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Safety Spotlight

Portrait of U.S. Air Force Mr. Christopher Bernard, assigned to the 169th Fighter Wing Safey Office at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Sept. 24, 2020. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder, 169th Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

Portrait of U.S. Air Force Mr. Christopher Bernard, assigned to the 169th Fighter Wing Safey Office at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Sept. 24, 2020. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder, 169th Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --

Managing personal physical fitness is very important for a healthy life, especially for members of the military. They must maintain an ongoing state of readiness and have availability for worldwide deployment. For this reason, taking a few minutes to consider safety during physical fitness training is prudent. A major part of the three component Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA) is the aerobic component, otherwise known as the “Cardio” test. For a majority of members taking the PFA, that means a 1.5 mile run. As you may know, you cannot expect to successfully pass the run without proper training. Gone are the days when you can run around the track a few times once a year to “pass” your PT test. Physical fitness is taken seriously by the military, as deployment tempo increases with a higher demand frequency for mission essential personnel.

So what should we do about training for the run…safely? Many personnel like to run around the outdoor track so they have a good idea how to judge distance and time, thereby tracking overall progress. It is a safe place to run: one that you are authorized to exercise while wearing headphones. However, some simply find that to be too monotonous and elect to run on or along the roadways. In doing so, they are navigating a few risk factors that must be considered. Let’s address these risk factors, and ways to mitigate them.

While running or jogging along roadways, a heightened level of alertness is fundamental. Not only do you have to stay vigilant for “slip-and-trip” hazards posed by uneven ground, loose gravel, and potholes, but you will be dangerously close to passing vehicles. During the hours of dusk and dawn, decreased visibility adversely affects a driver’s perception and reaction time, increasing the breaking distance need to avoid hitting you. First, avoid getting struck by wearing retroreflective or powered running visibility accessories. Second, run against traffic so you have the best opportunity to jump away from a vehicle that has not seen you. Third, never consider wearing earpods, headphones, or any other device near roadways that reduce your ability to hear hazards around you.

Authorized places on base to run have been posted in a memorandum. However, runners often ignore the rules and are still observed running west, past Bldg. 62 (Fire Department Facility-under construction) and on restricted roadways (from POL to the front gate) during the 0700-0800 & 1600-1700 peak travel times. They are accepting unnecessary risk, especially when running with headphones on. A quick reminder to drivers: you are required to slow to 10 mph as you pass pedestrians or bicyclists on base and move to the opposite lane if possible.

Another point when running outside of the fitness track: Running along the perimeter fence, even though not currently “off limits” to personnel, increases risk of injury due to very uneven running surfaces, hidden trip hazards, and the possibility of wild animals, including the observance of venomous snakes in the area. During a safety inspection of the outdoor range several years ago, a four-foot canebrake was observed lying on the roadway leading to the range. Would you be able to pick out the same from a few strides away, or only after you’re on top of it? If you sustain a snakebite along the perimeter and have not brought a communication device to call for help, the outcome may be grim. It is true that venomous snakes indigenous to this area will not aggressively strike unless they feel threatened, but must of us are simply unwilling to take the chance by running past them.

Lastly, when using the gym for aerobic and strength conditioning to train for the push-ups and sit-ups, make sure you do not push past your limits. Use a spotter when lifting heavy free weights. Stretch out before and after your workout routine to minimize strains and sprains, and be cognizant of others around you so that an inadvertent action does not result in a mishap. If you are unsure how to use a certain machine or need help developing a routine, use a certified personal trainer. For more information on the requirements of the PFA, see DAFMAN 36-2905. Remember, the Air Force guidance on the Fitness Program has changes scheduled for 2022. Search for the “Choose Your PT Test” article from the Air Force Magazine online for a rundown of these changes. As always, take care of your wingman and “Bee Safe!”

Reference:

McCullough, Amy (27 AUG 2021) “Choose Your PT Test.” Air Force Magazine, 27 Aug. 2021, https://www.airforcemag.com/article/choose-your-pt-test/.