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From the Hawkeye-Record: Sept. 16, 1943 Local people may watch exercise drill
November 09, 2017


Editor's Note: Veterans Day seems an appropriate time to share this story about the exercise routines of soldiers in the United States Navy Flight Preparatory School. The U.S.N.F.P.S. was housed at Cornell College during World War II, with more than 600 cadets attending the school in 1943, as noted in an enrollment count reported in the Sept. 16, 1943, Mount Vernon Hawkeye-Record. The U.S.N.F.P.S. officially closed at Cornell Oct. 10, 1944, and according to a news brief in the Mount Vernon Hawkeye Record on Dec. 14, 1944, more than 10,000 cadets traveled by train to and from Mount Vernon over the course of the school, with the first arriving on Jan. 6, 1943. This exercise reporting was published in the Sept. 9, 1943, Hawkeye Record on page A3.

Cadets have daily mass exercise drill

Calisthenics, or "Mass Exercise," as it is called in the U.S.N.F.P.S. athletic program, is a cadet's first introduction to athletics. It occupies the first 15 minutes of each 70-minute sports period as a conditioner, body builder, and corrector of posture deficiencies.

Groups vary from 100 to 150 in a class, and everything is done in precision.

Mass calisthenics had its origin in setting up exercises conducted in military groups shortly after reveille.

As such, they served one purpose, to put a man "on his toes" as shortly after rising as was possible. The work was all done before breakfast.

Combine calisthenics with competitive sports

The PT. period at N.F.P.S. at Cornell College consists of 15 minutes of MOPS exercise, 45 minutes of a competitive sport, and five to 10 minutes for a quick dip in the

pool at the end of the period. Only departure from this schedule occurs on the one day of the week when the cadet runs the obstacle course at the start of the period, Wednesday, when the whole period is devoted to a hike, and on Saturday, when organized competitive athletics give way to optional athletics, or "Free Play" when the cadet may choose from a dozen different sports.

The aims of mass exercise are (1) the stimulation of vital body processes (circulation, respiration, and digestion), (2) a slight fatigue (recoverable with a short rest), and (3) a generally refreshed feeling. All movements are executed on commands given.

The dressing is done at an extended double-arm interval so that there is at least five feet between each man.

The officer in charge stands immediately before them on a raised platform with megaphone in hand and a referee's whistle within reach.

Start from simple movements

The first movements are simple and designed for the arms and neck. The preparatory commands are complete and self-explanatory, the commands of execution which follow are short and of one syllable and are given with a loud voice and plenty of snap.

Thus: Arms forrr-wardd - SWING! And the arms are swung forward on a level with the shoulders. Arms downwnarrd - STRETCH! And they are snapped down to the side with a downward stretch exerted.

Then on the command ONE the arms are swung forward and on TWO they are stretched downward. The ONE and TWO may be continued until the desired number of swings and stretches have been accomplished.

The command Crouch sitting - PLACE! brings the cadets to a sitting position with his feet under him and his weight evenly distributed between his feet and his hands, which are spread palms down just inside his knees.

From here Stoop falling - PLACE, usually follows, wherein the feet are thrown back until the body is extended. The hands do not move. From this position, the well-known "push-up" can be given merely by the alternate commands of Arms - BEND, and Arms - STRETCH.

For exercise of the stomach muscles, a position on the back is taken called Backward Lying. Lying on the back and with the hands either at the side, on the hips, or behind the neck, the command Feet six inches clear of the deck - RAISE, and alternately Feet - SINK, affords a very good exercise for the abdominal muscles. During all these exercises, the legs are kept rigid, the toes pointed, and the knees straight.

Local people may watch exercise drills

Residents of Mount Vernon may feel free to witness the Mass Exercise drills any time from Monday through Saturday at the hours of 09:30, 10:40, 15:00 and 16:10 (9:30, 10:40, 3:00 and 4:10).

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