The Air Force's update to the physical assessment test went into effect Monday, which includes a body composition component, giving airmen who fail waist measurement another chance to pass the test.
The latest guidance also details a modification to the walk test and spells out the appeals process.
"These adjustments to the Air Force fitness program will strengthen the program and continue to promote a 'Fit to Fight' mentality," Col. Dawn Keasley, the chief of the military force policy division, said in a statement.
The waist measurement is one of three components of the PT test that airmen must pass to stay in the service. Airmen must also complete pushups, situps and a 1.5 mile run. The maximum waist circumference for a male airman is 39 inches. For women it is 35.5 inches.
Airmen who fail the waist measurement but score 75 points out of the remaining 80 points on the other components of the test will take the body/mass index screen, or BMI. Failing that, the airmen will take a body fat assessment, or BFA.
Passing either the BMI or the BFA will allow the airman a pass on the body composition component of the fitness assessment, under the policy.
Passing the BMI screen requires an airman -- regardless of age or gender -- to achieve a BMI equal to or less than 25 kg/m2. The figure is reached using the airman's height and weight, which are taken at the start of the assessment.
To pass the BFA, men must achieve a body fat percentage equal to or less than 18 percent, and females a body fat percentage equal to or less than 26 percent. These percentages are obtained using the two- or three-site taping system.
For airmen who still fail the assessment, the wing commander or equivalent will be the first stop for an appeal. This returns to an earlier system of putting the chain of command in the system, while Air Force officials say it will also expedite the appeals process.
The second appeal authority will be the Fitness Assessment Advisory Board at the Air Force Personnel Center, Randolph Air Force Base, San Antonio. The final appeal authority is the Air Force Board of Correction of Military Records.
Finally, officials say they have simplified the administration of the walk test by dropping the heart rate measurement.
The walk test -- which is simply pass/fail -- requires an airman to walk two kilometers in a certain amount of time. The time is dependent on the airman's age and gender, officials say
Air Force leadership does not believe the changes are detrimental of overall fitness.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III wrote in August that even under the previous assessment it was rare an airman was booted. Of the approximately 1.3 million airmen who took the assessment since 2010, fewer than 350 exceeded the circumference restrictions while passing the other components with a composite score of 75 or higher, he said.
That's three airmen out of every 10,000, he said, making it "an unusual occurrence."
Also, according to Welsh's August memo, only 76 airmen were separated during that time for repeatedly failing to meet abdominal circumference limits.