CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. — Nearly two dozen members of the 26th Special Tactics Squadron participated in a physical fitness study that analyzed mission requirements for battlefield Airmen.
The physical fitness tests were part of an in-depth study to scientifically measure battlefield Airmen’s operational mission requirements to better correlate them to the Air Force’s physical training and performance standards for the special operations community.
Not to be confused with the Air Force Fitness Assessment standards that measure general health and fitness for all Airmen, these physical tasks are based upon the operational requirements of a particular Air Force specialty code — the same standards apply to all members of an AFSC, independent of age and gender.
In support of the two-month study at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Airmen from various career fields participated in tests that will be recorded and analyzed to develop and validate recommendations for occupationally specific, operationally relevant and gender-neutral physical tests and standards.
During the course of one week, members from the Air Force Fitness Testing and Standards Unit at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, conducted a series of tests with Airmen from the 26th STS. These tests were used to assess areas such as muscular strength, speed, endurance and agility. The studies to develop and validate physical and mental standards will provide data for the Air Force’s Women in Service Review implementation plan.
“The key crux of this is what physical fitness tests best predict operationally relevant, occupationally specific physical movements, physical patterns and physical requirements.” explained Dr. Neil Baumgartner, a lead researcher. “We went to the career field experts, and they helped us narrow down a very broad list of requirements, down to the most arduous and critical physical tasks.”
The results from this study will provide scientific measurements regarding the physical demands for each battlefield Airman specialty. So in turn, qualification and training requirements can be more precisely correlated to the demands of the Air Force specialty.
“This scientific study was conducted to validate the closed career fields’ operational physical fitness standards,” said a member of the 26th STS participating in the study. “It is my duty to ensure the physical standards reflect the necessary operational requirements that lead to success on the battlefield in any condition, for any mission.”
Less than 1 percent of all Air Force career fields are yet to be available to women. That small percentage is comprised of six career fields that include special tactics officers, combat rescue officers, special operations weather enlisted, combat control, tactical air control party and pararescue. Although women represent 19 percent of the Air Force population, the highest of any other service, opening these few remaining career fields to all members, regardless of gender, increases the amount of available recruits for battlefield Airmen positions, as well as the Air Force’s opportunity for success.
According to the Air Education and Training Command, the Air Force’s intent is not to raise or lower any standards. If an individual meets the standards and wants to be a battlefield Airman, he or she will have the opportunity based on skill and ability, not gender.
“We welcome any Airmen, male or female, who can obtain and maintain the high standards of performance and competence that make us successful on the battlefield,” said another member of the 26th STS participating in the study. “If a person can meet the standards, maintain the pace and endure the selection process with our other candidates, then they will do just fine. In special tactics, exceeding the standard has always been the standard and that will not change.”
Since 1993, the Air Force has integrated women in combat operations by placing females in combat aircraft. Partaking in this study is just another way for the Air Force to continue to make positive changes toward gender integration in all aspects.