Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dylan West wasn’t required to enroll in the Army Pregnancy and Postpartum Physical Training Exercise Leader Course. However, he chose to become certified to provide exercise training for pregnant and postpartum Navy service members.
West was one of 18 Soldiers and Sailors from Fort Meade and Fort Belvoir, Va., who participated in the three-day training at McGill Training Center, which began Feb. 8 and ended Friday.
“No one in my command has this kind of training,” West said. “I joined the course so I would have the training and could pass it on to people.
“We have a bunch of Sailors who are pregnant and don’t know how to get back into shape properly, and that’s why I took this course.”
The Pregnancy and Postpartum Physical Training Exercise Leader Course, or P3T, is designed to train noncommissioned and junior officers to lead safe and effective exercise and education programs for Soldiers who are pregnant or up to six months postpartum.
Command Sgt. Maj. Edward Elliott Jr., the senior enlisted adviser at Headquarters Command Battalion, welcomed the group and thanked them for attending the training.
“The thing I want you to take away from this is the motivation to serve. Not a lot of people want to do this,” Elliott said. “I commend you for coming out here.”
Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Trotter, the senior career counselor of Headquarters Company, organized the three-day training and assists pregnant and postpartum service members at Fort Meade.
“It’s definitely an interesting job,” he said. “They call me and talk to me about everything. I love being able to talk to them and guide them to the path of staying in the military.”
P3T Exercise Leaders
Sgt. Nichole Knudson of the 781st Military Intelligence Battalion led the three-day course, which she has taught at Fort Meade since August 2015.
“Exercise leaders learn how to lead safe, effective exercise sessions that address muscle strength and endurance, cardio-respiratory fitness, flexibility, relaxation, and specialty exercises,” Knudson said. “They learn how to modify exercises for each stage of pregnancy and how to gradually recondition during postpartum.”
Knudson was assisted by Sgt. 1st Class Ernest Stiegh from Fort Belvoir.
The training provides an in-depth understanding of the physical demands of pregnancy and postpartum through a manual, instructional videos and lectures.
Trainees participated in the exercises and their modifications for pregnant and postpartum service members.
“In order to enhance their understanding, exercise leaders learn about the changes a woman’s body goes through and have an opportunity to wear the ‘empathy belly,’ which simulates the weight and pressure a woman feels during pregnancy,” Knudson said.
At the end of the three-day course, trainees were required to take a practical and written exam in order to complete their certification. During their practical exam, the trainees had to teach and lead an exercise-training session, including addressing a safety issue.
“Everyone did really well,” Knusdon said. “There was a lot of engagement and professionalism, especially after wearing the empathy belly. It’s a little sobering; the physical burden gives them a greater respect for pregnancy and helps them be aware of how much more difficult it is to exercise.”
During the course, trainees experimented with different forms of exercises.
“We did dance PT, and within an hour it went from being awkward to the class really owning it,” Knudson said. “It pushed them out of their comfort zone.”
The class also tried relaxation techniques, “which are also found in resiliency training,” Knudson said.
On Friday, Knudson was awarded an Army Achievement Medal by Lt. Col. Gittipong Paruchabutr for the time she has dedicated to teaching P3T.
“I don’t get to do what I do without standing on the shoulders of giants,” Knudson said. “If Sergeant Trotter didn’t do his job, I couldn’t teach this course.”
At the end of the training, Trotter addressed the exercise leaders and gave them three tips to use going forward.
“Take the job seriously,” he said. “Whether you believe it or not, you hold Soldiers’ careers in your hands.”
The second piece of advice encouraged all new exercise leaders — especially the men — to not be afraid to give pregnancy PT sessions.
“The last thing I want to say is realize that the pregnancy PT program is not just about physical fitness,” Trotter said. “Mentally and emotionally, these Soldiers — these moms — are going to come to you for all of that.
“Trust me, I get the phone calls, on the weekends. I don’t have a problem with that because I care about this program. There’s a lot of good in this program and if you really take it to heart, you’re going to feel the same thing that I feel,” he said.