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Fit to Fight; Part of the Culture

Staff Sgt. Thomas Doscher, 386th Air Expeditionary Win

Staff Sgt. Heather Gaffney, 386th Expeditionary Medical Group dental technician, leads Airmen in a core strengthening exercise during physical training at an air base in Southwest Asia, Feb. 26. Core strengthening exercises build stability in areas of the body that are arenít normally focused on during physically fitness. Gaffney is currently deployed from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and is originally from Santa Cruz, Calif., Senior Airman Courtney Richardson

Part of the Culture,03.05.2009

"I don't need to be fit to do my job when I'm deployed."

Tell that to Airman 1st Class Gina Marciano. Working at the Rock as a vehicle maintainer, the diminutive Airmen performs tasks from building transfer cases to changing 70-pound Humvee tires, and she said if she didn't stay physically fit, she wouldn't be able to do any of it.

"Me being a female and not having as much muscular strength as some of the males here, it motivates me more to lift weights and to want to get stronger," she said. "So I don't have to turn to the guys and say, 'Hey, can you turn this wrench for me?' I'd rather do it myself."

Marciano, 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, is an Airman growing up in the new Air Force, where physical fitness is simply part of the culture. PTing twice a day, six days a week, she said she understands that to do the job, you have to be fit. But while each unit may have different requirements, physical training has become a part of the culture here on the Rock.

"The most important thing people need to know about working out at the Rock is that they should really strive to make it part of their daily routine while deployed," said Master Sgt. April Lee, 386th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron Rock Fitness and Sports Center non-commissioned officer in charge. "Staying in shape not only makes you feel better, but it keeps you healthy and makes you more productive, which ultimately benefits the mission."

Many units have taken the message to heart, seeing the good physical fitness can do for the mission and enacting their own unit-specific PT programs.

The 386th Expeditionary Medical Group is one of those units. The group instituted a PT program designed to make it easy for its members to work out and recruited 10 physical training leaders to carry the program out. While that might not seem like a lot, those 10 PTLs make up a full 15 percent of the group's personnel.

Staff Sgt. Heather Holman, 386th EMDG group lead PTL, runs the program.

"We offer seven different PT sessions a week," she said. "So it really does a good job of making sure that everyone has an option to go while still having people behind to take care of our patients. PTLs will offer anything from circuit training, calisthenics, free weights or if it's a nice day, we'll take advantage of it and go running. So we make sure we offer a variety so no one will get bored with and everyone seems to have a really good time."

Having a good time, Holman said, is the key to the program's success, and the key to having a good time is giving EMDG members a say.

"Since we have such a small organization, it's easier to get everyone's opinion, everyone's feedback, and incorporate that into a program," the Monroe, Mich., native said. "We're all military. So we all know when to shut up and color, but then you don't always get people personally involved and motivated. When you put yourself out there, get people's opinions, then they actually take a group PT program and make it their own."

While the EMDG places primary emphasis purely on the workout, the 386th Expeditionary Communications Squadron has found another benefit to having mandatory PT sessions. As spread out as their squadron is, PT gives the unit an opportunity to communicate face-to-face rather than by e-mail.

"It was something the commander came up with," said Staff Sgt. Candido Serrato, 386th ECS head PTL. "His words were that the reason we have PT is not so much to focus on our fitness, but more along the lines to get the Communications Squadron together to network every morning. After we have our workouts, we do our stretches, and then we bring it in. And it gives an opportunity to everyone in the squadron to address the flight. So it's like a miniature commander's call. It allows us to get together in the mornings and talk to each other face-to-face and have fun while we're at it."

The 386th ECS PTs three times a week, switching things up every time.

"Tuesday consists of circuit training," Serrato said. "Once the summer time comes around, we'll probably be doing some 3K or 5K runs. On Thursdays it's a free day. Saturday is our team building day. We play basketball or wallyball. Every now and then we'll get a group together and run the flightline together."

Both PTLs agree that fitness can have an effect on their missions.

"You have to have good physical fitness to take care of patients when we go out to retrieve patients or litter carry," Holman said. "You need to be strong, physically fit and in good health."

"The cable dawgs work outside all day, and they're pulling cables and digging ditches. So it's a lot of physical work," Serrato agreed. "I think with us doing PT, it allows them to build strength that they need to get the mission accomplished. We also have a lot of personnel that are with postal. They're moving cargo and boxes and such. So I'm sure it benefits them as well."

Marciano said PTing has paid off for her at work.

"I've noticed that with the workouts I've been doing, a lot of things come with more ease," she said. "Like lifting certain tires or trying to break a bolt. I went to go put a Humvee tire on the other day, and the proper lifting technique is to use your legs to lift the tire up to mount it. Now Humvee tires are pretty heavy, and I was actually surprised by my own strength and with easy it was because in the past I struggled with them. It's rewarding knowing that my workouts are not only helping me with my physique, but also with my job."

And if your unit doesn't have PT, Serrato said, that's no problem.

"They can come and join us if they want," he said. "We have a good time."

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