Are you fit to fight?
By Master Sgt. Thomas McGowan, 17th Airlift Squadron First Sergeant
/ Published June 11, 2007
CHARLESTON AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --
Are you physically ready to meet the challenges of the Air Force?
For some, this is a very easy question to answer. For others, it is not.
We are now in the third year of the current fitness standards. When this program was introduced, I was not ready. Thankfully, we had a one-year grace period to get ready. The Air Force chief of staff directed new standards and gave all Airmen time to get in shape for their first official physical fitness test.
Even with a year to prepare, I only scored a 76 on my first test. I realized this was unacceptable, and I challenged myself to do something about it. I made a significant lifestyle change and as a result, my most recent test resulted in a score of 95. If I can do it, you can too. Looking back, I realize I have had to survive several variations of fitness testing.
When I first entered active duty in 1991, the Air Force PT test was a mile-and-a-half run that we reluctantly did once a year. The time to complete the run was some crazy amount of time like fifteen minutes. Most Airmen could have walked and still passed the test. It gave us no accurate measurement of our true fitness level.
Even with that being said, we had a high rate of heart attacks and other serious medical issues. Air Force officials decided to change the way they evaluated fitness. The change was to go to a cycle ergometry or "bike test." At first, the test only measured your VO2 max, which, very simply, is the amount of oxygen you use during vigorous exercise. Push-ups or crunches were not incorporated until about seven years into the test. Because this test did not accurately reflect one's fitness level, the Air Force decided to make a drastic change.
The bike method of fitness evaluation was deemed obsolete. Higher operations tempo as a result of the war on terrorism led to the new fitness test requirements.
Air Force officials needed a mobile method of evaluating fitness levels to produce battle-ready Airmen. This new process had to be available at deployed locations. Since no equipment was required, they reverted back to a mile-and-a-half run. However, this time they added push-ups, crunches and a waist measurement.
Simply walking the mile and a half was not going to cut it. In addition, you needed to ensure your core strength was effectively conditioned as well. With a year to prepare, most Airmen took the challenge to heart and prepared themselves.
As noted during the first "freebie" test, some preparation for the test was required. To emphasize the importance of fitness, new guidance mandated that commanders establish a unit PT program. A side benefit of this program included giving all assigned Airmen duty time to conduct PT.
With the PT program fully integrated into Air Force culture, we now must challenge ourselves to maintain an exceptionally fit level.
First, take advantage of the time your commander gives you for PT. In my opinion, this doesn't always mean just playing basketball.
Second, we must train for the test. Practice makes perfect. I feel an effective cardiovascular and core fitness workout produces the best results.
Finally, a well-balanced diet is essential and effective. Fad diets generally only give you quick, short term results. As I have found, there is no need to deny yourself your favorite snacks; just learn to have them in moderation.
As a result of our emphasis on fitness, I feel we Airmen are in the best shape we have ever been. We are ready to meet every challenge our high operations tempo can produce. And as I have personally learned, we are much better equipped to conduct joint operations with our sister services. Capitalize on the fitness opportunities you have and stay fit to fight.