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New PT guidance explains failures, exemptions

Jan. 28, 2013 - 08:29AM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 28, 2013 - 08:29AM  |  
Airmen who fail their physical training test four times in 24 months will be reviewed for dismissal, even if those failures aren't back to back.
Airmen who fail their physical training test four times in 24 months will be reviewed for dismissal, even if those failures aren't back to back. (Air Force)
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Fail your physical training test four times in two years, and your commander could kick you out. You might have passed the test between the fails, but it won't matter — and a new PT guidance signed in January makes that clear.

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Fail your physical training test four times in two years, and your commander could kick you out. You might have passed the test between the fails, but it won't matter — and a new PT guidance signed in January makes that clear.

The guidance attempts to remove any uncertainty about airmen who experience ups and downs on the PT test.

"[The failures] do not have to be back to back," said Capt. Kristina Rennie, a spokeswoman for Air Force fitness, evaluation and promotion policy. "If you have some passes in between, that's great; but if you meet those four failures in 24 months, you meet the requirement for a discharge recommendation."

The guidance, an update to the service's 2010 complete overhaul of the program, makes no changes to the requirements for a 1.5-mile run, situps, pushups and the much-maligned waist measurement.

The Air Force's 94.3 percent pass rate this year is evidence that the test is working, Rennie said.

"The force has responded in a resoundingly positive way to the test. We're not actively pursuing changing the test," she said. "We spend a lot of time trying to clarify and make sure that the proper interpretations are given, more so than we spend on changing the components of the test or the scoring."

Some of the other changes:

• Illness and injury during the test. A previous interpretation of the Air Force Instruction allowed commanders to invalidate a test for illness or injury only if the airman had stopped his test, Rennie said. That interpretation unfairly penalized airmen who finished their test despite an injury or illness and received a poor score, even if they could later prove that their performance was affected by their condition.

Under the new guidance, a commander can invalidate the test score of an airman who notifies the fitness assessment cell of an injury or illness before leaving the test location and gets the ailment validated through medical evaluation. Rennie said taking those two steps in the five days is key to any attempt to invalidate a score.

"If you're really sick or if you're that injured during a career-impacting assessment like the fitness assessment, you'll find a way to document it. You'll get that appointment. You'll go on sick call. You'll get seen," she said.

• Incomplete test. If an airman isn't sick or injured, but for some reason refuses to complete the PT test, it will be counted as an automatic failure.

"We've been asked to provide clarification on what to do if someone walks away from a test and refuses to complete it because they didn't do as many pushups as they wanted to do," she said. "If they didn't meet the minimum number of pushups, they're going to fail the test anyway."

The tester isn't required to encourage the airman to complete the test or to let the person start over — it's an automatic failure.

• Deployments and exemptions. Guidance about deployments was completely overhauled for clarity and succinctness. All airmen must have a current fitness assessment score to deploy and even an unsatisfactory one will do, as long as it's current. Airmen deployed for less than a year on a contingency exercise deployment or orders in direct support of a contingency operation will receive a composite deployment exemption only after their current test score in the deployed location expires.

Permanent party and 365-day deployers will be marked exempt when their current score expires in the deployed location, unless the air component commander mandates continued fitness testing. All airmen with a composite deployment exemption may volunteer to complete a PT test.

An unsatisfactory PT performance won't keep you from deploying, but it will be counted against you if your evaluation closes out while you're deployed, Rennie said. You will be marked with the dreaded "does not meet standards" if you're deployed with an unsatisfactory score, fail to voluntarily retest and pass your fitness assessment with at least a 75 before your evaluation period closes out.

If you are deployed and reach the 91-day mark after the failing score but before the evaluation closes out, the score is no longer current and the evaluation will be marked exempt.

• Verbal instructions. The new guidance adds a written script to be given during the timed 1.5-mile run and the 1-mile walk if the run cannot be performed.

• PT for new officers. New second lieutenants will now be required to take their fitness assessment within six months of their date of arriving on station, rather than six months after they graduate. That's because everyone who graduates doesn't arrive at their first duty location at the same time, Rennie said. The memo also reiterates that PT tests administered at commissioning sources are not considered official and will not be recorded in the Air Force Fitness Management System.

• Medical status. Reserve-component airmen also must make sure to notify their chain of command immediately if there is any change in their medical status so authorities can verify whether the condition is related to military service. New language in the guidance puts Reserve and Guard airmen at risk of facing Uniform Code of Military Justice penalties or administrative action if they are found to have concealed or made claim for disability that is later proved fraudulent.

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