Staying fit overrated or is it?

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- I can't tell you how much the Air Force fitness program has changed and improved over the years. The benefits of a daily workout routine and the rewards, mentally and physically, are priceless.

When I was active duty in the 1990s as a young technical sergeant, stationed at then-McChord Air Force Base, the call was made for me to deploy to Puerto Rico as part of a C-141/C-130 quick turn maintenance team combined with folks from Little Rock AFB, Ark., to assist in the invasion of Haiti and oust their current leader. As we waited for the invasion force on the flightline, that was once called Ramey AFB, we were advised that the mission was canceled due the Haitian president relinquishing control over the island. We were put on a priority hold to remain in country.

That's when swimming became a daily part of my workout routine. On late afternoon a group of us decided to meet at the beach to socialize.

As I sat with others in knee deep, tropical, warm water, I could feel the riptide pulling on us like I'd never felt before.

As things would have it, the sounds of several individuals could be heard yelling for help. That was not just any voice but of two young Airmen that I'd deployed with before. I immediately reacted and dove in the water after them. I realized that the riptide had overpowered these two young individuals and that we were all headed out to sea. Once reaching them, I advised them that the swim back would be a walk through the park.

I said, "Let's stay together and try to stay calm."

It wasn't long before one was getting tired and the other was cramping up. Between having one them pulling on me and trying to push the other, I knew this would be a tough go.

Then it became time for the swim in. This ordeal ended up taking more than 45 minutes before we were on the beach again and thanking our lucky stars.

In conclusion, if I had not taken the Air Force fitness standards seriously, the outcome of these two individuals could've ended poorly. Fitness plays a very important part of our daily life and I'm glad to see the Air Force has incorporated it into a daily and weekly routine.