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Be your 'physical best'

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Kirk Stallings
  • 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
In early 2008, I was aboard a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter descending into Camp Ramadi, Iraq. As I exited the aircraft, there was a distant explosion from a mortar attack.

I was thinking, "What did I get myself into?" I had joined the infantry at the young age of 40. As I carried my rucksack, weapon, 70 pounds of individual body armor and additional equipment off the landing zone, I wondered if I would be able to keep up.

Just a few weeks earlier I was back at home on the U.S. Joint Forces Command staff experiencing holiday cheer, but then we got the call. We were to get to Iraq and be prepared for full-spectrum operations.

Our deployment was something that very few, if any, expected. A staff of senior officers with a few senior enlisted were going to Iraq, but were we prepared? As a unit we were -- we had the latest equipment, most of it never used. We were all concerned it was too late to do very much to prepare ourselves physically in this short amount of time.

The Air Force has renewed emphasis on physical fitness and there are three major reasons for this as outlined by the Air Force chief of staff during his recent visit to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing. He told us that the American people expect us to look and to act a certain way and those expectations have been adopted to become our expectations.

Certainly we need to act the part of a warrior, but looking the part is just as important. Next, we need to be able to perform our duties as Airmen -- no matter the task. This could be our traditional roles or the evolving tasks that Airmen are being asked to perform in Iraq and Afghanistan. These roles require us to be fit.

The final reason is based on pure dollars and cents. The Department of Defense's budget is tight and the largest expense for its personnel is health care. We need new weapons systems like the KC-X tanker, additional airlift aircraft and new intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, or ISR, assets. Spending our limited resources on health care for our Airmen is very important, but we shouldn't need to spend unnecessarily.

Each one of us has a responsibility to be prepared for any contingency. You may have heard that this is a "come as you are war." That doesn't just mean what you carry in your rucksack, but also how you are prepared physically for the task.

Use your deployed time wisely and spend it eating right and getting into better shape. Make this a way of life so that beyond your Air Force career you live a long and healthy life. Do it in case you find yourself in a similar situation as I was -- climbing off a helo in Ramadi wondering if you're prepared to keep up with those that will rely on you when events will demand your physical best.