To command and control: fitness

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Fitness should be the bedrock of a servicemember's lifestyle. Everyone knows about the Air Force's Fit to Fight program, the recent changes to Air Force Instruction 36-2905, Personnel Fitness Program, its implementation on July 1, 2010, and that fitness is everyone's responsibility.

For Airmen assigned to the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing command post, fitness is more than a requirement, it has become a state of mind.

"I can tell you that from my personnel perspective, running even a half mile was a chore when I first got here," said Senior Master Sgt. David Abuya, 455th AEW command post superintendent. "I kind of fell into the trap of 'get it done once a year and be done with it.'"

Sergeant Abuya, who is deployed from the 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center, Scott Air Force Base, Ill., admitted that it had been a while since he had performed his last fitness evaluation and there was no doubt that he was not ready to take one. The reality to him was that neither he nor his team of six controllers was in the shape they needed to be.

"I got here about a month and a half after the team, and when I got here I did a basic assessment of our fitness," said Lt. Col. Todd Berge, 455th AEW command post commander. "I averaged the scores from our Combat O, and we averaged 65 percent, and that was with a few descent scores."

Colonel Berge, deployed from the 509th Bomb Wing, Whiteman AFB, Mo., decided that fitness levels in the command post must improve. He first asked everyone to send him their goals and one of their goals had to be to up their fitness level.

"I am a big believer in goals," he said. "I want people to write them down and repeat them to help them remember what they want to accomplish."

A major portion of the Air Force physical fitness test is the run. Colonel Berge, an avid runner, actually took the people out who want the help and ran with them, to critique and assist them with proper style and breathing techniques. "I went out and worked with them every week to help them improve. Now, they are almost all above an 80 percent on the Combat O evaluation and our office average is an 85 percent."

The improvement from an average of 65 percent to 85 percent was a significant change for the better, said Sergeant Abuya and these scores increased in only three months.

"There were many avenues taken to improve our overall fitness, not just running," said Colonel Berge. "One issue I see with fitness is that we never get trained on proper fitness. We are trained on how to do our job, but we are just told we have to take the fitness test.

"I took my guys out and taught them the proper way to breathe when they were running or doing sit-ups. I also put them through interval training and participated in everything with them."

Sergeant Abuya said the most difficult obstacle he had to overcome was the mental aspect of actually going out and sticking to his fitness plan. This was overcome by constant support from Colonel Berge and getting in a little bit of fitness whenever he could.

"Don't get down on yourself if your progress is slow," he said. "There will be times when you see no progress and there will be times when you regress but you have to press through it and keep your goal in mind."

"The fact is that there are peaks and valleys in fitness," said Colonel Berge. "Senior Master Sgt. Sergeant Abuya got really down on himself at one point because we went out to Combat O, and he was a minute and a half slower than his original time. The next Combat O he shaved one and a half minutes off his time."

Colonel Berge said, "We are all working 12 hour shifts and we all have long days, the key is doing what you can when you can."

"One of the keys is teaching your people, not yelling at them," he said. "A little encouragement can go a long way to helping someone's confidence and pushing them through to the next fitness plateau."