By Scott Prater
Leaders in the 50th Mission Support Group decided in September they would take bold action to ward off Air Force fitness assessment failures here.
Col. Ed Baron, 50 MSG commander, Lt. Col Harold Hoang, 50 MSG deputy commander and Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Winfree, 50 MSG superintendent, joined forces to create, implement and lead the MSG Remedial PT program.
Chief Winfree brimmed with enthusiasm when he met some 35 to 40 Airmen at the fitness center at 6:15 a.m. Sept. 20. And the program was off and running.
“We could have sat back and waited to hear news of 35 to 40 fitness test failures and watched as people faced administrative action or even discharge,” Chief Winfree said. “Instead, we gave them an option to get fit.”
The group meets every weekday morning and is mandatory for every MSG Airman who has either failed their last AF fitness assessment, or is schedule to take a fitness test in the next 90 days and scored lower than 80 on their last test.
Participants usually arrive around 6 a.m. and sign in. Chief Winfree, Colonel Baron or Colonel Hoang then lead the group through stretching exercises, before taking participants through a tough workout that typically lasts longer than an hour.
“On Mondays we do a mock PT test, record everyone’s times and measurements — and then we do our regular physical training,” Chief Winfree said. “We’ll mix up the workout each day, but we always run at least three miles each day.”
Through the program, Airmen focus on building core strength, upper-body strength, endurance and speed.
It’s worked wonders for more than a few participants.
Staff Sgt. Shad Dohl, 50th Security Forces Squadron, entered the MSG training after failing the sit-up portion of his AF fitness assessment.
“He told us his highest score ever was an 80, but after training with us he ended up scoring a 93 on his last test,” Chief Winfree said. “We think we’re helping to create a lifestyle change for people. No one has digressed.”
Master Sgt. Casandra Bushyeager, 50th Force Support Squadron, for instance dropped 15 pounds, shed three inches off her waist and cut four minutes off her run time. And that’s after just six weeks of training. Senior Airman Jessica Hay improved from a near-failing score of 78 to an excellent score of 91.7.
“The Chief does quite a bit of yelling,” Airman Hay said. “He used to be our squadron Chief so maybe it seemed harsher for me because he knew me by first name, but I needed the motivation. I’m the type of person that if someone doesn’t push me, I won’t want to do it. The biggest thing for me though, was I was surprised at how fast I got into shape. I thought it would take longer. In five weeks I did 16 more sit-ups and cut 1 minute, 23 seconds off my run time.”
Staff Sgt. Dave Maloney, 50th MSG, added more than 11 points to his fitness performance, scoring a 93.3 on his latest test. He entered the program fresh off an illness and on profile.
“My first day, we ran five miles,” he said. “It was out of control. This is the hardest physical fitness regimen I have ever done. Honestly, it feels like your body is about to give out at any moment, but when you’re finished you feel more accomplished than ever before.”
After six weeks, Chief Winfree indicated the program is developing a life of its own.
“It’s more than just people coming out to do PT,” he said. “Airmen are gelling into a team and competing with each other and enjoying the training.”
Even though they’ve both passed their fitness assessments with excellent scores, which means they’ve earned the right to test just once in the next 12 months, Airman Hay and Sergeant Maloney still show up for the MSG PT three days a week on average.
“Col. John Shaw wrote a commentary a couple of weeks ago where he talked about Airman being professional athletes,” he said. “The way I look at it, you’re either excited about PT or your hiding from it. I’d rather embrace it and show what I’ve got.”