After audit, PACAF talks up changes to fitness program
Pacific Air Forces officials say a plan to restructure PACAF’s fitness testing program by March aims to let units spend more time on exercise and less time on paperwork.
Starting March 1, the program will be run by base Health and Wellness centers at Pacific installations, according to a command directive announced this month.
Center staffs will be responsible for administering the annual test, follow-ups and remedial training, as well as healthy-living programs.
The revision follows a worldwide Air Force audit that found unit commanders were not properly managing fitness programs and individual assessments.
The Air Force Audit Agency found that at 13 PACAF locations, unit commanders did not always allow the 90 minutes of required individual fitness activity during duty time, properly perform fitness assessments or take administrative action for substandard fitness scores.
The annual Air Force fitness test includes push-ups, sit-ups, a 1.5-mile run and an abdominal circumference measurement that is based on a person’s gender, height, weight and age to total 100 points.
Airmen who score below 75 do not pass and must test again within 90 days.
According to the audit, of the 9,206 airmen requiring fitness assessments, 476 airmen had not been tested by the due date, and 190 of those airmen had tests overdue by 60 days or more.
At Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, the test for one airman was overdue by 311 days, the audit said.
The shift will free up some of the paperwork duties required of command-appointed physical-training leaders, said PACAF command surgeon Col. Sean Murphy.
Physical-training leaders are currently responsible for administering unit physical training, along with tracking and monitoring individual fitness assessments.
Under the changes, training leaders will still run physical training for their squadrons, but Health and Wellness centers will handle airmen who aren’t making the fitness grade and help them with exercise and nutrition services, Murphy said.
Disciplinary administrative action will continue to remain with the squadron commander, Murphy said.
"I believe that a lot of airmen in the program, they will know that when this is rolled out that everyone has had the same test in a very standard format and administratively handled in the same manner, and that’s a good feeling for all," Murphy said. "I also believe that lifting some of this administrative burden from the physical training leaders is the job they most dislike ... and airmen will be glad that the burden is lifted."
The audit — performed from August 2007 to June 2008 — was the first review of the fitness program, Murphy said.
"I think it was a surprise to the leaders," he said of the findings.
"Since the audit’s happened, everyone has been very positively reading them and taking actions."
While the audit revealed gaps in the fitness system, PACAF officials said the percentage of its airmen not meeting fitness standards is relatively small.
According to fitness test data from the Air Force Fitness Management System, 3,817 airmen out of 322,811 — or about 1.2 percent — in PACAF are not meeting fitness standards, said Jason Ham, 15th Airlift Wing exercise physiologist.
Centralizing the program will help decrease substandard fitness scores, because airmen will have immediate access to exercise and improvement services, Ham said.
Exercise physiologists, aerobic trainers and other fitness experts at Health and Wellness centers will continue to advise physical-training leaders on unit fitness programs and techniques, but they will also get first contact with airmen who need help, Ham said.
"One of the things airmen are really going to see enhanced when they don’t meet standards is you’re going to be surrounded by great fitness professionals," Ham said.
PACAF officials also are reviewing ways to improve training leaders’ training and education to boost fitness standards and test scores and to promote healthy living, Murphy said.
Two to three civilians at each base will be hired to help start and run the revised programs.
Murphy said new hires most likely will be active-duty dependents.
Overseas hires could prove challenging, particularly at remote bases such as Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, which doesn’t have command-sponsored billeting, he said.
"Some wings may get started quicker than others," he said.