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Fitness failures can cost careers, jeopardize health

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Airmen who consistently fail their physical fitness tests are not only risking their health, they could also be jeopardizing their careers. 

The Air Force is cracking down on and discharging Airmen who constantly fail their fitness tests, said Capt. Todd Ladd, 62nd Mission Support Squadron. 

"Air Force-wide, it's definitely happening," he said. "It's forcing the squadrons to take a closer look at failed fitness tests." 

Healthy Airmen who continually fall into the poor fitness category have the greatest chance of being discharged, since there are programs in place to give them an ample amount of time and support to get out of the poor category, said exercise physiologist Patrick Conway, 62nd Medical Operations Squadron. 

"There are a lot of people involved in trying to get [people who fail their fitness tests] into shape," Mr. Conway said. 

Once Airmen fall into the poor category, they have three months before they have to retake their fitness tests, he said. 

In the interim, they are put on the fitness improvement program. 

Airmen on the FIP are required to take a class at the Health and Wellness Center, adhere to a strict cardiovascular and strength training regiment and document their progress. 

The class instructors teach Airmen proper exercise techniques and healthy dieting and eating tips, as well as ways to change or eliminate unhealthy behavior, Mr. Conway said.

"It is all information a person can use to get back on track," he said. 

While on the program, Airmen in the poor-fit category are also required to schedule follow-up appointments with the HAWC and their unit fitness managers. 

If an Airman fails to move up into the marginal category after 90 days, then a fitness review panel including members of a person's unit and base leadership is arranged, he said. 

"The panel gauges the progress that is being made and makes sure everyone is doing what they're supposed to do when it comes to helping that individual," Mr. Conway said. 

After the fitness review, it is up to the base commander to decide what disciplinary action to take, he said. 

If an Airman spends 12 consecutive months in the poor-fit category or he or she scores poorly on the fitness test four times in 24 months, then the commander may write a letter of discharge or retention, Mr. Conway said.