Airmen and Space Professionals don’t have to take their fitness assessments until April 2021 as a result of COVID-19, and the Department of the Air Force has empowered commanders to push those tests even further if necessary, according to a Dec. 7 release.
When testing finally resumes, however, it will look a little different. After years of debate, the Department of the Air Force is cutting waist measurements from the annual fitness assessments.
“Originally, we hoped to resume testing by January 2021,” Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass said in the release. “However, based on the number of cases nationwide, the right thing to do is focus on keeping our Airmen and their families safe. Delaying and reevaluating the PT test is the best option for our people.”
The announcement marks the department’s third such delay due to the pandemic.
Troops can login to myPers and check out “the Official Physical Assessment Due Date Matrix” on or after Dec. 8 to find out when their next PT test is due, according to the release. These dates will mainly be determined by when troops took their last test and how they scored, it added.
The announcement comes days after three bases—Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, Joint Base Andrews, Md., and Scott Air Force Base, Ill.—announced installation-level postponements.
Say Goodbye to Tape Tests
Previously, the Air Force considered three components when assessing the overall health of an Airman: body composition, which is primarily evaluated through waist measurements, and aerobic and muscular fitness. A composite score greater than 90 with minimums met in all three categories is considered excellent, while a satisfactory rating is a composite score of 75 to 89.99 with all minimums met, according to the Air Force Instruction.
Troops will still do the 1.5 mile run, one minute of pushups, and one minute of situps, but participants will get full points for the waist measurement section until the department can make “system changes,” the release added.
Beginning next October, the Department will still take troops’ heights and weights as part of the assessment, the release noted.
“Along with removing the waist measurement, we are also exploring alternative strength and cardio components to our current Air Force fitness assessment,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. said in the release. “We believe these potential test structure changes will impact Airmen in a positive way and help with a holistic approach to health and fitness standards.”
Retired Army Maj. Gen. Malcolm B. Frost, the former commanding general of the Army’s Center for Initial Military Training who now works as a senior adviser with the public affairs consulting firm kglobal, praised the tape test’s elimination as “a good step.”
Noting that the Army went back and forth between tape testing and the use of a caliper to gauge Soldier’s body fat composition, Frost said that the service is finding that “body types are so vastly different that we would actually penalize people that were incredibly fit and could pass the physical fitness test.”
“Some of those personnel had to be taped and were not passing the tape test for several very random and subjective reasons,” he said in a Dec. 7 interview. “Those may have included a tape measurement that was done by different individuals that could change the measurement each time; changes in the body based on the time of day that might effect neck or waist measurements; and the science by which the standards themselves were developed. We need to stop tape testing and start judging fitness on function, not form.”
Space Force Senior Enlisted Advisor Chief Master Sgt. Roger A. Towberman told Air Force Magazine in September the new service is considering eliminating pushups and situps completely from the test, saying planks might be a safer alternative.
“I want to talk through all those things and do it smart, get away from repetitive use injuries,” Towberman said at the time. “Your fitness is supposed to make you better prepared for work, not less prepared.”
Making Up for Lost Time
“Backdated to 20 Nov, Headquarters Air Force (HAF) waived any requirements that Airmen be charged leave for the duration they were on ROM,” Bass wrote.
Her post comes four days after the unofficial Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page published images of two apparent memos regarding the restoration of ROM-related leave that were dated Nov. 17 and 20, respectively, as well as an image of a myPers entry about the issue dated Nov. 30 in an attempt to raise awareness about the headquarters decision.
“The Department of Defense’s necessary actions to stem the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) included guidance that mandated military personnel to comply with ROM pre- and/or post- approved official and unofficial travel within, as well as to and from, the United States,” the myPers entry states. “As a result some personnel may have been charged leave during the time they were directed, or encouraged, to be in ROM.”
However, the entry notes, the ROM days are the only leave days that can be credited back.
““The restoration of leave does not authorize personnel transportation, lodging allowances, or per diem while in restriction of movement, quarantine, or self-isolation, the Department of the Air Force echoed in a Dec. 9 release. “Personnel are not authorized hardship duty pay for time in restriction of movement away from the duty station in conjunction with personal leave.”
Bass advised affected Airmen to collaborate with their squadron or unit commanders “to get a memo drafted supporting the restoration of leave,” noting that those letters should include:
- The Airman’s name and rank
- “Original leave number”
- The days on which the Airman initially intended to take leave
- The dates the ROM(s) for which they were charged leave took place
Once completed, those memos must be sent to Airmen’s local Financial Management Flights, Bass noted. She further directed Airmen to ping their leadership with questions and to consult myPers for more information.
Department of the Air Force spokesperson Holly A. Hess told Air Force Magazine the decision to restore these service members’ leave days grew out of questions from the field.
“The field requested clarification concerning the guidance in DoD Memorandum, ‘Force Health Protection Guidance (Supplement 12) – Department of Defense Guidance for Personnel travelling During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic,’ dated 6 August, concerning travel, restriction of movement requirements, and the appropriate duty status,” she wrote. “To ensure equity across the Department of the Air Force, we clarified members directed into a restriction of movement will not be charged leave.”
The Department of the Air Force doesn’t know the exact number of Airmen and Space Professionals impacted by the leave-reimbursement decision, she noted, but “any Airman or Space Professional who conducted a restriction of movement in conjunction with travel could have been affected.”
The Department of the Air Force is putting together further guidance for troops who had to take ROM-related leave before Aug. 6, she added.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Dec. 9 at 4:53 p.m. EST with new information from the Department of the Air Force.