Fly, Fight, Run! - OTS ‘aims high’ with physical training program
Capt. Ryan M. Thompson, 24th Training Squadron flight commander, Officer Training School, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. stretches during morning PT with officer trainees. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Stoltz)
by Senior Airman Christopher S. Stoltz
Air University Public Affairs
4/9/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala -- It's 5:15 a.m. on a Monday at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. and the sun is just rising. The grass glistens with drops of dew as streaks of amber and tangerine stretch throughout the sky above. It's a great morning to relax.
"DOWN!" yells the instructor and realization hits. You're not at home preparing to enjoy the brisk taste of your preferred selection of java. You're not catching up with the newest headlines and learning the latest gossip. You're at Officer Training School about to begin physical training, and the day has only just begun.
The mission of OTS is "to produce world-class officers of character possessing the American warrior ethos, prepared to lead Airmen and embodying the Air Force Core Values."
Producing physically fit world-class officers is more than just instructing them to do a few pushups here and there; it takes willing participants and dedicated instructors.
"Physical training improves quality of life and leadership through fitness training promotes healthy lifestyle awareness that they [officer trainees] can take with them throughout their career," said Staff Sgt. Troy Hoover, OTS physical conditioning instructor, 22nd Training Squadron. "It is a great training tool and builds camaraderie between the officer trainees."
Promoting healthy lifestyle awareness and building camaraderie is important for the officer trainees, simply due to the level of difficulty the school presents many of the future officers.
"Our physical fitness program is truly challenging and demanding," said Hoover. "The officer trainees experience a multitude of different exercises while at OTS which not only challenge the body, but the mind as well."
During OTS, trainees participate in routine exercises like weight lifting and cross training, as well as combatives.
Students are often required to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of classroom studies in exercises requiring them to escape a fellow trainee applied arm-bar or guillotine choke.
Smart, Healthy Decisions
Although much of the workout training at the course applies to physical conditioning, students also learn about the importance of a nutritious diet.
"Trainees are given a fitness fundamentals brief stressing the importance of nutrition, flexibility and maintaining a healthy lifestyle," he said.
This opportunity also applies to the dining facility, where the trainees must resist temptation, make the right decisions and select nutritious foods. Although the dining facility boasts a variety of delicious sweets and treats, officer trainees are urged to begin and maintain a healthy lifestyle, starting with their tenure at the school.
"For these potential officers who are here in training this may be the first time they are hearing about Air Force fitness standards, it is a building block and we focus on a healthy lifestyle," said Hoover. "We (the instructors) want them coming here trying to meet and exceed the standards provided to them."
Physical Fitness Excellence
Physical fitness excellence is one of the goals the cadre strives to accomplish. It's not uncommon for trainees to go from barely passing the PT tests to achieving an excellent score before graduation.
"This is just a small sample, but in the last two classes I have instructed, our pass rate at the beginning was 89 and 86 percent, respectively," said Staff Sgt. Gabriel Phillips, OTS physical training instructor, 22nd Training Squadron. "However, with some hard work, dedication and some inspiration from the instructors, the classes achieved a pass-rate of 97 and 96 percent."
Sergeant Phillips also noted as the pass rate for the class increases often the individual trainees scores increase as well.
"It's common to see a 20-point swing from when a person first comes to the school to the point where they take their final PT test," he said, often seeing trainees' scores jump from the low 70-point range to the mid and high 90-point range.
Fit to Fight
At OTS, the physical fitness program is an important part of the warrior ethos, maintaining a professional image and preparing our future leaders for the Air Force of tomorrow.
"The OTS physical training program is important because it instills a "fit to fight" lifestyle into our next generation of Air Force officers," said OTS Commandant, Col. Thomas Coglitore. "We know physically fit people tend to be more healthy and less absent from work, decreasing costs for taxpayers and increasing productivity. They also tend to be more motivated and energetic which has a positive impact on the mission."
Coglitore said the "fit to fight" mentality not only has a positive effect on the Air Force and its mission, but on the individuals themselves, allowing Airmen to be mission-ready at any given moment.
"Our (officer) trainees must lead our Airmen away from the days of 'just-in-time' fitness because we have learned throughout our nation's history that we are not very good at predicting when the next conflict will arise," said the commandant. "Whether it's making a difficult decision during peacetime, steady-state operations after a long day or during combat operations, our nation's security and the lives of the Airmen these potential officers will lead in the future could be at risk if they are not physically fit."