Fitness Matters!

  • Published
  • By Command Chief Master Sgt. Gerardo Tapia
  • Air Education and Training Command
I normally walk in front of the Fitness Assessment Cell every morning when I get to the gym. At this time, the testers are usually taking roll, or have already begun to measure folks. I can tell fairly quickly who is going to breeze right through and who might be in trouble.
I find it disturbing that after nine years of this type of fitness testing, so many of our Airmen still don't get it. Some Airmen believe that the scales have tipped so far, that our Air Force has lost focus of what is truly important, that we are only concerned with people who can muster an excellent on the test. Not true.

I can swing by any county jail and find many people who can likely max this test out, but do I want them as Airmen? Do I need them turning wrenches on our flight line? Absolutely not. But make no mistake, being physically fit is an integral part of being an Airman.

I also take note that I have met Airmen who are "cramming" for their PT test; waiting until the last minute, using fad diets or extreme weight loss techniques to gut this out. This kind of activity is unhealthy and dangerous and will not serve you in the long run. In order to be healthy, keep weight off and avoid health risks, you need a proper diet and exercise plan and most importantly - dedication. Don't get me wrong, I love to eat, but I pay for my occasional over indulgence at the table in the gym, on the treadmill and on the streets.

Air Force Instruction 36-2618, the Enlisted Force Structure, lists being physically fit as a general responsibility for every enlisted grade. If you are senior in rank, it also states that you will lead the way by supporting, participating and setting a positive example.

Fitness is directly linked to our mission and readiness; it is a gauge of how able we are to execute our nation's battles. Being unfit also consumes valuable time, resources and energy; it takes Airmen away from duty sections with mandatory counseling, nutrition classes, and extra supervised physical training sessions.

I can provide you with countless examples of why fitness is important, none more important than this: your family and your teammates depend on it. That's right; it's not just about you. Your family needs you around, the Airmen to your left and right count on you to be ready to fight tonight. In addition, I have talked with many of our wounded Airmen who often provide testimony and attribute their personal recovery from horrific wounds to their fitness levels before and after their battlefield injuries.

As Airmen, we have to be ready for a deployment, and all the training that goes along with it, at any time. Anyone who has been to Combat Skills Training and run around wearing personal protective equipment knows that it's not easy. If you are already in good shape, you eat right, exercise, get enough rest, and manage stress in a healthy way, fantastic, stay the course. Now help someone else get there.

May is National Physical Fitness Month. It's a great time for you to make a culture change involving your fitness. But don't do it for a month or to cram for the test, make it a part of who you are as a warrior, and valued family member.