Airmen could see changes in physical fitness standards and testing, including smaller age brackets and less frequent but random testing, the service’s top enlisted leader said.
In his first “ask me anything” appearance on the popular website Reddit on Tuesday, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright and his team fielded live questions on a range of issues, from fitness and uniforms to warrant officers and facial hair.
Wright said the service was looking at changing the 10-year age brackets used for physical fitness standards to five years, as well as changing “current (abdominal circumference) standards relative to height.”
Airmen have long complained that the abdominal circumference portion of the fitness test is unfair to large-boned men and women and doesn’t account for height and age.
In 2009, the age categories went from five-year increments to 10-year increments on the test.
Airmen are required to take the physical fitness test twice a year, unless they score 90 or above. But Wright said that could also change.
“We are considering PT testing once per year with the ability for commanders to randomly test their units,” he said.
A Reddit user asked whether the Air Force will ever allow alternative cardio testing options for the PT test. In the Navy, sailors can either run on a track, use an elliptical machine, swim or ride a stationary bike.
“Not right now,” Wright said. “I have been working with our exercise science unit to try (to) make sure we have the most up to date science when it comes to our fitness test.”
Changes to the service dress uniform are also coming, Wright said.
“We are working on the Service Jacket and all parts of the Service Uniform for females. Wear testing for females is about to start. Looking to bring more heritage back into the jacket,” he wrote.
That response elicited excitement from a participant who joked about the dress blues’ resemblance to commercial airline uniform.
“AMEN! Had to wear blues yesterday and my husband joking asked if I would bring him some peanuts and a ginger ale,” she wrote.
Several people asked about whether the Air Force would add warrant officers, an idea that doesn’t seem to be gaining traction.
“Honestly not sure that we will get to the warrant officer thing but I’m serious about finding ways to better utilize the technical expertise of our Airmen,” Wright wrote. “This may include a technical track that allows Airmen to become the best version of themselves.”
When asked whether the Air Force would reconsider allowing airmen to grow beards if they didn’t interfere with wearing a gas mask, Wright said not for now.
Some questions were lighter fare, such as Wright’s musical tastes.
“Sam Cooke is my favorite singer of all time … favorite band is Earth, Wind and Fire,” Wright wrote.
He also joked about the nickname given to him by airmen.
“Has anyone ever called you enlisted Jesus in person?” someone asked him.
Wright answered: “lol just a few times … i appreciate the love just want to make sure we are sensitive to people’s religious faith (now excuse me for a sec while I turn this water to … nevermind).”
Wright answered questions for more than two hours. Questions continued to pour in even after he went offline.
Some of those questions will be answered in the next week or so, under the subreddit “AirForce,” where they were originally posted, said Wright’s spokesman, Senior Master Sgt. Harry Kibbe.
“We don’t want this to subvert the official chain as a primary helping resource, but we do think that things like this can help start conversations” that airmen can take back to their leaders, he said.
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