Most men would never expect that enlisting in the military would one day find them wearing “empathy bellies” and learning more about the intricacies of pregnancy.
The Army has ordered that its enlisted officers take a 3-day Pregnancy Postpartum Physical Training (PPPT) Exercise Leaders Course to help them understand and better train their pregnant and/or recently pregnant soldiers, according to Stars and Stripes.
The course requires male non-commissioned officers (NCOs) to participate in sessions and classes to learn more about pregnancy and special exercises for pregnant women, including wearing a “pregnancy simulator.”
“When they first come in, the males are typically timid and don’t feel they have the knowledge to teach female soldiers,” Jana York, U.S. Army Medical Activity Japan health promotion educator told Stars and Stripes. “However, after three days their confidence rises.”
A PPPT course is required for pregnant and post-pregnancy soldiers to get back to meet height and weight standards within the allotted six month window.
“This program is designed to provide service members with a safe pregnancy and postpartum exercise routine that helps maintain unit readiness and boost morale,” explains the military’s “Getting Back into Shape after Pregnancy” page, adding that “Each service branch has a postpartum fitness program.”
Not all of the male soldiers have been thrilled by the order to participate in the pregnancy exercise leaders course.
“I didn’t want to do it,” said Sgt. Michael Braden, a helicopter crew chief who served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo and found himself having to don an empathy belly for the course.
“This whole thing is pretty uncomfortable. [But] body armor is a lot heavier,” he said of the belly.
Sgt. Matthew Prout, on the other hand, said learning how to train pregnant soldiers helped to open his eyes to another side of Army life.
“My initial view of the Army was just kind of — we train, we fight,” Prout told Stars and Stripes. “But my eyes have been opened up to the family aspects of the Army as opposed to just the single soldier view.”