30 a.m., like it does every morning, marking the official beginning of the school day. For the students of Fort Carson’s Patriot Elementary School, however, Aug. 29 was not like every other day. Instead of beginning a reading lesson or reviewing multiplication tables, the entire student body flooded the field behind the school, spraying each others’ legs with morning dew as they shuffled across the grass.
About 950 students, teachers, parents and Soldiers joined Brig. Gen. Michael Bills, acting senior commander, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, on a three-lap walk around the perimeter of the field in celebration of the launch of the Fueling the Future program designed to encourage children to eat healthy and exercise.
“We are going to get a little exercise, we are going to drink a little water and we are going to eat some healthy fruit,” Patriot Elementary School Principal Gary Duncan said to the crowd, before handing the microphone to Bills.
“Today we are here celebrating the incorporation of the Fueling the Future program into the Patriot Elementary School,” Bills said. “Your choices you make today can impact your future in dramatic ways. Good nutrition (and) physical activity help create strong bones, muscles, help maintain a healthy weight and lowers your risk of disease.”
Motivational songs filled the air as the attendees followed the general on the walk.
According to Nicole Leth, public health volunteer, the students will receive two nutrition-based lessons a month. They will also participate in monthly activities incorporating the greater Joint Task Force Carson community that reinforce good nutrition and exercise habits.
“We may have (Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation) fitness instructors come in to teach Zumba one month,” Leth said. “Another month we may have Soldiers lead physical training, or have an Army dietician lead a commissary tour.”
Leth, wife of Lt. Col. Allen D. Leth, commander, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armor Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, designed the nutrition program while living in Germany, and working toward her master’s degree in public health through University of Massachusetts Amherst. Leth said she had the support and assistance of the former U.S. Army Europe commander, Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling.
“Lt. Gen. Hertling is very passionate about fitness and health,” she said. “He initiated both the Fueling the Team and Go for Green healthy eating programs.”
Leth said the Fueling the Future program was designed to coincide with Hertling’s Fueling the Team program, which taught Soldiers healthy eating habits.
“The hope is that Soldiers hear about healthy eating and nutrition at work, and the children hear about it at school,” she said. “Then both Soldier and child bring that knowledge home, creating a stronger and healthier military Family.”
Sgt. 1st Class Michael Clint, Company B, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armor Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, said he likes the message the program delivers to the children, and he is excited that the students at Patriot Elementary School will have a better understanding of the importance of a healthy diet and exercise.
“I thought it was a fantastic opportunity for the Soldiers to get out here with their children during (physical training) hours and actually get an opportunity to show them how important daily exercise really is,” he said. “It is also a good opportunity for the kids to learn about the importance of a healthy diet.”
Duncan said he was pleased with the launch of the program.
“We are trying to do our part in promoting the development of healthy lifestyles within our kids, and also try to reduce problems associated with childhood obesity,” he said. “We had the opportunity to have the students and Families participate in the Fueling the Future program, and I am glad we took it.”
As the students shuffled back inside, Leth said the event was a success.
“I hope that in the future (more) Soldiers … will want to participate and help spread the word of how to live a healthy lifestyle and eat right,” she said.