What does 'Fit to Fight' mean to Vance Airmen?

Vance Air Force Base, Okla. -- Fit to Fight. What does that mean to you?
In the July 2003 Chief's Sight Picture with that title, then Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper highlighted that we "deploy to all regions of the world, living in tent cities and working on flight lines in extremes of temperatures."
He went on to add that at the time, "some of our Airmen are operating from inside Iraq, subject to attack, and could be called upon to help defend the base, a trend that will surely increase in the growing expeditionary nature of our business." The general concluded with a simple message: "if you are out of shape, fix it. January 2004 is the date. Be ready."
That was written less than two and a half years ago. In that time, our role as an expeditionary force has not only expanded but now becomes the expectation for the foreseeable future. Today, there are thousands of Airmen serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations throughout the world. In the words of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley, not only do we have "the most capable Air Force," but also "the most combat experienced American Air Force we've had since the end of World War II," with the greatest percentage of people in combat who have been shot at, returned fire, lived and operated on expeditionary airfields subject to constant attack.
For many Air Force Specialty Codes, six-month deployments are the norm. Long hours outside in temperatures exceeding 120 degrees while wearing body armor and a helmet are the least of a deployed Airman's worries. That's just the beginning of the many threats deployed Airmen face.
Fit to fight certainly means being physically prepared to handle the demands of a deployed environment, but it means more than just being able to pass your physical training test or look good in uniform. Much more.
When I sit down with my new Airmen during their newcomer's briefings, I ask each person what "fit to fight" means to them. Beyond the obvious physical component, many people overlook the other dimensions of "fitness." What about emotional, social and spiritual? Being "fit to fight" means being physically and mentally ready to go ... ready to do whatever is asked, regardless of when or where ... from Iraq to Biloxi. It means having your life in order, your ducks in a row, all your "stuff" in one bag, neatly packed and organized, under your desk and within quick reach.
When is the last time you thought about what would happen if you were told today you are deploying for six months and you have to leave next week? Are you prepared to deal with the challenges you will face? What about your family? Are you prepared for the worst? These are things we often don't think about. Why? Because we don't want to deal with the answers. However, identifying and facing these unknowns helps to reduce stress and allows us to focus on the mission at hand. In other words, taking care of these things now helps us to not have to worry about them later.
Consider each of the components and think about what you have done, are doing or could do to make sure each is squared away and "good to go" today.
Physical: Do you make physical fitness a regular part of your daily life, or do you tell yourself you need to "get in shape?" Do you maintain a good diet versus thinking you should "go on a diet?" Could you drag or carry the person working next to you out of the office or away from a burning vehicle? Ultimately, are you physically prepared to endure long hours of physical and mental stress?
Emotional or Mental: Do you feel confident in your ability to do your job? Do you feel "on top of your game?" Are things in your life the way you would like them to be? Are you mentally prepared to deal with things you might encounter or have to deal with, including serious injuries or death? Are there things you struggle with? Do you have good mechanisms for coping with stress? Are there things that keep you from focusing your mind on the mission?
Social: Are your relationships with your friends and family the way you'd like them to be? Are they strong and healthy? How will they endure six months or more of separation? Are you building and maintaining the bonds that will endure long periods of separation? Is your family prepared to deal with your absence?
Spiritual: How important is faith or
spirituality in your life? What role does faith or spirituality play in dealing with stress and life's challenges? Do you maintain bonds to your church, neighborhood or community that will help sustain you while deployed?
And I add one more when talking to my Airmen -- Financial: Are your financial responsibilities in order? Do you have savings to buy the personal supplies you will need to take with you for six months? Is there someone who will be able to pay bills for you while you are gone? Can you pay them in advance or on-line? Do you know your cell phone, cable, insurance and utility company's policy on suspending service while deployed so you are not paying for services you are not using? Do you have a government travel card? When does it expire? Do you know how to file an accrual voucher to pay for charges incurred while getting to and during your deployment? Is your Servicemembers Group Life Insurance up-to-date and accurate? Do you have a will? Is it current? Will you need a power of attorney?
This is certainly a lot to think about. These are all things that take time and effort to address and maintain. They are exactly the things you don't want to worry about when it is time to deploy. Being "Fit to Fight" means addressing these things now. Today is the day. Be ready. Be "Fit To Fight."