OSS commander encourages all to get pumped up on physical fitness

  • Published
  • By Lt Col Scott Reed
  • 71st Operations Support Squadron
The new Air Force physical fitness program has received a lot of press over the last year.
It is a hot topic because we are witnessing a fundamental cultural shift in Air Force life.
None of us were really happy with the cycle ergonometry program. It just didn't sit well with the warrior spirit that our physical fitness was determined without ever breaking a sweat. The difference between passing, failing or a "no-test" could be a spike in a heart rate, poor breathing technique or even the amount of caffeine ingested at breakfast. The only good news was that no one was getting hurt on the stationary bike except for his or her pride.
It's important to remember, however, that cycle ergonometry was adopted to protect Air Force people. When I entered the Air Force in the early 1980s, the physical fitness requirement was an annual 1.5-mile run or
3-mile walk. We often made a big event out of it, converting the runways into a running or walking track and having a big party at the finish line. The problem was that couch potatoes would vegetate on the sofa for 364 days, roll themselves out to our modified runway track, attempt to "sprint" 1.5 miles once a year, and then suffer heart attacks or other injuries.
The Air Force has also changed dramatically since the Cold War. At that time, we were a garrison force where aircrew were the predominate players at the "tip of the spear." Now a large cross-section of airmen must be ready to deploy and fight. Here people from the tower, RAPCON, weather shop, security forces, medical community and even the chapel, to name a few, are deployable. The Air Force has also come a long way in upgrading its fitness facilities. When I entered the Air Force, the gym at Williams Air Force Base in Phoenix, Ariz. didn't have air conditioning and the fitness center here was a shell of the outstanding facility we enjoy today. The service's overall understanding of physical conditioning has also improved. Gone are the days where fighter pilots had to get permission to train for marathons due to the mistaken belief that running severely undermined G-tolerance.
The new Air Force physical fitness program is a reflection of these changes. Unlike times past, it is not just a test. It's now a mandatory conditioning program accomplished during duty time so we are "Fit to Fight." Volleyball, softball and beating the 32nd Flying Training Squadron in intramurals are great team-building exercises but are not the point of this program. Aerobic and muscular fitness, flexibility and optimal body composition are the Air Force Instruction targets to emphasize. People should dedicate themselves to seriously improving their fitness three times per week and eating healthy, and the fitness test will take care of itself. Supervisors should lead from the front, just as they do on the mission elements of the job. Set the example, mentor younger officers and Airmen and ensure an environment that encourages and rewards physical fitness.
For at least the last three months, squadrons at Vance AFB have implemented their unit conditioning programs. Now that the frozen tundra here on the northern tier of Air Education and Training Command has thawed, testing is just around the corner. Don't be the couch potato who gets hurt on testing day. Work out. Partners keep it fun and motivate each other to get the most out of a workout. For help, talk to a physical training leader in the squadron or the experts at the health and wellness center and fitness center.
Changing an Air Force fitness culture will not happen overnight and it will be interesting to see how this change takes root in the years to come. It is my view that we need to embrace it fully, not because it's a new AFI, but because it protects the health of our people and enables us to better fulfill the expeditionary tasks of the U.S. Air Force. Get pumped up on physical fitness and I'll see everyone at the gym!