"...do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."

"For the good of the Air Force, for the good of the armed services and for the good of our country, I urge you to reject convention and careerism..."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Maxwell AFB, April 21, 2008

"You will need to challenge conventional wisdom and call things like you see them to subordinates and superiors alike."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, United States Air Force Academy, March 4, 2011

Monday, July 8, 2013

Aloha Air Force PFT!

As I sit here in Hawaii, drinking some tasty beverages of choice, it's nice knowing that I just got my final PFT taken care of in the 30-39 year old bracket.  So perhaps I'll have a couple more umbrella drinks to celebrate, and I'll reminisce a little bit, and then bid aloha to that bracket.  Aloha means goodbye.

I'm proud to say that in my seventeen years (not including the four years of PFTs from college), I was only on a medical profile for one test, and it was legitimate.  I'm glad to say that I have never taken the walk test.  I noticed that many of my age peers were on walk profiles, and using profiles to game the test was not uncommon.  At one point, I was the only person in my shop who wasn't on a walk profile, to include one person who was younger than myself.  I would be lying if I said I wasn't tempted to "play the game" during my last assignment, with a healthy field elevation and poor air quality.  The run wasn't easy for me, and it was a source of stress as I watched the machine churning individuals out of the service at a time when the slides indicated how "overmanned" our branch was.  But I am very glad that I didn't give in and sacrifice integrity.  It was a standard that was set, it wasn't an indefensible standard (although I disagree with the priority it has taken given our mission-centric challenges), and it was my job to meet the standard.  I didn't have to like it, or find it stress free, but it was part of the job.

Two learning points that may be useful for others.  First, when I volunteered for an assignment in New Mexico, I did not factor in elevation or its impact on the run.  I would highly suggest that those, like myself, who workout only to meet the standard the Air Force has set, consider elevation during the assignment process.  Having just finished my latest test at essentially sea level, I was amazed to see how I could easily run two minutes faster just from the altitude decrease.

The second learning point also came from my previous assignment in New Mexico when, a couple of years ago, I was on the last lap of the run - I simply had to run it in two minutes to pass the test, and I was on pace and everything was looking good.  Instead, my back seized up and I fell out on that last lap and failed the test.  I had been having back problems from a very soft mattress.  My old lady was having them too.  I immediately purchased a firm tempurpedic, after doing some research on mattresses (something I never thought I would ever do, researching something as trivial as a mattress), and it made a very noticeable difference.  So as silly as it might seem, in my experience, getting a firm mattress really does matter and especially as you get older.

I am pleased to say that I found the test administrators, both civilian and military, to have been universally fair when giving the test, and to always be willing to give the benefit of the doubt when it came to the very subjective, and imprecise, abdominal tape measuring.  Unfortunately I did see this abused on one occasion.  I witnessed a fat O-6 getting taped right in front of me by an airman, and I saw that the maximum 39" mark was nowhere even close to where it needed to be for him to pass; it was practically on his back.  The airman made the right call and recorded it correctly.  The O-6 shook his head incredulously and asked for a re-tape by somebody else.  He got it from an NCO, but in a more private location.  He passed.  I'm sure that airmen will forever remember the lesson from that day.

I'm very happy to be joining the forty year old bracket for my next test.  I blogged already about how the 30-39 year old bracket is the most difficult bracket in the test, and how that age group is targeted beyond the other groups.  The forty year old bracket makes getting 90s on the test very easy.  In college I used to run the mile and a half in 9:30 while jogging, and I ran it in 8:34 during field training.  These days as more of a thinker, and much less a physical specimen, I prefer to prioritize the PFT standard more appropriately in my life.  Intellectual and character development challenges are the two largest centers of gravity risking the United States Air Force today, with sequestration a distant third.  Our service and our mission have a great many real problems that require our time and attention.  Running six laps around a track isn't one of those challenges.

So, it's time to grab yet another drink, kick back, and say aloha to the forty year old bracket that demands the appropriate amount of my time and attention.  Aloha means hello.

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