By Scott Prater
Changes to the Air Force Fitness Program are scheduled to take effect July 1, but fitness leaders here aren’t wasting any time preparing for the eventual transition.
In reality, some changes have already taken place. As of Jan. 1, Airmen are required to pass a fitness test twice each year.
One major change is the way fitness tests will be administered. Currently, unit physical training leaders lead their unit’s physical training sessions and administer fitness assessments.
By July 1, all fitness tests will be conducted through a centralized system, by trained civilian employees, at Fitness Assessment Cells on each Air Force installation.
Here at Schriever, the 50th Force Support Squadron has hired two fitness assessment monitors using non-appropriated funds, and is refitting an area inside the Fitness Center Annex, which will soon function as the base’s new FAC.
Air Force bases aren’t required to have their FAC’s operational until July 1, but the 50th Space Wing is moving forward and will open its FAC well before then. Schriever Fitness Center Director Seth Cannello expects the base’s new FAC to be up and running sometime during March.
“Col. (Wayne) Monteith (50th Space Wing Commander) wanted to get the Physical Training Leaders away from testing, keep them at their workstations and get the new program up and running as soon as possible,” Mr. Canello said. “With the prior testing model, PTL’s would routinely visit the fitness center, test a few individuals, go over to their work areas and come back later to test more Airmen.”
Another benefit to using dedicated fitness monitors as opposed to unit administrators is increased standardization.
“Now, all of the bases’ PT tests should be administered in the same manner,” Mr. Cannello said. “Everyone should have an opportunity to earn an appropriate score and the tests should be more standardized now so that everyone is taking exactly the same test.”
The 50th FSS is in the process of creating offices at the Fitness Center Annex, where the abdominal circumference and the muscular fitness assessments will be performed, but members will need to go to the quarter-mile running track to complete their assessment.
“Obviously that’s not ideal, but because of limited space at the main fitness center that’s how we’ll need to program the testing,” Mr. Cannello said.
Many Airmen who will take the physical assessment later this year will recognize Krys Bankard, one of Schriever’s new fitness assessment monitors. Ms. Bankard has worked as a recreation aide at the Schriever Fitness Center since 2006. When the 50th FSS announced it was looking for fitness assessment monitors, Ms. Bankard jumped at the opportunity.
“This is something challenging and different,” she said. “I’ll have more action, more responsibility and more of a purpose in testing Air Force members.
During the next few weeks the new fitness assessment monitors will be working closely with the Health and Wellness Center during the transition from unit-based assessments to FAC- based assessments.
The Schriever fitness team is attempting to make the transition to a centralized assessment program as seamless as possible, and Mr. Cannello is confident that the new program will represent a positive change for the Air Force.
“Overall, I do think Air Force members will become more fit,” he said. “They are going to have to be. When they only had to test once a year, people could blow off fitness for 10 months and then hustle to get in shape the last two months. Now, because they’ll test twice a year, they won’t be able to take a break.”