The Air Force will begin experimenting with the concept of a “no-fail,” or diagnostic, fitness assessment at Air Force Materiel Command units beginning Jan. 20.
And with AFMC’s beta-test of the new model of PT tests, which the Air Force has been talking about implementing service-wide for months, comes details about how it will work for airmen.
Under this system, airmen can try to take their fitness examination before it’s due without worrying about a failure hurting, or possibly ending, their career. If an airman passes the test — which includes pushups, situps, an abdominal circumference, also known as the tape test, and a 1.5-mile run — it will count.
But if an airman fails any part of the practice test, it won’t count. It would then be a “diagnostic” test that tells the airman where he needs to improve.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright, one of the biggest proponents of this change, said in an interview last September that this system would allow airmen to take their PT test when they’re in their best shape.
In a Jan. 10 release, AFMC said airmen who are current on their fitness assessments can try up to three so-called “mock tests." The period during which they can take those tests will range from 45 days before their official assessment month up to 15 days before their assessment due date, the release said.
They can take a diagnostic test for certain components of the test, according to the release, but a partial test, even passed, won’t be able to count.
Or they can choose to try the whole test, and if they pass, airmen can choose to have that assessment recorded as their official test in the Air Force Fitness Management System, AFMC said in the release.
Once an assessment is recorded, the release said, an airman may not take another diagnostic test until 45 days before their next testing cycle starts.
Wright and other Air Force officials have said this change would ease the stress many airmen feel about their fitness tests.
“Fear of failed PT tests and the potential of career-ending disciplinary action is a major stressor that we are looking to eliminate through a sound testing protocol coupled with an organizational culture of fitness," Lt. Col. Rachel Marazita, AFMC’s military personnel and programs branch chief, said in the release.
The Air Force also hopes it encourages airmen to stay healthy throughout the year.
“This is part of an overall effort to continue to encourage a culture of fitness among all of our airmen that includes year-round physical conditioning and healthy eating habits,” AFMC commander Gen. Arnold Bunch said in the release. “Commanders must incorporate fitness into their organizational culture and establish an environment that supports maintaining fitness and health to meet mission requirements. We do our wartime mission every day, and we need to make sure our airmen are combat-ready.”
AFMC said this option will be available to all airmen, no matter where they are. Implementation teams focused on putting the changes into place are working with force support squadron leadership at AFMC installations and tenant units to create the guidance on the PT test before Jan. 20, the release said.
AFMC’s diagnostic testing policy will remain in effect as interim guidance until the Air Force publishes its new formal policy. AFMC will then tweak its policy to bring it in line with what the Air Force settles on.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.