Stressed out about passing your PT test? The Air Force has got you covered.

Pentagon Run-Down
Airmen assigned to the 1st Air and Space Communications Operations Squadron perform pushups during a physical training session on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, March 14, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Timothy Moore)

The topic of this week's opus is physical fitness, and that is laughably ironic considering this reporter could never meet any of the military services' height and weight standards. (Your humble narrator once considered opening a restaurant called "Pvt. Pyle's Forbidden Fruit," which would only sell jelly donuts.)

As you beloved readers likely already know, at least 31 percent of Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are too overweight to serve in the military. For those young men and women who are physically fit enough to enlist or get commissioned, the rigors of initial training are only the first hurdle.

Once in the military, service members must regularly pass physical fitness tests, and as the Defense Department prepares to fight big wars again, some of the services have made their physical standards more demanding.


In recent years, the Marine Corps has raised the minimum score needed to pass the Corps' physical and combat fitness tests, reduced the time Marines get to rest in between events, and required female Marines to do pull ups to get the maximum score on their PFT. Meanwhile, the Army is transitioning to an age- and gender-neutral combat fitness test with six events – twice as many as the current Army Physical Fitness Test – that are meant to better prepare soldiers for combat tasks.

The physical and combat fitness tests standards are challenging enough, but service members face the added stress of worrying that their careers could be hurt or even ended if they fail. (If you want to know what failing looks like, check out this video of your friend and humble narrator attempting the Army's PT test in 2011.)

Amid the U.S. military's growing focus on physical fitness, the Air Force is considering ways to make the PT test less nerve-wracking by giving airmen who fail a second chance, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright reportedly said recently.

Air Force personnel officials are looking into giving airmen the option to retake their PT tests within their cycle, similar to the Navy's "Bad Day" policy, said Wright's spokesman Senior Master Sgt. Harry Kibbe. If they pass, the failed test would no longer count.

The changes under consideration are in no way an attempt to make the Air Force's PT test any easier to pass, Wright told Task & Purpose.

"That's not what this is about," Wright said. "The potential change for 'Second Chance' is meant to relieve some of the anxiety that airmen may face when preparing for the physical fitness test. We're not looking at changing the test itself at this time. There's a study going on that will give us data for potential changes to that."

"But this specific effort is meant to help get us to a culture of fitness and alleviate some of this anxiety that we have as a result of our culture of fitness testing," he continued.

Now, some of you may be chuckling about the Air Force's efforts to reduce the stress of taking the PT test because the service is not as synonymous with physical fitness as the other military branches – with the possible exception of the Navy.

To wit: The service has been mocked as the "Chair Force;" Gen. Curtis LeMay was not exactly svelte; and an Air Force military training instructor was roasted on social media after claiming in a 2009 recruiting video that Air Force trainees are "in better shape than most Marines" by the time they become airmen.

As a counterpoint, it's worth remembering that Air Force special operators are particularly bad-ass, especially Medal of Honor recipient Tech Sgt. John Chapman.

This reporter applauds the Air Force's efforts to giving airmen a second crack at passing their PT test. Now can someone please explain why the service has its own heavy metal band, Max Impact? Metallica and Megadeth didn't write songs about enlisted professional military education.

Jeff Schogol covers the Pentagon for Task & Purpose. He has covered the military for 14 years and embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq and Haiti. Prior to joining T&P, he covered the Marine Corps and Air Force at Military Times. Comments or thoughts to share? Send them to Jeff Schogol via email at schogol@taskandpurpose.com or direct message @JeffSchogol on Twitter.

An aerial view of the Pentagon building in Washington, June 15, 2005. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the Guantanamo prison against critics who want it closed by saying U.S. taxpayers have a big financial stake in it and no other facility could replace it at a Pentagon briefing on Tuesday. (Reuters/Jason Reed JIR/CN)

Senior defense officials offered a wide range of excuses to reporters on Wednesday about why they may not comply with a subpoena from House Democrats for documents related to the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

On Oct. 7, lawmakers subpoenaed information about military aid to Ukraine. Eight days later, a Pentagon official told them to pound sand in part because many of the documents requested are communications with the White House that are protected by executive privilege.

Read More Show Less

Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) will announce legislation Wednesday aiming to "fix" a new Trump administration citizenship policy that affects some children of U.S. service members stationed abroad.

Read More Show Less

The video opens innocently enough. A bell sounds as we gaze onto a U.S. Navy frigate, safely docked at port at Naval Base San Diego. A cadre of sailors, dressed in "crackerjack" style enlisted dress uniforms and hauling duffel bags over their shoulders, stride up a gangplank aboard the vessel. The officer on deck greets them with a blast of a boatswain's call. It could be the opening scene of a recruitment video for the greatest naval force on the planet.

Then the rhythmic clapping begins.

This is no recruitment video. It's 'In The Navy,' the legendary 1979 hit from disco queens The Village People, shot aboard the very real Knox-class USS Reasoner (FF-1063) frigate. And one of those five Navy sailors who strode up that gangplank during filming was Ronald Beck, at the time a legal yeoman and witness to one of the strangest collisions between the U.S. military and pop culture of the 20th century.

"They picked the ship and they picked us, I don't know why," Beck, who left the Navy in 1982, told Task & Purpose in a phone interview from his Texas home in October. "I was just lucky to be one of 'em picked."

Read More Show Less

Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday casually brushed aside the disturbing news that, holy shit, MORE THAN 100 ISIS FIGHTERS HAVE ESCAPED FROM JAIL.

In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Esper essentially turned this fact into a positive, no doubt impressing public relations and political talking heads everywhere with some truly masterful spin.

"Of the 11,000 or so detainees that were imprisoned in northeast Syria, we've only had reports that a little more than a hundred have escaped," Esper said, adding that the Syrian Democratic Forces were continuing to guard prisons, and the Pentagon had not "seen this big prison break that we all expected."



Well, I feel better. How about you?

On Wednesday, the top U.S. envoy in charge of the global coalition to defeat ISIS said much the same, while adding another cherry on top: The United States has no idea where those 100+ fighters went.

"We do not know where they are," James Jeffrey told members of Congress of the 100+ escaped detainees. ISIS has about 18,000 "members" left in Iraq and Syria, according to recent Pentagon estimates.

A senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday the White House's understanding is that the SDF continues to keep the "vast majority" of ISIS fighters under "lock and key."

"It's obviously a fluid situation on the ground that we're monitoring closely," the official said, adding that released fighters will be "hunted down and recaptured." The official said it was Turkey's responsibility to do so.

President Trump expressed optimism on Wednesday about what was happening on the ground in northeast Syria, when he announced that a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurds was expected to be made permanent.

"Turkey, Syria, and all forms of the Kurds have been fighting for centuries," Trump said. "We have done them a great service and we've done a great job for all of them — and now we're getting out."

The president boasted that the U.S.-brokered ceasefire had saved the lives of tens of thousands of Kurds "without spilling one drop of American blood."

Trump said that "small number of U.S. troops" would remain in Syria to protect oilfields.


Kade Kurita (U.S. Army photo(

Kade Kurita, the 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing since Friday evening, was found dead on Tuesday night, the U.S. Military Academy announced early Wednesday morning.

"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita's family and friends," Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of West Point, said in the release.

Read More Show Less