Airmen tackle tougher physical fitness standards
KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — It’s a rainy Monday afternoon here and the base gym is jammed with airmen doing push-ups, lifting weights, shooting baskets and running on the treadmill.
Every room is crowded, and in some, nearly every machine or workout station seems occupied.
But these fitness enthusiasts didn’t just show up at the gym around the same time to get in an afternoon workout. This was official U.S. Air Force business.
In this case, members of Kunsan’s 8th Mission Support Squadron gathered for group physical training, better known as unit PT.
The Air Force toughened its physical fitness standards in January, requiring airmen to perform PT at least three times a week while making push-ups, sit-ups and a 1.5-mile run the core of the program.
“I think it’s working out great — I’ve lost 30 pounds … a whole lot fitter than when I first came here,” said Master Sgt. Timothy Talbot, a manpower analyst and PT leader with the squadron. “The actual fitness level of the people that I work with has improved.”
For airmen struggling with the new standards, the toughest part is hardly a secret.
“It would probably be the run,” Talbot said. “Before, the mile-and-a-half run was part of our fitness test but it was a one-time-a-year deal — you didn’t really prepare for it. You just went out there. Compared to now, when we actually train for the mile-and-a-half run.”
Because the 8th Fighter Wing initiated a training program several months before the official January debut of the new standards, many airmen are doing well, some already comfortable running two miles or more.
But others have come to Kunsan only recently, and from bases where no early workout regimen was in place. “We encourage them to take it slow at first,” Talbot said.
And the squadron is making one of the 30-minute run sessions a “14 out-16 back” routine, meaning airmen run in one direction for 14 minutes, then the other way for the final 16 minutes, always at their own pace.
“I’m pacin’ myself,” said Staff Sgt. Latrice Harris, who works in personnel relocation for the squadron. At her previous base, “we really didn’t do PT like we do here … At first, it was hard. You’re out there running, not giving up.”
Initially, she found the new running requirement “a shock back to reality.”
But Harris stays with it because she thinks that airmen can’t afford to be out of shape, especially when they’re subject to deployments to world trouble spots in the post-Sept. 11 era.
“Just being fit to fight, being ready to fight, you’re not goin’ to be losing your breath after two or three minutes’ runnin,’” she said.