PORTLAND AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ore. --
As the new year beings, Airmen at the 142nd Fighter Wing here were introduced during the Regular Scheduled Drill (RSD) to a catalog packed with activities designed to improve the total overall well-being of the force.
The Comprehensive Airman Fitness (CAF) program is a holistic approach to cultivate Airmen's health and resiliency. Under a four pillar approach, the program fosters mental, spiritual, social and physical fitness, to help shape a sustainable and ready force.
"Our job is to fight and win the nation's wars. We'll never be good enough at it; we've got to get better every day. It's not an easy task, which is why Comprehensive Airman Fitness is so important," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. "Our focus is on the well-being and care for ourselves, each other and our families so we can be more resilient to the many challenges military service brings."
Working with a team of nearly a dozen wing members, Col. Donna Prigmore, 142nd Fighter Wing Vice Commander, said the group worked for over 10 weeks to help design the activities, events and groups found in the CAF Winter Catalog.
"From the beginning, the goal was to help bring a cultural change of wellness to our Airmen with an emphasis on improving life balance and personal readiness," said Prigmore.
A majority of the CAF courses involve group activities; whether it is a spinning class at the base gym, a volunteer get-together at a local food bank or occasional seminars offered on base, all four pillars have been thoroughly considered.
To identify Airmen's needs, Prigmore said the CAF planning group relied on direct feedback from assessments taken during the November RSD Wingman Day.
"We received 777 detailed surveys, specifying what our members want and what concerns need to be addressed," she said.
The challenge was breaking down the numbers and remarks with such a large number of replies. Master Sgt. Bobby Vickery took on the task of deciphering the raw data and articulating both intentions found in the comments and totals found in the statistical summaries.
Vickery described the challenges of crunching the numbers but said his experience in strategic planning through his work in the counter drug program helped break down the survey results.
"I used some of my experience when it comes to assessments, capacity, implementation and planning to take the data and pinpoint the most pressing concerns," he said.
The formulation and results started to illustrate some interesting trend lines, most notably work-related stress and support programs with physical fitness.
"With our full-time force, work was the number one stressor; both with the work load and the stress associated with their job," Vickery said.
The CAF planning group broke down all the results and addressed the needs based on capabilities and facilities. The base gym was able to host yoga, spinning, running clinics and other fitness classes and conference rooms around base were scheduled for various seminars ranging from women's issues, co-parenting, cooking and nutrition, and financial assistance to name a few.
With physical fitness being a condition of employment in the military, Vickery said the CAF working group placed an emphasis on a variety of fitness classes.
"When it came to cardio [cardiovascular exercise], people wanted more options than just running so the spinning and mixed martial arts courses were popular choices for many of our Airmen," he said. "But having group support was just as important with physical training too."
A key component of CAF is the Wingman concept, where Airmen take care of each other while holding each other accountable and remaining true to the Air Force core values and personal readiness.
Spirituality is another of the four CAF pillars that the working group felt was important to address. Though primarily a traditional Drill Status Guardsman, Chaplain (Capt.) Rory Pitstick saw an opportunity to be available periodically during the work week to meet the spiritual needs of full-time Guardsmen.
"Part of my job as a Chaplain is to give the visible reminder of the Holy," Pitstick said.
Pitstick compared the variety of ways one becomes physically fit with how Airmen can build spiritual fitness.
"Just as there are ways to (physically) exercise, there are ways to develop spiritually and grow strong," he said. "We as a Wing are committed to having as many options possible and available to our Airmen."
(To hear more of Chaplain Pitstick's interview, click here)
Col. Paul T. Fitzgerald, 142nd Fighter Wing Commander, said that he witnessed a great deal of energy for the CAF rollout through his interactions with members over the RSD weekend.
"I want our Airmen to understand that they matter as individuals," he said. "Military service, especially in the Air National Guard can be challenging."
Fitzgerald emphasized that CAF is a tangible way to address and meet those challenges.
"The whole program is put together so that they [Airmen] become more successful -- not just here on base, but in all aspects of their lives and for long after they retire."