SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. (WIS) - The U.S. Air Force is rolling out a new way to test physical fitness this week.
The idea is that airmen are now allowed to take mock tests prior to the real Physical Training or PT test. If they pass, it counts. If they don’t, they can try again. This new policy is being tested within the Air Force Materiel Command before rolling out across the Air Force.
The 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw Air Force Base is under the Air Combat Command. So, it’s not included in this trial test within Air Force Materiel Command. However, officials at Shaw said the 20th Fighter Wing recently implemented the same system of allowing airmen to take practice tests and use passing scores towards the real thing. This all comes in the wake of two airmen at Shaw Air Force base dying during separate tests this summer.
Officials said the change aims at reducing the stress of failing the test, which can result in the end of an airman’s career.
“If you’ve failed prior and you’ve done nothing to correct your PT fail, then, yeah, it can be super stressful,” Kevin Kelly, an Air Force veteran, said.
Kevin Kelly served in the U.S. Air Force from 2007 to 2016. He said his fellow airmen would sometimes take pre-workout supplements to gain weight or water pills to lose weight right before the test.
“People who can’t plan ahead, I think it helps out,” Kelly said. “If they want to gauge where they are at prior to having to take the PT test, then it’s probably a good tool.”
Gen. Arnold W. Bunch said in a statement that the trial is part of an overall effort to continue to encourage a culture of fitness among all Airmen that includes year-round physical training and healthy eating habits.
Brooks Herring, who served in the Navy from 2005 to 2011, said updates are needed for every branch’s PT tests.
“Changes definitely need to be made to make the tests more applicable to combat readiness and tactical readiness,” Brooks Herrin, a Navy veteran, said.
Right now, the Air Force PT test has four parts: a 1.5 mile timed run, pushups, sit-ups, and a body measurement. How often you have to take the test is based on your score from the four parts. However, Kelly said he thinks being able to pass the test is critical to serving.
“I think it’s absolutely necessary,” he said. “If it comes down to it, everyone is a trooper, airman or soldier first. You have to be able to carry a litter, somebody who is injured away, and maintain a structure or system that is fit and battle-ready at all times.”
Kelly said he believes there should be a limit on the number of times an airman can retake the exam.
“I think the idea is good, but if you take it and fail it, it probably should count,” Kelly said. “They probably shouldn’t allow you to take it, fail it 45 days out, and then continue to retake it until you pass.”
Officials said the policy will remain in effect until the new Air Force policy is published after the trial period. They said they will revise their policy to match any new requirements once it’s rolled out. Officials said the new Air Force policy is expected to be published in the spring.
In June, the 20th Fighter Wing commander said Shaw was going to do everything in their power to make sure the tragedy of losing two airmen during the test never happened again.