JBLM soldiers play sergeant with Orting students

Members of 62nd Medical Brigade head to Ptarmigan Ridge to help with fitness testing

Staff writerOctober 2, 2013 

For about a half dozen of the hard-working members of the 62nd Medical Brigade, this week’s duties are child’s play. Literally.

Instead of unloading trucks or taking care of medical equipment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, these soldiers are spending three days helping students at Ptarmigan Ridge Intermediate School in Orting with physical fitness tests.

Pfc. Amber Moore, a lab technician, said she’s used to doing her own physical training every day. Helping the students is easy by comparison.

Army Spc. Keely Layne, who serves as a medic with her brigade, said working with kids is a great change of pace from Army life.

“This is different,” she said. “It gets you into a side of things that you may have lost touch with.”

Ptarmigan Ridge physical education teacher Jennifer Benjamin said having the soldiers on board for this week’s testing, along with a mile run last week, has students excited.

The kids “want to impress them and do well for them,” Benjamin said.

She’s hoping to invite soldiers back for the school’s end-of-the-year field day.

On Tuesday, soldiers helped rotate students through stations in the school gym where they tested kids’ flexibility, strength and stamina. It even featured a round of one of the military’s most institutional exercises: push-ups.

One boy cranked out 30. Another struggled to make it through one.

“I could do more, but my lungs hurt,” said fifth-grader Anna Ynosencio after an impressive set of push-ups.

She said she keeps in shape through cheerleading. She said she’s also hoping to join a girls football team.

Benjamin said this week’s activities aren’t about comparing one student to another, but helping measure kids’ starting points and designing a program that can help them improve.

“Other kids don’t know your score, unless you tell them,” Benjamin said. “Parents know it’s not a competition.”

She helps her students set individual fitness goals.

“They set their own program,” Benjamin said. In addition to teaching them about fitness training, she also explains how both exercise and healthful eating can influence body composition.

She’ll administer fitness tests periodically during the school year. At the end of the year, there are awards for meeting standards. But there are also awards for kids who show determination and refuse to quit.

“You want kids to be excited about exercise, to know more about their body,” said Benjamin. “You want them to feel safe enough to push themselves.”

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635

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