Program pushes Reservists to pursue healthier lifestyle

Fit to fight: program pushes Reservists to pursue healthier lifestyle

Bo Joyner

At units throughout the country, Air Force Reservists are taking the service’s new fitness test to make sure they are fit to perform optimally in today’s high-operations-tempo climate. But Air Force Reserve officials hope Reservists don’t forget about fitness once they have completed the test.

“The idea is not to prepare for the test for a couple of weeks and then abandon your health program once the test is over,” said Col. William P. Thornton, AFRC’s assistant director of health services, Robins Air Force Base, Ga. “We want Reservists to make exercising and eating right a permanent part of their lives.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper implemented the new Fit to Fight program Air Force-wide Jan. 1 with the idea that the Air Force must have a healthy, fit force that is ready to deploy at any time.

“I want to make very clear that my focus is not on passing a fitness test once a year,” General Jumper said last year. “More important, we are changing the culture of the Air Force. This is about our preparedness to deploy and fight. It’s about warriors. It’s about instilling an expectation that makes fitness a daily standard–an essential part of your service.”

General Jumper’s new program makes it a commander’s responsibility to ensure his or her people incorporate physical fitness into their daily routine. While active-duty members are given time to work out on duty and have access to health and wellness centers on base, unit Reservists and individual mobilization augmentees don’t always have those same opportunities.

Reserve unit commanders and IMA supervisors can authorize duty-time physical training, but it must fit with mission and other training requirements.

“That’s the biggest challenge facing Reservists as far as fitness is concerned,” Colonel Thornton said. “Our people have a personal responsibility to stay fit. They have to exercise on their own time because they are still required to maintain the same level of fitness as the active duty. Maintaining a fitness level necessary to meet our expeditionary Air Force needs is the individual’s responsibility, but establishing a unit environment and culture that promotes fitness is the commander’s responsibility.”

“It’s the same for IMAs,” said Senior Master Sgt. Patrick O’Neal from the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver. “They are not able to work out with the rest of their squadron three or four days a week at the track or the base wellness center, so they have to find time during their busy schedules for exercise. All we can do is encourage them to make fitness a part of their daily routine so they can operate at their full potential.”

To measure the fitness of the force, the Air Force adopted a new assessment that consists of four parts: a 1.5-mile run, an abdominal circumference measurement, abdominal crunches and push-ups. The overall maximum score possible is 100 points, with 50 points possible for the run, 30 points for the abdominal measurement, and 10 points each for the crunches and push-ups.

A score of 90 or above is considered excellent; good is from 75 to 90; marginal is 70 to 75; and poor is anything less than 70.

New Air Force charts break down scoring by age and gender. Beginning with “under age 25,” the charts go up every five years for both men and women, grouping them at 25-29, 30-34 and so on.

As an Airman’s age increases, the number of push-ups and crunches required for a perfect score goes down, and more time is allowed for the run. However, the waist measurement standard remains constant, regardless of an Airman’s age.

For example, a male under age 25 would have to complete the 1.5-mile run in less than 9:36 and perform at least 62 pushups in one minute and 55 crunches in one minute for a perfect score. A male over age 55 would need a time of 11:06, 35 pushups and 41 crunches for a perfect score. Both would have to have a waist measurement of less than 32.5 inches for a perfect score.

AFRC began testing Reservists April 1. All Reservists will be tested by the end of the year. Initial testing focused on those who were in the weight management program, which was terminated Jan. 1. Early testing also involved some volunteer groups to help units get their processes in order. Most units are now scheduling regular testing. Safety in testing, getting people ready for the test and maintaining their fitness is a high priority.

Maj. Therese Kern is the unit fitness monitor for the 440th Airlift Wing, Gen. Mitchell International Airport Air Reserve Station, Wisc. At each of file wing’s unit training assemblies, she administers the new fitness assessment to about 160 Reservists.

“It took a while to get some of the logistics worked out, but it’s great to be involved in a program like this,” she said. “It’s really important that our Reservists maintain a high level of fitness.”

Major Kern said most of the Reservists she has tested have done well on the assessment, scoring in either the excellent or good range.

Colonel Thornton said early results command-wide have shown that most Reservists are scoring well.

“The Air Force has had some problems with the reporting software, so we don’t have all of the results from Reservists who have tested so far, but word from the field is that most people are scoring at least in the good range,” he said. “Version 2 of the software due out this summer will give us better reports at the unit and command level.”

Reservists who score marginal or poor are given additional educational materials, encouraged to begin a fitness program and retested in six months. Those who don’t show improvement over time could face administrative action.

Air Force Instruction 10-248 spells out the details of the Air Force’s Fit to Fight program.

The instruction and the AFRC supplement are available online at http://www.e-publishing.af.mil/ pubfiles/afrc/10/afi10-248_ afrcsup1_i/afi10-248_afrcsup1_i.pdf.

For more information, contact your unit’s fitness monitor or Colonel Thornton at DSN 497-1897 or commercial 478-327-1897. His e-mail address is william.thornton@afrc.af.mil.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Air Force Reserves

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group