Year of Leadership: Fitness – Key to Mission Readiness

  • Published
  • By Maj. Charles Ashmore
  • 341st Force Support Squadron commander
Staying fit is a crucial part of our culture as military members. I learned this while I was enlisted and at first I felt it was an unnecessary part of our training. After all, I got up at 4 a.m. four times a week, put on my physical fitness uniform and did PT for an hour, or strapped on a 70-pound backpack and hiked 10 miles. It all seemed like a very clever way for the Gunnery Sergeant to make my life miserable. It wasn't until I served in the first Gulf War and drug interdiction operations in Colombia that I finally realized how important being in shape was. For instance, some missions in the desert required the unit to stay awake for extended periods to deliver artillery rounds around the clock. In other instances, we spent days on patrol without rest in order to meet our rendezvous point. And in each instance, if I wasn't in shape, I would have become a liability not an asset to my unit. Most important, staying fit helped to calm the nerves and provided needed relief during periods of extreme stress during these missions.

Staying fit also applies to our nuclear mission. When I was a missile combat crew commander, I usually pulled the midnight to 6 a.m. shift. Accordingly, the most difficult time for me to stay awake was 3 a.m. It took stamina to stay awake, but I'm sure if I wasn't in shape, it would have been almost impossible to sustain this performance for the whole tour. Equally important, Malmstrom Airmen go through the same thing every time they go out to the missile complex. Whether it's security forces guarding a launch facility, a maintenance team troubleshooting a missile or a chef up at midnight preparing meals, lack of sleep eventually takes its toll on the body and mind. That is why it's important we take care of ourselves and stay physically fit; otherwise, we diminish our health, increase the visits to the doctor's office, and put ourselves and the mission at risk. Don't kid yourself into thinking the mission here isn't like combat. The new emphasis on the nuclear mission will involve many growing pains for everyone over the next few years. And as such, we are constantly adjusting to a new way of doing business while adapting to the many changes that follow ... just like combat.

Fitness is a "state-of-mind" and must be ingrained into our daily lives to be effective. For example, I jog five times a week. It is like clock work and if for some reason I am unable to run, I feel guilty. Equally important, being in shape keeps the weight down, maintains a healthy mind, and helps when balancing the stresses of family life and the mission. In the end, it's about taking care of yourself, and living a long and happy life. You are authorized and expected to participate in physical fitness training. Take advantage of this opportunity, incorporate it into your daily life, keep in shape and keep your nuclear-edge focus.