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Air Force extends COVID-driven fitness test suspension to January; waist measurements nixed

The Air Force announced Wednesday that it will further push back its suspension of physical fitness testing into 2021, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The service also will not be taking abdominal circumference measurements until further notice.

PT testing had originally been scheduled to resume Oct. 1. But during a roundtable session with reporters at the Air Force Association’s virtual Air, Space, Cyber conference, Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne Bass said testing will now resume Jan. 1.

“That’s really for the safety of our airmen,” Bass said. “All across our Air Force, every installation is kind of in a different COVID environment, so it just makes sense to do so.”

Brown also said that when testing resumes, waist measurements will not be part of it.

The Air Force said in a release that it also will not obtain height and weight measurements as part of the resumed testing, until further notice. All service members, including those with abdominal circumference exemptions, will receive the maximum points for that portion of the test in their official score.

The Space Force is also pushing back its PT test resumptions to January, the Air Force said.

Airmen, as well as members of the Space Force, will have to test on the 1.5-mile run, one minute of pushups and one minute of situps when testing resumes, officials said.

The Air Force cancelled PT testing in March. This is now the third time it has pushed back the date for resuming testing.

Brown said that when he and Bass assumed their new roles in August, there wasn’t a lot of time left before the planned Oct. 1 date to resume PT testing, and the new leadership team wanted to assess and “put our stamp” on a way forward.

He also wanted to give them plenty of time to adjust to some of the changes, such as the suspension of abdominal circumference measurements.

“We have to do it different in a COVID environment,” Brown said.

The chief of staff said he’s confident that even without fitness testing, most airmen are continuing to work out and stay fit during the pandemic. He said he’s largely shifted to body weight workouts, because it’s been harder to get to the gym.

“I can’t even buy gym equipment now," Brown said. "A lot of things are sold out, because folks are working out at home. People are still staying fit. It’s just, we want to make sure … we give them fair warning on when we’re going to start up again and not catch our airmen by surprise.”

The additional time will also give the Air Force a chance to further think about how it measures abdominal circumference, and whether it should no longer be part of the annual fitness test, said Air Force personnel chief Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly in a release.

“We’re in discussion with our medical counterparts to determine the right place for the waist measurement, whether it be part of an annual health assessment or elsewhere,” Kelly said in the release. “This is a great opportunity to make lasting changes that will improve our fitness culture.”

The date by which airmen must pass their fitness assessments next year will mainly depend on when they took their last test, and how well they scored last time.

When testing resumes, fitness assessment cells, fitness center staff, physical training leaders and members conducting fitness assessments must follow physical distancing protocols and other precautions set by installation commanders, the Air Force said.

But commanders will be able to further delay their installation’s fitness testing if local public health officials recommend doing so, fitness centers remain closed, and their state continues restricting movement and gatherings.

Bass also said that she wants the Air Force to get to a place where it’s focusing more on airmen’s overall fitness and readiness, and less on PT testing.

“We need a fit force, we need a ready force,” Bass said. “And we need airmen who are doing that regardless of a PT test.”

Bass said the Air Force is taking a closer look at what fitness means for the force, and how best to measure whether an airman is in shape.

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