CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
A one and-a-half mile run, one minute of push ups, a minute of situps, a waist measurement, and you’re done. That’s Air Force fitness… right? Maybe in the past, but Air Force Special Operations Command is changing the way the Air Force approaches fitness with a new human performance program.
“The long-term goal is to keep the person healthy, and at their maximum human performance,” said Lt. Col. Onnie Retkovski, AFSOC integrated resiliency and preservation of the force and family deputy division chief. “We can just make you stronger, faster, and tell you to go to the gym, but if we’re not dealing with the whole person you’re still going to break.”
To kick off the new program, Retkovski and trainers from the AFSOC Preservation of the Force and Family task force, or POTFF, teamed up with Colorado State University researchers. They conducted a baseline study on Cannon Air Force Base, which combined strength, mobility and flexibility exercises, and state-of-the-art systems to identify mobility issues for airmen in aviation career fields.
“The impact we’re trying to have is not just looking at the short term, ‘yeah we got stronger here and here,’ but the longevity of the career,” said Josh Daniel, a 27th Special Operations Group POTFF strength conditioning coach. “There’s definitely a trend of issues that has been very prominent to occur within five to ten years. We’re trying to mitigate that along the way, just trying to keep [Airmen] healthy and allow them to do their job to be mission ready.”
The team analyzed the way an Airman completed the exercises and identified areas of weakness in the Airman’s mobility. Once weak areas had been identified, AFSOC POTFF trainers developed a plan to strengthen the Airman’s weak area. Knowing where an Airman needs work, and addressing that need now, prevents the airman from dealing with potentially career-ending injuries in the future.
“The data that comes out of this will be important to help everyone,” Retkovski said. “We can extract different methodologies of the technology to find out where our issues are before [Airmen] become on the bad end of being injured morally or physically. And try to solve the problem for those that are coming in, and those that are still in the lower levels of the issues that we have in the Air Force.”
The new AFSOC human performance program views Airman Comprehensive Fitness, or CAF, in a new light. While the Air Force offers resources to strengthen each CAF pillar individually, they rarely cross over to one another. The new human performance program aims to break that cycle, keeping airmen fit to fight for their whole career.