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PT Pains

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Since I joined the military seven years ago, I've heard complaints about physical fitness, training, conditioning or any other term we used over the years. Things like, "It's too hard, too soft, doesn't prepare us for combat, doesn't accurately gage fitness, etc." Some of those complaints may have merit, but it ultimately depends on perspective. 

Viewed from the perspective of a highly deployable Airman, he or she may be far more concerned with their ability to carry a lot of weight quickly over short distances. The PT test, not having any sprints or weight lifting, doesn't seem to benefit those Airmen. In fact, the new fitness program's frequently asked questions at http://www.afpc.randolph.af.mil/affitnessprogram/affitnessfaq.asp specifically delineate the new program as health and fitness related as opposed to combat related. 

If we consider our long-term fitness as opposed to job relevance, we find this program helps to prevent heart disease. What are the highest correlating factors to heart disease? According to the new fitness website, they are waist size and cardiovascular fitness, two items measured by our fitness test. By preventing heart disease and other illnesses related to poor fitness, the Air Force saves literally millions of dollars on treatment and facilities not to mention the benefit you gain: more life. 

As Airmen, we notice when Air Force funds are tight. Often times we wait on funds for extra equipment or sometimes even mission essential items. However, we don't often think about where those funds come from or how they are allocated. Preventable illnesses and injuries eat a huge portion of the budget and the PT program provides motivation to thwart these illnesses in our Airmen. This perspective may not address combat readiness but it may change Airmen's perceptions if funds weren't available for vital deployable supplies, or if members had to deploy longer or more frequently to compensate for other members due to poor fitness. 

Something else to reflect on, while the Air Force in general may not be as directive as other services, we are required to do as we are told. 

This reminder isn't coming from a new mindless lieutenant but a previously enlisted "LT" who truly appreciates the open flow of feedback and lack of "I say, you do" mentality we have in the Air Force. In this case though, I think we should trust in our leadership to care about us and make good choices. 

Yes, our PT test may not prepare us to sprint from building to building in hot deserts, but that is a competency individual members should build toward, especially knowing most of us will deploy. While the Air Force is promoting the expeditionary aspect of service, the talking points sent out with this new PT program specifically refer to long-term health and fitness. Phrasing it a different way, you have to live to be deployed in the first place and you can't do that when your heart doesn't work.