Epic Fail

The Air Force’s current fixation with “PT” is the latest in a long line of fads. As you have probably heard, Airman are failing the new biannual Air Force Fitness Test (AFFT) at the rate of about 25%. Unfortunately, instead of actually creating a culture of physical fitness, they have got everyone worried about the test. Worse yet, one element of that test has become particularly troublesome. That element is the waist measurement. In fact, some Airmen are actually getting liposuction in order to pass the waist measurement.

So what exactly is wrong with the waist measurement? Well, it’s a simple case of symbolism over substance. It seems, someone likes skinny folks. The waist measurement does not assess an individual’s health and what’s more it is not scaled for age nor height. A 5′ tall Airman has to have the same waist measurement to pass as an Airman who is 6′ tall. By the same token, an 18 year old has the same standard as a 48 year old. This makes no sense. The test is so weighted in favor of the skinny that an older Airman with a large waist has to actually be in better shape than a young Airman. He must be more capable in the push up, sit up, and run portions of the test in order to just pass. So the skinny kid can be in worse shape than the old fat guy and still pass. In fact, he can score better. Make sense? Check out this PT score calculator to see how you compare.

One would think that things couldn’t be worse than Air Force personnel undergoing plastic surgery in order to pass a PT test but it does. The Air Force leadership has lost so much faith in its commanders and their NCOs that it has gone and hired civilian testers. Yes, it’s true. Physical Fitness testing is no longer conducted by Unit Fitness Monitors since they can’t be trusted. Instead, the Air Force has hired a cadre of civilian testers. They aren’t even required to be able to demonstrate proper form for the four events let alone even pass.

To throw gasoline on this fire, as fitness is an individual responsibility, many units see no reason to provide time during the duty day to conduct PT. The machine is unwilling to sacrifice man hours to develop a more healthy force. The mission capable rate must not be compromised.

The Air Force leadership needs to get this under control. Dump the waist measurement. Anything that prompts service members to undergo risky surgeries deserves some Congressional oversight. Better yet, develop a test that actually measures true fitness and reflects tasks Airmen actually are expected to accomplish. Also, develop a true culture of fitness where leaders lead by example and commanders are responsible for their unit’s program and performance. And for goodness sakes, get rid of those civilian testers. They are an embarrassment. You can’t outsource integrity.

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