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Fix the PT test: Former PT leader creates new scoring

Jun. 30, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Staff Sgt. Darius Boscarino gets a quick workout before returning home from work.
Staff Sgt. Darius Boscarino gets a quick workout before returning home from work. (Courtesy photo)
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He’s done the calculations. He’s gotten positivefeedback from fellow airmen. And now Staff Sgt. Darius Boscarino wants to take his PT test Air Force-wide — and eventually to all services.

Boscarino, stationed at Fort Gordon, Georgia, with the Air Force’s 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, has been developing his test for the past three years. A former physical training leader, he’s seen how airmen focus more on training to pass the annual test than on training to be fit.

In July, the Air Force will review Boscarino’s proposed fitness test.

“The Air Force has made the test really easy to pass [with 75 points], and really difficult to get a [maximum] 100,” Boscarino told Air Force Times. “[The Air Force] requires us to do our own PT. But do all airmen do their own PT? Some run every day. Others don’t get training until they know they have a PT test coming up.”

His test, he believes, is a better measure of fitness:

■Airmen would test four times a year, instead of annually.

■They would get points for every pushup and situp they can do.

■They would get points for every second under a minimum time for their age in which they complete the 1.5-mile run.

■The minimum passing score would vary by age, not age group, and by gender.

■And there would be no tape test of waist measurement.

This test keeps track of those working out and those not, Boscarino said. “Motivated people should be rewarded for all the extra effort they put into their PT test, and they shouldn’t be limited.”

Room for improvement

Boscarino doesn’t consider himself a poster boy for Air Force fitness. But as a physical training leader from 2009 to 2012, Boscarino grew frustrated with the negative attitudes surrounding the Air Force’s test.

“I saw everyone getting waist-taped improperly. They say hold the tape and spin around. Then they pull it tighter than they’resupposed to and read off a number. It’s not right,” Boscarino said.

He also heard airmen complain about mandatory PT with their squadrons before the Air Force reversed the rule in 2010. Still, no one holds fitness to a higher standard, he said.

After dropping the PTL program, Boscarino began developing a test that eliminates the waist tape altogether, but puts more focus on situps, pushups and the run. With these three components, there’s no limit on how well you can do: Airmen can score well beyond 100 points, and, he said,airmen between the ages of 18 and 28 should be scoring 100 or better. Women between these ages should score between 75 and 65.

Boscarino has submitted his idea to the Air Force, and the Air Force plans to review it in July under the Airmen Powered by Innovation program, Air Force spokeswoman Rose Richeson said.

Unlike the Air Force test, which scores airmen by age groups, Boscarino’s test sets minimum scores for each age year: A minimum 1.5-mile run time, minimum pushups and situps completed in two minutes — instead of one minute — and minimum overall score decreasing as you get older.

But just like the Air Force test, the minimums in each category do not guarantee you an overall pass. “I’m 28, so on my test I need 100 minimum to pass. If you do my minimum pushups, my minimum situps, my minimum run, it doesn’t equal 100 points,” Boscarino said. “You have to make up those lost points somewhere in one of those categories.”

A new way to score

Here’s Boscarino’s scoring system:

■ Get 0.1 points for every second under 20 minutes in which you complete a 1.5-mile run. Every minute under 20 is worth six points.

■Each pushup and situp is worth half a point. Fifty pushups would earn 25 points. The same goes for situps.

A 28-year-old like Boscarino who completes the 1.5-mile run in the minimum 13:20 would get 40 points for the run component of the test. If he can do the minimum 30 pushups and 50 situps, he would earn another 40 points. But the minimum overall score for a 28-year-old male is 100 points, so the airman must do above the minimum on one or more components. A fast runner, for example, might get to his minimum overall score by improving his running time. Or an airman with a strong upper body might finish more pushups, Boscarino said.

“The main idea is that the minimums provide a basic standard of a fitness level and requires some sort of well-roundedness,” Boscarino said. “My test provides a minimum fitness level required for the military and then leaves the rest open to the individual.”

The rationale

Boscarino proposes a number of changes to the current test and gives these reasons:

■Give airmen credit for every situp and pushup they complete.

Under the Air Force’s test, that is not the case. If an under-30 male completes 62, 63, 64, 65 or 66 pushups, he gets the same score: 9.5 points. If he completes 67 or many more, he gets 10 points and no more.

Boscarino’s test rewards extra exertion with a half-point for every rep. “What if you have all this energy and you can do many more?” he said. If you have the upper body build, pushups and situps are where you can excel, he said.

■Similarly, give airmen credit for every second of improvement in run time.

Under the current test, an under-30 male gets the same 42.3 points whether he completes the 1.5-mile run in 13:15 or 13:36 or any second in between. Boscarino’s test would give a 28-year-old male running between those times points ranging from 38.4 to 40.5 for each second cut in time.

“There’s always those people who will end up finishing a second too slow. ... And then they’ve missed out on that point,” Boscarino said.

For example, under the Air Force test, the under-30 male who completes the 1.5-mile run in 13:37, one second over the minimally acceptable time, gets zero points. Under Boscarino’s test, he would get 38.3 points.

“My test, everything, every effort is worth some sort of credit or point value,” Boscarino said.

■Test airmen’s situp and pushup capability over two minutes instead of just one.

“With the Air Force PT test ... at the max, you’re asking someone to do just 67 pushups in 60 seconds. That’s really fast,” he said, referring to the requirements for a male under 30 years old.

If more time is allowed, you don’t have to rush the process, giving you an actual strength-building activity instead of “bobbing up and down really fast” on the floor, he said.

■Lessen requirements for each year of age, not age group.

For example, instead of scoring all airmen under 30 the same, as the Air Force test does, Boscarino’s test lowers minimum requirements year by year.

“Each year, you’re given the option to run a little bit slower or do a few situps or pushups less. Each year, you have a new minimum score,” Boscarino said. “As you’re required to do less for your age, it’s easier to stay in shape” but still keep conditioning.

Forget tape, just test often

There’s a difference between being physically fit and “physically thin,” Boscarino said. That difference is the source of many airmen’s frustration with the tape test.

“I just don’t agree with what they call it: abdominal circumference. ... That doesn’t mean anything fitness wise,” he said.

Boscarino’s recommendation is to drop the tape test, but if the Air Force has to keep it, leaders should make it pass/fail, Boscarino said.

Currently, men get points if their waists are 39 inches or smaller. Women get points if their waists are 35.5 inches or smaller. If the Air Force keeps the tape test, Boscarino thinks it should have no point value for anyone, with all points on the PT test coming from the run, pushup and situp requirements.

“We’re wasting time on taking people’s height and weight and waist measurements when ... you could just test every three months to see progress,” he said.

Testing quarterly would not only give airmen the incentive to work out more often, but also know their PT standing.

“Say I’m scoring 120 one quarter, 115 the next, and my scores are getting lower and lower each quarter,” Boscarino said. “My fitness manager should say to me, ‘You’re approaching your minimum score and are in danger of failing on your next test. You need to get in shape.’ If people just show up four times a year, you can keep track of your progress — success or failure — more often, and know how to fix it.”

And if you work more on running, pushups and situps, you will achieve a thinner waist, Boscarino said.

Quarterly tests could also reduce the number of waivers given out to those who say they are not able to do the test. Airmen have complained that waivers are handed out too easily, and that slackers know they can escape the test by complaining about a sore back or knee the week of their scheduled test. But those airmen who now scramble to work out before an upcoming annual PT test and end up overexerting themselves could find themselves ready by getting into the quarterly testing habit, Boscarino said.

Another idea: “Maybe audit those who have waivers. Pick a random group and say, ‘You have a checkup today with your doctor.’ And have the doctors run tests if necessary and see what comes up,” Boscarino said.

The Air Force could also look into how many waivers an airman has received, he said.

The next steps

“What I now want to do is get a small test group [at Fort Gordon] and go through the test with them and get feedback,” he said. “I’d rather try that than just going off what people say ... when reading over the [proposal].”

Boscarino also wants more incentives for doing well on PT — aside from adding the PT score to your overall promotion score.

“We should extend this to every service,” Boscarino said.

“At the end of every year, you take whoever had the best scores over all four quarters — one guy and one girl for every age group — from every service branch and recognize them,” Boscarino said. “Why not have all the chiefs of staff from each branch come and recognize their person from their branch? Reward airmen for doing well. Start by singling out that most fit person in your squadron or unit.”

Such recognition encourages airmen “to want to get a high score and even push themselves to go higher and higher.”

Boscarino, in the Air Force almost 9½ years, has never failed the PT test. But he recently took the test while recovering from an injury — instead of getting a waiver — and passed the minimum by only a few points.

Passing with a lower score wasn’t satisfying, “just wasn’t right,” Boscarino said, because passing and being fit should not be identical in the Air Force’s eyes.

“Airmen are complaining when they are kicked out for letting themselves go. I believe it’s a two-sided battle. The military should hold its employees accountable and military members should take responsibility for not being fit to fight,” Boscarino said.

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