Next to Lucas Elementary School, there is a large, grassy field. On Friday, that field was rigged with ropes and ramps, looking every bit like a military-style navigation course. As the participants stepped up to the starting line, they listened silently while a first lieutenant shouted commands. When the starting whistle blew, they began their task with laughter and squeals of delight.
The event was a student obstacle course, organized by the 526th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, for the children of Lucas Elementary.
“The 526th Support Battalion is our [school’s] support battalion,” said Ted Turnipseed, principal of Lucas Elementary. “We’re pushing a fitness initiative at our school, looking at nutrition and health. We have such a great, supportive unit; they were eager to step up and help us.”
“We’re working toward a gold level in the U.S. Healthier School Challenge,” explained Sandy Durham, Lucas faculty member. “Part of the gold level is for us to have partners, and we’ve partnered with the 526th.”
When met with the initiative, Soldiers of the 526th collaborated and held meetings until they came up with the idea of the obstacle course.
“One of the things we do as Soldiers, as far as fitness is concerned, is navigate obstacles and negotiate them using the body,” said 1st Lt. Kent Wiley, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 526th BSB. “With that in mind, and with the expansive field that we have here, we figured we could incorporate cardiovascular and musculoskeletal fitness into one single event.”
The finished product featured an under-rope crawl, a cone navigation course, a jump wall, a log balance and water can carry.
“They even built a ramp by the jump wall so that people in wheelchairs could participate,” said Turnipseed.
Though the course was tough, Soldiers of the 526th were with the children the entire way, cheering them on, helping them out and giving high-fives and encouragement at the very end.
“I was very tired when I finished,” said 10-year-old Will Power, a fifth-grader. “I’d say the hardest part was at the beginning where you have to do the crawling. When I finished, I just fell over, but it felt good to finish.”
While it may have been tough, each of the children saw the course through to the end, realizing the importance of staying active and being fit.
“Activity is important because if you don’t do that, you won’t become good when you grow up and you won’t be that healthy,” said second-grader Lance Noon, age 8.
“You have to stay healthy or it will cause a lot of effects when you’re older,” agreed 9-year-old Josh Davis, fourth-grader.
The relationship built between the 526th BSB and Lucas Elementary has grown over two years, and is one that is valued on both sides of the fence.
“This battalion is present at our school daily,” said Turnipseed. “They greet our kids every morning, and they’ve really worked with us to create a tradition of community for the kids.”
“It’s more of a partnership than it is a support,” said Wiley. “We support them in class work and day-to-day tasks, and we put a military presence, other than their Families, in their lives.”
One of the many benefits, according to Wiley, is seeing the softer sides of the Soldiers who come out to visit the kids at school.
“You see them let their inner kid come out when they get out here and play with the children,” he said. “Not only are these the future citizens of the United States that we’re going to be protecting, some are also going to be future Soldiers. If we can set a good example, that is going to improve our society in general and also the Army.”