Fit to fight perfection has no age limitation
By Senior Airman Mark Hybers, 507th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 14, 2012
TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- What could a Senior Master Sergeant, 16 months from retirement and a Senior Airman, barely two years into his career possibly have in common? Perfection.
Two members from the 507th Air Refueling Wing achieved something very few members of Air Force Reserves ever have, a perfect score on their fit to fight test.
Senior Master Sgt. Carol Suggs of the 465th Air Refueling Squadron and Senior Airman Krystopher Clarke of the 507th Civil Engineer Squadron both pulled off the lofty scores during their recent fit to fight tests this summer.
From first glance, these members appear to have very little in common. One is near the end of her career, the other just starting. But a common thread between them is the drive to achieve perfection.
Suggs, who has achieved this rare goal three times, remembers when she first came in the Air Force Reserves in 1985 at Charleston Air Force Base at the time there was no fitness testing.
"The only thing we did back then was get a weight measurement," said Suggs. "If you were under your weight limit, great, if not you went on a weight loss program until you lost enough weight to pass."
Some of the component minimums and maximums have changed over the years, but the overall fit to fight program has not changed and is not going away. For Clarke the time leading up to his fit to fight was well focused.
"I was on upgrade training orders for 10 months at Altus Air Force Base, so I got to work out with active duty members every day," Clarke said. "I think that time was very helpful because the guys I train with are very competitive."
Suggs also believes being on orders or active status makes staying physically fit easier. "I think it's tougher for us (reservists), we have to maintain our discipline in our personal lives rather than be on active duty and get to go to structured PT three times per week."
Clarke's time on active duty training and running with partners helped put him over the top. "There were five guys in that squadron that are really competitive and I'm really competitive. That helped me get faster." Clarke added "eventually I became faster than most of them."
Clarke knew he had a shot at a perfect score after his previous test in which he scored a 98.5. The only component lacking a perfect score is the run. Clarke's previous time was 9:30.
"I knew when I started I had to run a 9:12 to get to that 100. I paced myself pretty good until the last lap," he said. "I literally sprinted the entire last lap and was shocked when I hit a time of 8:46."
The run was a key focus for Suggs as well. "I'm not a runner by nature," Sgt. Suggs said. "I'm a bike rider. I like to get out and ride about 15 miles at least one day a week."
Suggs also considers pushups an area that requires a lot of training. She said talking to people that she works with and people around the gym gave her a good foundation for strength training.
"I can watch a tape that shows me how to do a push up, but talking to different people and getting different exercises is more beneficial." Suggs added different upper body strength routines to her workout such as dips and other chest and shoulder strength routines. In fact, Suggs has an entire workout program put together to help her maintain physical fitness while at her home in Altus. She also eats right and goes to the gym four days a week with one additional workout at home. Monday's and Wednesday's Suggs works out 2 miles on the treadmill and nautilus with upper body added. Tuesday's and Thursday's it's the elliptical with other lower body workouts. One day a week she runs at the reservoir near her house.
"The outside run adds diversity to my workout. Running on a treadmill is great, but you are getting pushed along," she said. "Running two miles around the reservoir adds hills, turns, wind and other weather elements that you can't get on a treadmill. You never know what the weather is going to be on test day, so that's a crucial part of my training."
The workout program returned incredible results. Suggs turned in the best time of her 30 plus year career with a 12:53. That's over 2:30 better than her previous best.
"When I came across the line on my final lap, I looked over and thought there was one more to go, but they told me I was finished. I couldn't believe it, because I didn't think I had one more in me," an excited Suggs replied. "I then thought I was going to lose my breakfast!" she laughed.
Both Suggs and Clarke agree that working on your fitness is very important and also very difficult to maintain.
"The current fit to fight tempo is here to stay," said Suggs. "We are not the way we were 20 years ago. Just remember, it's your responsibility to maintain your fitness, how you do it is up to you. Find what works for you and go for it."
Suggs and Clarke, two highly competitive and self motivated Airman that prove fitness and perfection are not bound by age.