As a leader in the Air Force, you are responsible for more than simply ensuring your subordinates do their jobs. Under the Air Force Physical Fitness Program, you are responsible for ensuring they actively pursue the fitness levels dictated by the Air Force.
This is not just a commander’s responsibility, but applies to all levels of leadership down to immediate supervisors.
When was the last time you asked what type of lunch your people are eating? Chances are you’re very aware of the Air Force physical fitness program and have instituted a physical training regimen within your organization. But are your troops eating lunch? Is their typical lunch a candy bar from the unit snack bar?
Most organizations have snack bars set up. As a commander, you have the authority to regulate those snack bars and dictate their offerings. If you condone a snack bar consisting entirely of unhealthy choices, then you are directly contributing to unhealthy habits within your organization. Consider the contradiction: you mandate physical training for your personnel, and yet condone potentially unhealthy choices within the workplace. Consider what message you want to send to your personnel.
What message does your personal fitness send to your personnel? Are you out in front during PT? Are you maintaining a healthy lifestyle? Are you in shape or do you dread the approach of every PT Test? You are being closely watched. Choose your non-verbal statements carefully.
Have you mobilized your squadron to help itself? You most likely have troops who are in good shape and those who are not. Have you established fitness mentors? Your fit personnel are excellent candidates to work with the less fit, working out with them regularly in small groups or one-on-one. This is only one idea that can be brought to bear in the effort to improve the overall health of your personnel. Be creative. Commit. Lead. You will see results.
As the front-line leadership in the Air Force, you have enormous impact upon your troops. Fitness is no longer a notional goal. The Air Force PT Test/Fitness Assessment is not something that can be ignored until 2 weeks before the testing date. You and your troops will not be tested by a fellow squadron-mate who will give you the benefit of the doubt when it comes to proper form on push-ups and sit-ups. The success of your troops is greatly dependent upon the emphasis you place upon it.
Fitness is no longer an annoyance in the Air Force. It is now a career decision. Air Force leadership implemented this program knowing that it will result in the involuntary separation of a number of technically proficient, capable personnel whose only failing is an unwillingness to embrace a healthy lifestyle. As a supervisor, you must ensure they understand this. You must also promote a healthy lifestyle.
Lead by example. If you’re out of shape, take action to improve your health and ensure your troops see it. If you’re already in shape, take interest in your troops and work with them directly. This can have a huge impact.
Look around your workplace. Are your troops getting a good lunch? Have you asked them if they eat a healthy breakfast? Is your snack bar making money at the expense of your troops’ fitness? As a leader, you can impact this.
Remember that you can make all the difference for your troops. If they fail and you have done nothing to help them, their failure rests on your shoulders as well.