Pacific edition, Thursday, June 7, 2007

His fitness test scores would make a 25-year-old shine.

Col. Arnold Holcomb, 35th Mission Support Group commander at Misawa Air Base, Japan, scored a composite 100 points on his most recent fitness test in April.

It was his fourth “perfect” score since the Air Force rolled out its new “Fit to Fight” fitness program in 2004. Holcomb is 48.

On his last test, he ran 1.5 miles in 9:29, crunched his abdominals 61 times in 60 seconds and muscled 72 push-ups in one minute. His waist measured 31 inches.

The Air Force weights scoring by five-year age increments. Holcomb’s results landed him a “perfect” in every age group, including the 18-to-25-year-olds.

Passionate about fitness, Holcomb emphasizes the importance of staying healthy to his troops. Each day during National Physical Fitness month in May, he e-mailed all 2,000 airmen, civilians and Japanese nationals in his group articles on health and fitness.

Airmen know he doesn’t have a sympathetic ear for excuses.

“They don’t come to me whining,” he said. “I do make sure they understand that they can do better. I use myself as an example of what you can do if you put your mind to it.”

Though his work day can start as early as 3 or 4 in the morning, Holcomb rarely misses a workout. He exercises almost daily, whenever he can squeeze it in, often making fitness a family routine, running with his wife, Mary, or practicing crunches with his 6-year-old son.

Holcomb has taken each service’s fitness test “many times,” he said, having worked in a number of joint-service jobs in his career.

The Marine Corps’ test is the only one he could not max out on “because I was 40-something years old and I couldn’t run for three miles at a 6-minute pace or faster.”

The Marines are the only service to have the same fitness standards across all age groups, a fact Holcomb likes: “If you have to pull someone out of a Humvee in Iraq, nobody’s going to ask what your age is. I think high standards motivate people to do better.”

While he thinks the Air Force’s current physical fitness program is the best it’s ever been, he’d like to see a few changes, including:

n Putting fitness test scores on performance reports — but only if a “disinterested” party administers the test, Holcomb said. “If people think it’s important enough to be put in their records, it’s important enough to give it their utmost” effort.

n Standardizing fitness requirements among the four services. “It might make us more apt to see ourselves as one joint force rather than four separate services,” he said.

author picture
Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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