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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Starting Oct. 1, airmen on one-year downrange deployments will be required to take their semiannual physical fitness test, depending on their location.

The new requirement comes on the heels of tougher physical training standards across the Air Force, and marks the first time that airmen will be made to undergo fitness testing downrange.

“It is paramount for our airmen to maintain peak physical condition, not just at home, but also while deployed,” Lt. Gen. Mike Hostage, commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, was quoted in a recent Air Force news release.

Currently, the change will apply to more than 1,400 airmen, Air Force officials said.

Deployed sailors and soldiers also test at approved locations, according to the Air Force, while the Marines do not.

Airmen previously were exempt from fitness testing while deployed. The new Air Force physical fitness instruction rolled out July 1 now allows it, as long as a location provides a “safe and secure environment” for testing, said Chief Master Sgt. Mark Villella, the command chief for U.S. Air Force Central Comman.

To meet that standard, a site must have an approved running and walking course, local medical support, physical training leaders and a health-screening process.

Which downrange bases meet those requirements has yet to be determined, Villella said, and commanders are currently evaluating their locations. Some bases may, for example, be adequate testing sites only during certain times of the year when the weather is cooler, he said.

Airmen deployed downrange for less than a year may voluntarily take their fitness test. Airmen typically deploy from four to six months, but many are on longer assignments.

About 270 airmen are currently working for one year in CENTCOM, in jobs that require a permanent-change-of-station move, such as commanders, first sergeants and superintendents, Air Force officials said.

About 1,200 airmen are filling yearlong deployments, including trainers for the Iraqis and Afghans, according to the Air Force.

The revised policy has generated a lot of comments on the Air Force website, where it was announced this month.

“Try deploying to a place with 14-hour work days, 7 days a week, a low quality gym, 130 degrees heat and lots of dust storms,” wrote Matt from Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. “I’m all for working out while deployed, but to make someone worry about a PT test while over there is ridiculous.”

Mike, from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, wrote: “To everyone whining about gym hours and lack of equipment … this test is push ups, sit ups and running. You don’t need any equipment or any special time accommodations to prepare for it. You can easily train for this test by simply doing the test four or five times a week.”

Holding fitness testing downrange will allow airmen to maintain a more complete performance report.

“It removes the stigma of being ‘exempt’ ” from testing, Villella said.

Air Force officials said the revised policy will drive an additional requirement for deployed locations to track and record test scores and for deployed commanders to exercise administrative or disciplinary actions for failures. Under current fitness policy, commanders can discharge airmen who fail consecutive tests if they find the airman failed to demonstrate significant improvement and a medical condition is ruled out.

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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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