NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland -- Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has a message for commanders on their physical condition: Get on a fitness program or your job is at risk.
Addressing a standing room-only ballroom of officers and airmen at the Air Force Association's 2019 Air, Space & Cyber Conference on Tuesday, Goldfein said he will launch an initiative Saturday requiring officers in command billets to be in shape.
"If you are a commander in the United States Air Force, you are fit. There is no other discussion," he said.
According to recently published Defense Department data, the Air Force has the second-highest percentage of obese troops, following the Navy. Some 18% of all airmen are obese, according to the most recent Health of the DoD Force report.
Goldfein didn't provide specifics on his plan, but the initiative is part of an ongoing overhaul of Air Force fitness, designed to ensure that service members are fit without the current emphasis on the physical fitness assessment.
He will underline his expectations by running the Air Force Half-Marathon at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, on Saturday, a race for which Goldfein said he's spent three months training and plans to complete. But "you can clock me ... with a calendar," he quipped.
"The point is ... I don't know when I am going to task [commanders] to deploy to Djibouti or Estonia or somewhere in the Pacific and expect you to perform the functions of an expeditionary commander in 120-degree heat or 30 below zero. I just know this: [That] is not the time to start your fitness program," Goldfein said.
Squadron commanders, he added, will have an additional requirement: Unit fitness will be among the elements they will be graded on as part of a successful command tour.
"There are five elements of a command tour. It's mission, culture, fitness, family and fun, and fitness is key. ... We are going to do this from the top down," Goldfein said.
The Air Force is reviewing its physical fitness program with an aim to ensure that airmen sustain fitness throughout the year, instead of simply focusing their efforts on the semi-annual physical fitness assessment.
Among the ideas being considered are randomized testing, a longer time between tests for the superfit, and measures to reduce anxiety around test time.
Speaking alongside Goldfein, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright said the goal is to promote a culture of fitness across the force -- a standard he said will improve readiness across-the-board.
"I wish all of us as the Air Force would spend more time throughout the year talking about health, fitness, nutrition and sleep than the time we spend on the test," he said.