WASHINGTON — The need for a clear, understandable and simpler fitness program will mean significant changes to the Air Force’s current fitness program, said the service’s top officer during a senior leadership conference held June 4 to 6 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz met with the service’s other four stars at CORONA TOP, where one of the key agenda items was Air Force fitness.
His intent was to fine tune fitness testing, promote a year-round fitness culture and send a clear message that health and fitness are critical to mission readiness.
“Fitness is a vital component of Air Force culture,” General Schwartz said. “These challenging times underscore the importance of properly caring for our most valuable resource: our Airmen.”
The Air Force’s top enlisted leader agreed that good fitness is a fundamental requirement for Air Force warriors.
“Maintaining the proper fitness levels is really about maintaining combat capability,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney J. McKinley. “Being fit can make the difference between life and death for Airmen when actions require concentrated physical activity on or near the battlefield.”
Chief McKinley said Airmen must constantly hone their fitness abilities to withstand and overcome the demanding rigors of deployment and combat.
“Airmen must present the proper military appearance and project to the American public our ability to defend our nation and its interests,” he said.
While commanders have responsibility of their unit fitness programs, each Airman is responsible for meeting and maintaining fitness standards, said Lt. Gen. Richard Y. Newton III, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel.
“With these program revisions and enhancements, we encourage a culture of fitness, empowering all Airmen to take responsibility for being physically mission ready,” General Newton said.
General Newton said the new Air Force instruction, projected for publication in July, will better emphasize the service’s fitness expectations of its Airmen. Who will conduct the testing, when and how Airmen will test are among the most significant revisions to the fitness program, which take effect in January 2010.
Perhaps the most significant difference in fitness testing will be its frequency, Air Force officials said.
Full-time active-duty Airmen will now test twice each year, and most reservists or guardsmen will continue to test once per year.
To maximize testing objectivity, the AFI designates trained civilian proctors to conduct fitness tests administered at new centralized locations called fitness assessment cells.
Aerobic fitness is the best indicator of current and future health risk, followed by body composition, said Lt. Col. Scott Arcuri, the chief of promotions, evaluations and fitness policy at the Air Staff. Because of this, the aerobic run will now account for 60 percent of the test (previously 50 percent), body composition will account for 20 percent (previously 30 percent), while sit-ups and push-ups remain at 10 percent each.
“We developed evidence-driven, health based criterion standards for aerobic fitness and body composition and muscle fitness,” Colonel Arcuri said. “Airmen can be confident the new standards and corresponding points have sound rationale behind them.”
Colonel Arcuri also said the points awarded within each component directly reflect health risk and fitness and are designed to reward incremental fitness improvements.
Senior leaders said in order to pass the test, Airmen will be required to have a composite score of 75 but will also need to meet minimum requirements for each component.
Air Force officials said age range requirements will be simplified to five categories: under 30, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59 and 60 and older. Additionally, because overall fitness is a readiness issue, fitness results will be categorized using operational readiness or unit compliance inspection-type ratings. Those scoring 90 and above will be “Excellent,” those scoring between 75 and 90 will be “Satisfactory,” and those scoring under 75 will be “Unsatisfactory.”
“The time has come for all Airmen to better integrate fitness into their daily lives,” said Chief Master Sgt. Mark Long, the Air Staff enlisted promotions, evaluations and physical fitness chief.
Chief Long said the new AFI will provide commanders clear guidance on recommended actions based on the number of failed tests.
Chief McKinley noted that making a commitment to fitness puts the responsibility on each Airman to get in shape and remain wartime ready year-round.
“Proper fitness is an important aspect of an overall healthy lifestyle,” Chief McKinley said. “When our Airmen are fit, eat healthy and reduce risk factors such as tobacco use and irresponsible alcohol consumption, their health will improve, they will visit the hospital less, and in the end, TRICARE costs will be reduced.”
Failure to comply with the new fitness standards could impact more than an Airmen’s waistlines. The new AFI links unsatisfactory fitness test performance directly to enlisted and officer performance reports. Chief McKinley said the upcoming revised evaluation AFI will ensure no Airman can have a referral enlisted performance report for fitness and receive an overall five rating.
The rewritten AFI mandates that fitness compliance be reported from unit to wing to major command for review.
General Newton asserts that while the Air Force fitness AFI outlines an Airman’s responsibilities, the Air Force Fitness Management System will be enhanced to provide detailed post-test feedback designed to help Airmen improve in targeted areas.
Airmen will be able to view component scoring charts in the new AFI. Further questions on the program can be directed to Colonel Arcuri, Lt. Col. John Giles and Chief Long at 224-8270, 222-4532 and 227-1661 respectively.