The Air Force is standing firmly behind their tape test, even as airmen for years have complained about its effectiveness and the other services are reviewing the controversial test.

"The Air Force continually evaluates all of our programs for improvement, but at this time we have no plans to adjust our fitness assessment," Air Force spokeswoman Rose Richeson told Air Force Times on Thursday.

The test — 1.5-mile run, situps, pushups, and waist circumference — last saw a change three years ago when the Air Force implemented the body mass index and body fat tests as an alternative to the tape test. The waist maximums remain 39 inches for men and 35.5 inches for women.

"We feel our Air Force is healthier and more fit to fight than we were before, with 96.1 percent of airmen passing the test in 2014 which is up significantly from the 2010 pass rate of 87.6 percent," Richeson said. The numbers for 2015 were not immediately available, she said.

The Air Force adopted abdominal circumference measurement after the Defense Department approved the practice in 2009. In May, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh reiterated the service would not be making anymore changes to the PT test over the tape measurement issue.

"We looked at this from every angle possible; we talked to everybody who wanted to throw out an opinion — people who were critical of the test, people who were supportive of the test — and I'll tell you this, I got to the bottom line of: Abdominal circumference is not a reason to change the test," Welsh said during a virtual conference.

Since October 2013, airmen who fail the abdominal circumference portion of the PT test have had the option of undergoing a Body Mass Index screen if they score 75 out of 80 points on the rest of the test. If they don't meet BMI standards, they can have their percentage of body fat calculated.

Unlike the Air Force, the Marine Corps and Army are considering major overhauls to their physical training criteria.

Marines should get answers this summer after the Marine Corps commandant ordered a full review in November of the service's fitness standards. Everything is on the table for the Corps, from exercise events and scoring tables to class cut-offs. The service conducts two fitness tests a year, one for physical health, the other for combat readiness. The Marines' tape test — measured for both waist and neck — also hangs in the balance.

"Nobody likes to get taped or all that stuff, so what are we going to do? Is the test right? Should we do something else?" Gen. Robert Neller recently told Marine Corps Times.

Soldiers can't help but gripe about the same.

"I'm going to be honest with you, I get that [issue brought up to me] everywhere I go," Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey told Army Times in February. Daily has ordered a second review, even after the service reassessed their PT test in 2011.

"Generally, it seems like it's a very good tool, but we'll look at it," he said of the tape test, which also measures neck and abdominal circumference in the Army.

The Navy as of Jan. 1 implemented their latest waist measurement, which echoes the Air Force guideline of 39/35.5 waist measurement for men or women. If sailors bust their tape, a waist and neck measurement will be taken for men, and waist, neck and hips will be taken for women with a resulting body fat measurement.

Yet the Navy is looking to identify more improvements to training, mainly a job-related PT test.

The Air Force, Richeson said, has additional physical training for combat airmen which for years has been standard for any airman entering the battlefield.

As for tape, airmen can count on it being around for a while.

"Air Force research has identified [abdominal circumference] as being directly linked with both current and future health risks," Richeson said.

Oriana Pawlyk covers deployments, cyber, Guard/Reserve, uniforms, physical training, crime and operations in the Middle East, Europe and Pacific for Air Force Times. She was the Early Bird Brief editor in 2015. Email her at

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