The top enlisted leader of the U.S. Air Force is making resiliency a top priority for the last year of his tenure, and part of his plan to promote strong and mindful airmen is to revamp how airmen approach the physical fitness assessment, commonly known as the PT test.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright is looking at new ways of approaching the PT test. One possibility under consideration is a no-fail trial PT test, that if passed, would count as the airman's official score, Wright's spokesman, Senior Master Sgt. Harry Kibbe, said.
"The intent is to relieve some of the anxiety, and hopefully this is one of the steps that can get [the Air Force] closer to a culture of fitness rather than a culture of fitness testing," Kibbe told Miliary.com on Wednesday. The news was first reported by Air Force Magazine.
Kibbe explained that, in the Air Force, an "excellent" composite score is equal to or greater than 90 points with all minimum components met. A satisfactory score is between 75 and 89.99 points. Anything below 75 is a failing score. If an airman scores 90 or above, he or she has a year before the next test. Those within the 75 to 89 category only have six months before they must take the next assessment.
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The current Air Force fitness test is gender and age-normed and combines a 1.5-mile run time with maximum pushup and sit-up repetitions within one minute.
"In order to try to relieve some of the anxiety that airmen are having when they're getting close to their due date, we're going to allow them to take a 'diagnostic test,'" he said.
It can be taken anytime in the year-long or six-month window, though not after.
"They're going to take that diagnostic test and if they pass it, as long as they're doing it through the official testing system ... their clock would reset," Kibbe said. "If they don't pass it, but they're still current, there will not be any punitive actions."
If an airman fails the pre-test, he or she still has time to work on "what they need to work on" to improve for the next PT assessment, he said.
Kibbe said the Air Force is in the process of developing the policy, but stressed it's still "months away" from any potential implementation.
There may also be a change to the tape test, Kibbe said. The tape test, which measures body fat based on waist circumference, has drawn criticism over the years as an ineffective way to assess body composition due to differences in body type and musculature.
Officials are "looking at incorporating an equation," Kibbe said. "To find out your fitness index for the abdominal circumference, they're looking at adding into an equation your waist measurement, your height and your run time to get an overall cardiovascular fitness index, or a number that more accurately represents how you're doing."
The waist maximums remain 39 inches for men and 35.5 inches for women.
There are outliers when it comes to waist measurement, though, including very tall men and women and those with big builds. Kibbe said the Air Force is still weighing what the cutoffs for the proposed equation method would be.
"The science is telling us that we do need to keep a measurement of the waist because [it] is an accurate predictor of health," he said.
For any changes to PT, Kibbe said Wright is making sure the service "gets it right rather than fast."
"He's more than comfortable to handing this off to the next [CMSAF] knowing it has been set up for success," Kibbe said.
-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.