Getting physical: Combat fitness challenge tests mettle of Airmen
Members of the Electronic Systems Center prepare to toss a tire during their combat fitness challenge Oct. 27 on Gunter Annex. (Air Force photo/Melanie Rodgers Cox)
Getting physical: Combat fitness challenge tests mettle of Airmen

by Kelly Deichert
Air University Public Affairs

11/4/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Electronic Systems Center took physical training to the next level Oct. 27 with a combat fitness challenge.

About 60 volunteers helped five five-person teams complete the course at Gunter, which included a 50-yard tire flip, Professional Development Guide quiz and vehicle pull. Competitors had to look the part, too, and don flak vests.

"This is a morale and team-building competition," said Lt. Col. Marty Schlacter, director of operations for Air Force Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems. "Competition and esprit de corps, that's what it's all about."

Since 100 out of 150 ESC Airmen scored "excellent" on their fitness standards, they were up to the challenge of pullups, litter carry, 100 pushups, 100 flutter kicks and 25 hills.

Beyond the fun and camaraderie, Schlacter and his team developed the course to expose Airmen to different PT styles. "We spent the better part of a month researching combat skills that had a fitness element," he said.

In addition to developing fitness skills, one of the goals was to help Airmen adjust to different activities, which will help them integrate into joint commands during deployments.

For example, the Airmen used an Army-style warmup and pulled a vehicle, like the Marines do. One of the challenges was an ammo can and sandbag carry, which is common during combat training.

Now when Airmen deploy and are asked to train with other branches, "the culture shock is not so great," Schlacter said.

Last week's challenge wasn't just fitness focused. For one task, competitors had to answer multiple-choice questions on the Professional Development Guide or face a penalty - a 90-second rest or cup of Metamucil.

"You have to answer the question. There's no phone-a-friend," said Master Sgt. William Hebb during the pre-race briefing.

The race was a team effort. "As a team, make sure you look out for one another," Hebb said.

That lesson was learned by the first-place team from network operations - Staff Sgt. Darien Livingston, Tech. Sgt. Shamar Jones, Master Sgt. John Frisch, Senior Airman Ryan Taylor and 2nd Lt. Mark Lebedzinski -- who finished the race in 26 minutes and two seconds.

"We figured out everyone's strengths and weaknesses and worked as a team," Lebedzinski said.

Livingston credited good camaraderie for their success.

"We had a good pace, and it's all about the pace," Jones said.

The course was still a challenge for the team. "The hills were brutal," since they were toward the end of the course and he was worn out, Frisch said.

"It felt more like 400 flutterkicks," Jones said.

After the success of last week's race, Schlacter said he hopes to offer the competition again in the spring and invite Maxwell units to participate.