TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
Part of nearly every junior enlisted Airman’s Air Force career involves the successful completion of the Airman Leadership School; it is a compulsory tick of the box before any Senior Airman can promote to Staff Sergeant. Over the course of five weeks, Senior Airmen study various topics pertaining to the fundamentals of leadership. Airmen learn supervisory communication and management skills, as well as military leadership skills by participating in team-building activities, individual research and presentation.
On top of the curriculum in the classroom, students partake in daily physical training sessions. Some are flight-led while others are known as ‘Commandant PT’ sessions. Workouts vary from day to day and are designed to improve the performance of mission specific combat preparedness.
Achieving daily PT sessions for the schoolhouse at Tinker Air Force Base in the past has been met through tire flips, high intensity interval and circuit training exercises. The schoolhouse is situated directly next to a large field that is used for various things related and unrelated to the future noncommissioned officers in-training. Flights practice drill and PT exercises on the field, since logistically it is difficult to safely and effectively push students through an on-base gym.
The ALS schoolhouse was looking to expand its capability to produce war-ready Airmen and increase the lethality of the U.S. Air Force. Creatively channeling and exploring options to raise the bar and push for improvement, ALS was able to acquire new exercise equipment which will contribute to the success of a physically fit Airman.
“In late 2016, I was able to attend the U.S. Marine Corps Advanced Course, which is the Marine equivalent to the Air Force Senior NCO Academy,” ALS Commandant Master Sgt. Bobby Kazmir said. “There, I was exposed to a workout locker equipped to provide functional exercise training to students. I wanted to bring this capability back to our Airmen, but since our mission set is different, it would have to be customized.”
A new gym dedicated solely for the use of ALS students was both unrealistic and unfeasible. So Kazmir and his cadre of four instructors researched options that involved multi-purpose equipment. The idea was to craft some sort of box or locker that housed different exercise equipment – maximizing workout variations by utilizing the same equipment for various exercises or repetitions.
Pouring into different options and figuring out what resources were at their disposal, end-of-year funds were allocated toward the purchase of the new schoolhouse addition. With a $49,000 price tag, the ALS commandant expects the Air Force to receive a tangible return on their investment.
“Airmen can gain improvements in deployment readiness, military-specific combat tasks and overall physical performance,” Kazmir said. Using higher quality, multi-purpose equipment on a regular basis can significantly reduce injury rates and lower long-term risk for medical issues.
Named by ALS Class 18-A, who had first dibs using some of the equipment, the ALS Combat Cube includes more than 2,000 pounds of weights, weighted sleds, battle ropes, kettle bells, jump ropes and resistance bands. Additionally, the storage container design houses 12 pull-up stations and a rope climb on its exterior. With the structure built to survive all weather conditions with deployment capabilities, the Cube is intended to facilitate functional-based training to improve an Airman’s performance of job-specific tasks.
“This kind of equipment helps balance physical capacities such as strength, power, speed, agility and endurance, while significantly reducing the likelihood of injuries and over-training through mobility and flexibility,” Kazmir said.
The Combat Cube provides Tinker ALS students with more opportunities to participate in high intensity interval and tabata training exercises, which students agree offers a larger scale of workouts. This amplifies the school’s ability to augment lessons through the facilitation of hundreds of workout variations, while avoiding redundancy.
Each ALS class plans, coordinates and executes community service and fundraising projects on top of their schoolhouse and physical demands. The fundraising aspect varies from car washes to golf tournaments and each class puts that dollar amount toward a legacy gift. Gifts in the past have ranged from an outdoor grill, pavilion and other décor or equipment adorning the walls of the schoolhouse.
Class 18-B, who graduates Feb. 8, is hosting a pie-in-the-face. All funding from that event will contribute to the purchase of a larger-than-life tabata timer which will track and beep on 20-second and 10-second intervals, unless changed. For reference, tabata workouts are designed for 20 seconds of hard work, followed by 10 seconds of rest. Typically there are eight rounds in one set, totaling four minutes. Time can be adjusted however, with 40 seconds work, 20 seconds rest, etc. The benefit of gifting a digital timer is that it will allow for the entire schoolhouse – students and instructors – to participate in every PT session. Currently, one instructor keeps time and blows the whistle for every rotation.
With the addition of a new locker outside the schoolhouse halls, the Combat Cube enhances operational fitness levels and optimizes combat readiness and resiliency. As the Air Force continues to develop strong, diverse and professional leaders, the team at Tinker’s ALS sets the bar high in its determination to prepare the junior enlisted force conceptually to lead teams, while instilling the warrior ethos that keeps American Airmen unparalleled to any adversary.