Since September 11, 2001, the U.S. military got more serious about
physical fitness. But now the air force brass are alarmed at a weakening
resolve to stay in shape. There has been a crackdown.
The army and
marines have always been more strict about staying in shape. But this time
around, the air force and navy got religion as well. Both of these services imposed
weight and physical fitness standards that must be met, otherwise you get
discharged (fired). In 2003, 331 air force personnel were discharged for not
being fit, or thin, enough. The rules were then changed to give more slack on
the weight (which often penalized body builders) and instead imposed a simple
fitness test (1.5 mile run and timed push-ups and sit-ups, the number varying
with age and gender). Thus in 2004, only one airman got thrown out for failing
the physical fitness test (many more got medical discharges for infirmities
suffered because of work related incidents.) In 2005, seven got discharged for
failing the fitness tests, and in 2006, that rose to 73. In 2007 (which ends on
September 30th in the military), 119 were discharged. But this year, someone at
the top noted a general slackening when it came to enforcement.
force was able to tighten up physical standards partly they have been shrinking
their personnel strength over the past few years. Automation and downsizing
have been having an impact, just as these trends have been showing up in so
many civilian organizations. It still hurts when you lose a scarce technical
specialists, but these fellows are constantly tempted with higher paying
civilian jobs anyway.
But in the
last year, the air force went through a leadership shakeup, partly due to
sloppiness in handling nuclear weapons, partly due to the personnel cuts, and partly due to
arguments over how many F-22s to buy, and how to pay for it. But apparently it
wasn't only the nukes that were being mishandled. Commanders were not ensuring
that subordinates took their physical fitness tests, and some were not allowing
time for physical conditioning.