AFMC mandates BMI changes for its Airmen

  • Published
  • By Holly Birchfield
  • 78 ABW/PA
An Air Force Materiel Command initiative is calling for its military Airmen to lower their body mass index.

In early December 2007, AFMC's Vice Commander Lt. Gen. Terry Gabreski directed all AFMC commanders to cut their units' obesity rates by 10 percent in the first half of 2008 and reduce the rate by another 10 percent by year's end.

Dr. (Lt. Col.) Michael Bledsoe, chief, Occupational Medicine in the 78th Medical Group, said Robins is in the early stages of identifying Airmen who exceed the BMI limit.

"Robins is using the Fitness Portal as a tool to identify Airmen with a BMI over 30 since their last fitness test," he said.

Dr. Bledsoe said unit commanders must identify and validate Airmen in violation of the standard.

About 271 military members in the 78th Air Base Wing currently have a BMI of 30 or above. Their commanders must now validate whether they have a pre-existing medical condition that currently prevents weight loss, such as diabetes or hypothyroidism, or if they're pregnant, factors that can temporarily exempt someone from the standard.

As long as Airmen without exemptions are in an AFMC unit, they must meet the BMI standard, Dr. Bledsoe said.

Robins Airmen have mixed emotions about the policy.

First Lt. Rob Bouffard, the 778th Civil Engineer Squadron's Readiness and Emergency Management Division chief, said the new expectation is reasonable.

"I think it's an important step toward a healthier lifestyle and going in the same direction of the higher operational tempo and more deployments," he said. "I think when you're deploying, you need to have people next to you who are fit and physically wartime ready."

Other Airmen have concerns about the new policy.

Second Lt. Trey Rowe, a contracting specialist in the 78th Contracting Squadron, thinks the standard is a bit too strict.

"While people should look good in their uniform, I'm more worried about whether or not they can get their job done," he said. "As long as they can pass the physical fitness test and do their job, I have no problem serving with them."

Master Sgt. Jimmy Whittington, a first sergeant in the 402nd Maintenance Wing, said the BMI standard should reach beyond AFMC.

"I think the new BMI standard is a good thing; however, I think it should be applied Air Force wide instead of affecting only one command," he said.

Sergeant Whittington said the policy's limited scope could cause division among Airmen serving in different commands on the same base.

Airmen who are over the standard BMI will take the Healthy Living Workshop in the near future to get the roadmap to a healthier status, Dr. Bledsoe said.