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Air Force tweaks new fitness policy

By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 4, 2011

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The Air Force has adjusted some standards on its revamped fitness policy, permitting airmen to fail four times in 24 months before being considered for discharge, instead of being up for discharge after failing two consecutive tests.

The new guidance, which includes more detailed instructions on fitness testing techniques and administration, went into effect Sunday.

Under the previous policy, commanders had to make a recommendation for discharge or retention after an airman remained in the unsatisfactory fitness category for 12 months straight or failed four tests in two years.

The change gives “commanders one set of simple rules to follow,” said Chief Master Sgt. Bernise Belcer, chief of enlisted promotions, evaluations and fitness policy.

The previous policy took effect July 1 and was revised after feedback from airmen.

Even now, no discharge is “automatic,” said Col. Julie Boit, chief of military force policy division. “Commanders have discretion,” she said.

The Air Force doesn’t have data yet on whether any airmen have been discharged or recommended for separation because of unsatisfactory fitness scores since the new policy took effect, Belcer said.

The service is, however, tracking the failure rate, which has dropped from about 20 percent to just below 13 percent during the past six months. So far, more than 320,000 active-duty, Guard and Reserve troops have taken the test. Forty-six percent of the total force has scored 90 points — out of 100 — or higher.

“That gives us a lot of encouragement,” Boit said. It shows that “airmen are training to the new standards.”

The failure rate under the old fitness program, when airmen tested annually, was about 10 percent, officials said.

Airmen must receive a minimum passing score in four components: 1½-mile run; sit-ups and push-ups completed in one minute each; and waist measurement.

Test components giving airmen the most trouble so far are the run for males and sit-ups for females, said Maj. Tracy Maza, chief of officer evaluations and fitness policy.

Most of the latest policy revisions read more like a how-to manual: The new guidance spells out in more detail proper technique and form for completing push-ups and sit-ups and measuring an airman’s waist. For example, the new instruction specifies that airmen may use palms or fists on the floor for push-ups.

“We wanted to make sure everyone has the same baseline knowledge in regards to the test,” Boit said. The changes were made based on feedback from airmen, unit commanders and senior Air Force leaders, officials said.

While no official survey was taken, Belcer said, representatives of the Air Force major commands gathered information from fitness center directors and other fitness specialists at the base level, she said.

Other changes include standardizing how the abdominal circumference test should be done and, for airmen doing the one-mile walk, the order in which it should be done.

By the end of the month, the Air Force plans to post a video providing instructions for administering and taking the Air Force physical fitness test at www.afpc.randolph.af.mil/affitnessprogram/index.asp.

svanj@estripes.osd.mil

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