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Some Air Force bases postponing fitness tests until April as coronavirus spreads

Officer Training School trainees run during an Air Force physical training test at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., Aug. 8, 2019. At least three Air Force bases in the U.S. have postponed the resumption of fitness testing until April amid the worsening pandemic.

CHARLES WELTY/U.S. AIR FORCE

By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 4, 2020

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While the Air Force as a whole still plans to resume fitness assessments Jan. 1., some base commanders have postponed them until spring amid a record-breaking wave of coronavirus infections in the United States.

“I know that our airmen are stressed. I know that they’re tired,” said Col. Tyler Schaff, commander of the 316th Wing and Joint Base Andrews, Md., one of three bases this week to announce a fitness testing delay until April 1.

“This is not for people to quit working out or delay working out,” Schaff said. “What I’m offering, this is something they need not worry about as they go through the holidays.”

The Air Force has pushed back the resumption of fitness testing three times since March. In September, it announced that it would postpone them until Jan. 1, and that the tests wouldn’t include abdominal circumference, height and weight measurements.

The service at the time said installation commanders could delay assessments beyond the start of the year, based on guidance from local public health officials, state health restrictions and fitness center closures.

“I have the authority to push this down for three months, so I took the opportunity to do that,” Schaff said at a Facebook town hall meeting Wednesday.

Schaff said he struggled with the decision, and mentioned the challenge of being able to consistently conduct fitness testing outdoors in winter as a factor.

The base is also “heavily involved” in the presidential inauguration, and that, combined with preparing for the coronavirus vaccine means “we are having to work so much harder to do our mission,” he said.

Col. Michael Zuhlsdorf, the 11th Wing commander at neighboring Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, has issued similar guidance, Schaff said.

Scott Air Force Base, Ill., also announced it would postpone fitness testing until April, a memo signed Dec. 1 by base commander Col. Jeremiah Heathman and posted on the installation’s website said.

“This decision is based off guidance provided by public health officials and state and local restrictions currently in place,” the document said.

The Air Force is not tracking which bases have postponed testing, a service spokeswoman told Stars and Stripes on Thursday.

When asked if the Air Force would further delay testing across the service, Capt. Leah Brading said, “Our goal is to continue to minimize close contact among personnel during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and ensure units and personnel are fully ready to resume physical fitness testing when the time comes.”

Among other Pentagon services, the Navy announced last month that it would delay the start of fitness tests until March.

The National Defense Authorization Act halts the implementation of the Army Combat Fitness Test until a study is complete to assess the test’s impact on recruitment and retention. The Army had already announced it wouldn't count on a soldier's record until at least 2022.

The Marine Corps said Friday it would put fitness testing on hold and restart in January.

svan.jennifer@stripes.com
Twitter: @stripesktown

At least three Air Force base in the U.S. have postponed the resumption of fitness testing until April 1, 2021 amid the worsening pandemic.
ABNER GUZMAN/U.S. AIR FORCE