Airmen embracing fitness culture

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Amaani Lyle
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
"Readiness," said the chief master sergeant of the Air Force, "is the primary purpose of developing the new fitness standard, and, so far, Airmen are stepping up to the challenge as the program normalizes."

The new physical-training standard is a way to ensure Airmen are prepared to do the nation's work and encourage them to embrace a culture of fitness, said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy Oct. 28.

"Nearly 50 percent of Airmen are already reaching that 90 or above score, which is a significant accomplishment," he added. "It wasn't like that the very first month out of the chute."

The statistics reflect Chief Roy's assertions.

According to Air Force senior leaders, the service has seen the percentage of the total force passing the test increase from 77.9 percent to 82.6 percent in three months since the July 1, 2010, launch of the revised fitness program. Additionally, the rate of Airmen scoring 90 points or greater has nearly doubled since 2009.

A review of recent Air Force basic military training fitness test results underscores the conclusion that Airmen can quickly train to a standard and excel in physical training. Male and female trainees significantly increased their scores at the end of the eight weeks for sit-ups, push-ups and the 1.5-mile run times.

"Our Airmen in basic training are leading the way with fitness; right now, we're proud to say that the fitness pass rate is approximately 98 percent by the time they graduate," said Chief Master Sgt. Mark Long, the enlisted promotions, evaluations and fitness chief.

"We're seeing improvements through every portion of the test as a direct result of constant exercise and fitness," Chief Long said.

Chief Roy credits leadership involvement, unit cohesion and the wingman concept for the uptick in passing numbers across the board.

"We're already seeing a cultural change, even for Airmen engaged in combat operations in extreme environments," Chief Roy said. "I see individuals, or entire commands, working with each other, helping their wingmen through team building and esprit-de-corps sports activities."

Following the review of the fitness program last year, greater emphasis was placed on the aerobic portion of the test.

Abdominal circumference measurement is a very clear indicator of health and fitness, but the abdominal circumference is now worth 20 points to allow more points for the run, Chief Long said.

The new fitness standard also mandates that Airmen must meet minimum standards in each portion to pass the overall test. Attaining minimum standards alone does not earn a passing score. Additionally, a passing score does not constitute passing if category minimums are not attained.

Fitness assessment cell monitors said a long-term health commitment is critical to success.

"Fitness is not just something you do for six-months or once a year, but something that can sustain you over different duty titles or different locations," said Sinclair Bayard, the fitness testing technician at the Pentagon. "It's really about bringing an awareness of total health and wellness."

Chief Long said the Air Force's long-term fitness goals are simple.

"We want to continue to emphasize a fitness culture for the Air Force and create a better warfighter by having healthier Airmen," he said. "Injuries or health problems take our Airmen away from the fight."

A fit force reduces not only overall health care costs, but helps keep Airmen invested in their wellness, even beyond the parameters of duty, he said.

"Leaders at all levels need to emphasize fitness year round," Chief Long said. "When Airmen see that we care from the top, I believe they'll want to take control of their fitness."

The chief noted since Airmen have already surpassed the Air Force's projected 75 to 80 percent passing rate, he predicts the service will continue to raise the bar.

"We still have more opportunity for improvement, but so far, Airmen have risen to the challenge," he said. "We're very pleased."