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By Erica Blanton, Staff Writer, 13th Air Support Operations Squadron
/ Published March 16, 2020
Members of the 13th Air Support Operations Squadron stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado take the new special warfare unit test at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado on February 28, 2020. The new test streamlines expectations for special warfare units across all military branches to ensure operators can meet increased mission requirements. (U.S. Air Force photo by Erica Blanton)
Fitness test requirements for special warfare units, like tactical air control party specialists, are changing military-wide and members of the 13th Air Support Operations Squadron, stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, recently took this test for the first time after six weeks of dedicated training.
“The focus is to streamline with other special warfare units so that we all have a similar test,” said Rob Schwartz, 13th ASOS director of human performance. “This one is more like a mission, and it would be a heck of a mission. Prepare for the worst type of thing.”
The idea behind the new test is to evaluate an operator’s overall power, strength, endurance and agility.
The assessment starts with a ruck march, which simulates the start of a mission, to build up some fatigue.
“If you’re out in the field you have to prepare to carry massive loads of gear,” said Staff Sgt. Charles Gage, 13th ASOS TACP modernization lead. “It’s not unrealistic to say that guys could carry up to 100 lbs. for pretty long movements.”
This three-mile component is done in uniform, carrying a 60 lb. rucksack, and has a time requirement of 45 minutes to pass.
“The ruck started off easy…nice and smooth,” said Capt. Ray Reeves, 13th ASOS assistant director of operations. “But we’ll see, it’s about to get a little harder.”
A “little harder” includes standing broad jumps, a weighted farmer’s carry, pull-ups, trap bar deadlifts, two different types of shuttle runs, and a final mile and a half combat run.
Besides these new components, the test is now administered in one three-hour block versus the previously allotted two days.
“The guys have a Type-A personality and just want to go for it,” said Gage. “We’re used to pulling around garbage cans because they’re throwing up. These guys are really fit, but with this new test they don’t account for smoking their legs on that last run.”
The shift to aerobic fitness is helping TACP specialists raise the bar and meet increased performance requirements.
“Having these components stacked all together was a big eye opener for a few guys in terms of their fitness,” said Schwartz. “This is going to be a really good measure across career fields about everyone being in a more well-rounded condition.”
In addition to the aerobic components, members must also pass a waist measurement.
“They have to undergo a body composition test, with a waist measurement on top of that,” said Schwartz. “The Air Force pays us to be resilient and mission ready, but bigger guys can max out every component and sometimes this is the one thing that gets them. It’s a balancing act.”
Though still in a trial phase, some operators favor the new test for its practical relevance.
“I like this test better,” said Staff Sgt. Stefan Lisiewicz, 13th ASOS TACP. “The one before wasn’t suited to a mission or had much tactical relevance. This is more applicable to what people can see when they’re in the field.”
What do these changes mean for special warfare operating units?
“Right now we’re in the data collection phase,” said Schwartz. “The next steps are to equip units with much-needed tools for testing and training to get to those standards expected of us; like turf to prepare our operator’s bodies for the demands of this change. And without enough manpower to validate the work we’re doing and make sure it’s the right thing, it’s just patchwork.”
To train like a TACP, go to afpc.af.mil and search for “Battlefield Airman Fitness Assessment”.