April 27, 2012

NCO squanders six-figure nest egg

by Lt. Col. Charles DeLapp
56th Training Squadron

It sounds almost unbelievable, and I hope the headline grabs your attention, but unfortunately it is true.

I, and many of my fellow squadron commanders, have had the responsibility of informing NCOs that not only would they be out of work, but they have also lost the opportunity to collect a $2000-plus per month retirement check. Their retirement would have paid them in excess of $650,000 over the rest of their lives. Instead, they will receive zero retirement pay and will have the same retirement benefits that are offered to Airmen who serve as little as one honorable term of enlistment. These NCOs will receive no additional benefits for the countless TDYs, remote tours, deployments and long hours they honorably served.

How did this happen? You may be thinking that they got caught using drugs or were in violation of another portion of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Perhaps they were separated following poor performance reports and an inability to advance in rank. Neither of these were the case. In fact, no crime was committed and their Air Force careers were cut short for failure to meet the U.S. Air Force fitness standards as outlined in AFI 36-2905.

Unfortunately, these numbers are rising. This year alone, the 56th Fighter Wing has initiated or completed discharge actions for eight NCOs for physical training test failure at least four times in a 24-month time period. While this may seem harsh, the rules are clearly spelled out in the AFI. The bottom-line is that the Air Force PT test is not hard, but it is a test you cannot cram for the night before.

From my experience, this is where most Airmen have difficulty. Working out hard during the week leading up to the test won’t guarantee you pass. Instead, success on the PT test hinges on a solid sustained physical fitness program. Too many Airmen are only on the track twice a year — for their semiannual test. This technique may work when you are 22 years old, but I can almost guarantee it will not work when you are 32 or 42 years old. From my experience, this is where we are seeing increases in PT failures and ultimately separations resulting from PT issues.

What will work is a disciplined training program that replicates what you will be tested on; crunches, push-ups, and the 1.5-mile run. You must know what you need to score for gender and age categories. Finally, I would recommend accomplishing periodic mock tests that string the three physical portions fairly close together, with the help of a unit PT leader. Remember, just because you can run four miles a day does not mean you can pass the PT test. When in doubt, seek the advice of the fitness professionals at the 56th Force Support Squadron Health and Wellness Center and fitness center.

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