Air Force Suspends Tape Test Indefinitely, Extends PT Testing Pause

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Theodore Clever measures an airman's abdominal circumference.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Theodore Clever measures an airman's abdominal circumference during a physical training test, Dec. 19, 2013. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Franklin R. Ramos)

The Air Force will not resume physical fitness testing until October, the service announced Friday.

Effective immediately, official fitness testing is suspended until Oct. 1 so airmen can stay safe and continue their efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the Air Force said in an email.

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The date is "contingent upon base fitness centers being reopened and local state [or] country travel and movement restrictions being lifted," officials added.

"Airmen remain our top priority, and we will ensure their health and safety as we maintain our force readiness posture," said Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services.

Additionally, the abdominal circumference measurement component -- known as the tape test -- will be temporarily suspended through Oct. 1, 2021, or until further notice. The tape test, which measures weight and waist circumference, is widely unpopular among airmen. The annual height and weight measurements taken with the fitness assessment are also suspended "until further notice," officials said.

"When testing resumes, the Air Force will take a systematic approach to reintegrating official physical fitness assessments," Kelly said in a new memorandum. "All policies and procedures should reinforce physical distancing; use of personal protective equipment; airmen health and personal hygiene; and cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting work spaces and common areas."

The memo outlines how commanders should cautiously proceed with resuming testing. Per the memo:

  • "If fitness centers remain closed and local movement restrictions remain in place, commanders may choose to delay physical fitness assessment resumption beyond 1 October 2020 until safe conditions are available."
  • "An airman's next scheduled fitness assessment will be based on the date of their last official assessment and fitness category."
  • "In order to maintain the health and safety of the force as we resume testing, the abdominal circumference component will be temporarily suspended through 1 October 2021 or until further notice."
  • "During this period, all airmen will receive a temporary, one-year abdominal circumference component exemption, and the next scheduled test date will be based on the overall fitness score," the memo states. "This one-year temporary abdominal circumference exemption will take precedence over any other shorter term temporary abdominal circumference exemptions."
  • "Physical training leaders augmenting the Fitness Assessment Cell may test members from within their same unit to help provide commanders with capacity options."
  • "Commanders should use [this] four-month delay to purchase appropriate equipment … to aid in physical distancing and administration of official physical fitness assessments in a safe and healthy environment."

In March, the service first suspended its physical fitness testing until at least May 30.

The initial restructure meant that members who were slated to take the PT test between March and May got a six-month reprieve. Those scheduled to test in March were rescheduled to test in September; those scheduled for April were then scheduled for October; and airmen scheduled to test in May would have until November to complete the test.

The latest move supersedes those dates.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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