1st Air Force Unit Begins 'Beta Testing' No-Fail Practice PT Test

The Air Force Materiel Command will offer diagnostic fitness assessments.
The Air Force Materiel Command will offer diagnostic fitness assessments to Airmen starting Jan. 20,2020. (Tech. Sgt. Samuel King/ Air Force Materiel Command )

Airmen who fall under Air Force Materiel Command will start to see a new option when it comes to their physical fitness test.

Starting Jan. 20, the command will begin "beta testing" the diagnostic PT test, similar to an idea first unveiled by Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright last year. It is a no-fail trial PT test that, if passed, would count as the airman's official score.

"Physical fitness is crucial to our ability to meet mission requirements," said AFMC commander Gen. Arnold Bunch in a recent service release.

"The diagnostic assessments will give airmen an idea of their current fitness level and where they may need to improve prior to their test due date," he added. "This is part of an overall effort to continue to encourage a culture of fitness among all of our airmen that includes year-round physical conditioning and healthy eating habits."

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An Air Force spokesperson confirmed that AFMC is the first command to begin using the no-fail PT test, using Wright's concept before any service-wide policy may become standard issue.

The goal is to update the PT policy by the spring, according to spokeswoman Capt. Carrie Volpe. 

“The AF PT policy update is on track and we are following normal processes to identify potential changes and evaluate impacts prior to implementation,” Volpe said in an email. “The Air Force continues to review and evaluate its fitness policy and structure. Physical fitness is an important component of the Air Force culture and crucial to our ability to meet mission requirements.”  

The results from the command’s beta test will be incorporated into an Air Force-wide policy review, she said.  

The current Air Force fitness test is gender- and age-normed and combines a 1.5-mile run time with maximum push-up and sit-up repetitions within one minute. 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.

For the diagnostic test, "airmen who are current on their fitness assessments may attempt up to three diagnostic assessments, or 'mock tests,' during the time period ranging from 45 days prior to their official assessment month and up to 15 days prior to their assessment due date," the service release states.

An airman may also be able to apply the diagnostic test for certain components, such as a trial run for the push-ups only.

If the airman completes the test, he or she may elect to use the score as their official score within the Air Force Fitness Management System, according to the release.

"Once an assessment is recorded, the airman may not take another diagnostic test until 45 days prior to the start of their next testing cycle," the release states.

Officials are creating specific guidance tailored for each AFMC unit prior to Jan. 20 start date, it adds.

"The practice tests aim to both motivate airmen to maintain a year-round exercise and fitness program while reducing the stress many face during testing," said Lt. Col. Rachel Marazita of AFMC Military Personnel.

"Fear of failed PT tests and the potential of career-ending disciplinary action is a major stressor that we are looking to eliminate through a sound testing protocol, coupled with an organizational culture of fitness," she added.

In August, Wright's spokesman, Senior Master Sgt. Harry Kibbe, said the service had begun looking at the possibility of a no-fail trial PT test for the purpose of reducing test-taking anxiety among airmen.

"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,'" Kibbe said at the time.

"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."

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

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