BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) -- A unique aspect of military service is an evaluated standard of physical fitness.
Each year, the Navy administers two cycles of Physical Fitness Assessments (PFAs) and Body Composition Assessments (BCAs). These tests gauge a Sailor's physical readiness compared to the standards set by the Department of the Navy, and are a vital aspect of the Navy's mission.
For Sailors assigned to aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), the first cycle of the PFA is already underway. Official BCAs are being taken April 30-May 11, with secondary weigh-ins June 5-7. The official PFA is scheduled for May 14-June 1, with secondary testing June 12-14.
In a Navywide effort to retain more Sailors, several changes have been made to the PFA and its standards.
For one, the use of elliptical machines for the alternate-cardio portion is no longer an option. Another change is if a Sailor scores an overall excellent score on the previous cycle, including a good low or better on all categories and meets the BCA standards, he or she is then exempt from the following cycle.
Perhaps the most significant change says two or more failures will not immediately terminate Sailors' time in service. Now, they are required to serve until their end of active obligated service (EAOS), unless they pass the most recent PFA prior to their EAOS. Upon passing that PFA, they would be eligible to submit a request to their commanding officer for permission to re-enlist.
Other changes include failures being enrolled in the Fitness Enhancement Program (FEP) and remaining so until passing an official PFA. Also, beginning January 1, all Sailors' records of PFA failures were reset to zero to give everybody a fresh start.
But just what are the best ways for Sailors to prepare for this assessment of physical fitness? Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) Sean Valis, from Baltimore and the command fitness leader, suggests testing oneself prior to the official PFA.
"I advise running a mock PFA every two weeks for at least 2 months prior to the PFA," he said.
He also said a healthy lifestyle is a key aspect.
"Cutting out the sugar in your diet, lowering your caloric intake, and maintaining a well-balanced diet and exercise routine with adequate rest are all essential tools that will benefit a Sailor preparing for the PFA," said Valis.
Valis is avid about physical fitness and has a lengthy record of being a constructive addition to the physical health of Sailors at his command.
"I have always been passionate about exercise and maintaining the standard of physical readiness," he added. "I've been doing this since 2008, and have been departmental and command fitness leader at multiple commands. I want to be a positive contributing factor to the command and the fitness of our Sailors."
This sentiment was echoed by Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Terrell Conley, the command FEP leader, from Bainbridge, Georgia.
"The biggest thing I can say is start preparing early; have constant fitness and preparation in your daily life," said Conley. "Things like the food you eat, the amount of sleep you get, and even the company you keep can all have either very positive or negative impacts on your overall physical fitness."
Being able to perform competently under demanding circumstances is vital to mission success, and proper fitness is a key aspect of being prepared and operational in today's Navy.
"Fitness is a huge part of my life," said Conley. "The Navy, and the military in general, is a fitness culture and it is constantly evolving. Being the FEP coordinator is a way for me to help my fellow Sailors and further advance the constant evolution of the fitness culture that is so important in our Navy."
The PFA has long been an important part of the Navy's mission as an instrument to maintain the standards of physical readiness the nation requires. As employees of the Department of the Navy, Sailors must hold themselves to high standards, and recognize the importance and essential nature of physical fitness to the overall mission.
"These assessments are a crucial part of the Navy's longevity," Valis. "There is a clearly defined positive correlation between physical fitness and mission accomplishment. If Sailors aren't physically fit for the fight, then bad things can happen on all aspects."
While it may be difficult at times, it's essential to continuously improve one's physical health. Sacrifices are necessary, and that extra lap on the track, additional set of push-ups or the salad for dinner instead of a pizza can make a monumental difference in not only physical readiness, but the overall accomplishment of any mission.
Nimitz is conducting a docking planned incremental availability at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility, where the ship is receiving scheduled maintenance and upgrades.
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For more news from USS Nimitz (CVN 68), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn68/.