New Fitness Testing & Air Force Core Values

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Duncan Hughes
  • 4th Aerospace Medicine Squadron
I recently heard the very interesting story of a thought provoking physical training testing failure. The story was about a young, fit Airman who scored an overall 87 on his test. He studied the scoring system ahead of time and knew exactly what it would take to pass.

During the test, he accomplished the minimum sit-ups and push-ups with more than 30 seconds to spare, the abdominal circumference and run went perfectly. After breezing through each part of the test, he strode confidently back to his work section and logged onto a computer to print out the score sheet. Soon the gut-wrenching reality check of pre-testing for the minimum requirements proved erroneous. A misread of the chart resulted in a single component failure. An additional sit-up would have earned a passing score of 87.

He promptly approached his chain of command lamenting the honest mistake made and talked about his ability to do twice as many sit-ups. The response received from his commander surprised him while providing some food-for-thought for other Airmen thinking about doing the same.

The commander asked him to recite the United States Air Force core values. While surprised at the apparently tangential request with unclear relevance to the situation at hand, the Airman replied, "Integrity, Service before self, and Excellence in all we do." The commander then asked, "Are you sure you got that last one right? Did you say 'excellence' in all we do or did you mean the minimum in all we do?"

The commander explained that he did not set his sights on achieving the best possible performance and he did not aim for excellence. Thus, a poor operational risk management decision resulted. By accepting less than excellence, the Airman opened the door to unnecessary risk. The test assesses more than physical fitness. It also tests who an Airman is at their core and is like any other challenge one faces in an Air Force career. It also measures character, motivation, discipline and perseverance. While this failure may not have been a fitness issue, it was a failure in striving for excellence and in allowing our core values to permeate in everything we do.

Statistically, more than half of the fitness test failures in my squadron are due to a single component failure. Many Airmen attest to training for the minimums in hopes of passing. When they don't succeed, they point fingers at the new fitness standards and the process. It's clear all Airmen must have a change in mindset.

Before taking the fitness test, think about your goals. Ask yourself if you're training to meet the minimum standards or striving for excellence? If your answer is the former, you might want to recalculate your operational risk management before your next fitness assessment. Further, acceptance of mediocrity is rarely found in just one part of a person's life. My advice to all Airmen is simply do not allow the acceptance of minimum standards into your fitness training, life, work or marriage. Accepting the minimum quickly becomes a slippery, steepening slope. Strive for excellence and accept nothing less!