Darrell Todd Maurina
CANNON AIR FORCE BASE — As they get ready to meet new Air Force physical fitness standards, Cannon airmen are running and doing push-ups and sit-ups — exercises many haven’t done for years.
Unlike the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, the Air Force has used a stationary cycle fitness test for the past decade. The Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. John Jumper, announced in June that the service will return to the older three-part test still used by the Army, retaining the cycle test only for those who have legitimate reasons for not being able to run. Exactly how many sit-ups and push-ups airmen will need to perform or how fast they will need to run a 1.5 mile course hasn’t yet been determined, and the standards will be adjusted for age and gender.
In a statement carried by the Air Force’s news service, Jumper said the physical requirements demanded by recent deployments around the world caused the change.
“The amount of energy we devote to our fitness programs is not consistent with the growing demands of our warrior culture,” Jumper said. “It’s time to change that.”
That represents a major change for fitness training, and Evan Spencer, Cannon’s fitness program manager, wants to make sure no Cannon personnel suffer the fate of an airman at another New Mexico base.
“There was a case down at Holloman where a master sergeant was running, he hadn’t run in years. He collapsed and had to have a quadruple bypass,” Spencer said.
To avoid such incidents, Cannon is screening all uniformed personnel for medical risk factors and working to help those who are out of shape do the new exercises safely.
“Our standards should be able to reflect more accurately what our members’ physical stamina is,” said Capt. Mila French of Cannon’s Health Maintenance Flight. “We have a more proactive approach to health care now.”
French and Spencer said fitness issues aren’t usually a problem for senior leadership and many of their efforts have been directed toward helping younger airmen in jobs that aren’t physically demanding.
Spencer said a base-wide emphasis on its “eat smart — move more” program has paid off in greatly increased physical fitness pass rates.
“The level of our fitness program when I came aboard a year ago was near the bottom of the Air Force and now we are in the top 10,” said Spencer, who indicated that he does about 30 fitness consultations per week through Cannon’s Health and Wellness Center with airman who want help.