JANUARY 23, 2023 – This year, Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations is changing the way it uses fitness to empower today’s Airmen.
AFMAO’s required physical training is transitioning from twice per month to once a week. Additionally, weekly optional fitness programs are returning to AFMAO for the first time since early 2020.
AFMAO’s mission is to maintain a highly trained and resilient Total Force team of professionals capable of fulfilling our nation’s sacred commitment of ensuring dignity, honor and respect to our fallen while providing care, service and support to their families across the Department of Defense enterprise.
“The point of fitness is to be a fit force; fit to fight, not fit to test,” said Chief Master Sgt. Bobby Drayton, AFMAO senior enlisted leader.
AFMAO Airmen from across the organization lead the workouts, which include calisthenics, cardio-based workouts, and team sports. Both military and civilian personnel attend the workouts, giving members a chance to increase camaraderie alongside physical health and wellness.
“I think having everyone in the room together once a week to get a workout in is great for us as a team,” said Tech. Sgt. Katie Maricle, AFMAO Unit Fitness Program Monitor. “We don’t always see each other every day because of our respective jobs, so having that time together and getting some endorphins from exercise helps us collectively, not just individually.”
AFMAO leadership is guiding the transition from seeing physical training as merely a requirement to a state of mind. Physical fitness plays a key role in AFMAO’s capabilities and readiness.
“The reality is that many of our Airmen could be called to carry out a very physical portion of this mission with very little notice,” said Maricle. “Keeping our fitness at the strongest levels we can ensure that if we need to step up, we can.”
The most strenuous demand required by carry teams during a dignified transfer is carrying a transfer case weighing potentially 300 pounds or more.
One of the strongest tools at AFMAO’s disposal is a 2,759-square-foot gym in the facility, which enables Airmen to incorporate a fitness routine into their operational rhythm.
“We give them the tools to do it and the space to do it,” said Drayton. “I try to give them gradual reminders of what we have available to us, because being services Airmen, we traditionally don’t have a facility like this in our career field.”
Leadership encourages all members of AFMAO to infuse refreshing gym sessions into their day as operations allow. This show of initiative starts at the top with AFMAO leadership and trickles down to the rest of the organization.
“To empower my troops, I first try to lead by example, I show up and do it,” said Drayton., “I don’t wait for my commander to tell me to go work out. I try to employ them to take the same road when they have the time in their day – if they can go do fitness, then please go do it. Push yourself away from your desk or do it before work or after work.”
AFMAO plans to increase physical fitness options through various classes and workout sessions in the coming months, both on-site and at the Dover Air Force Base Sports and Fitness Center.
Story by Jason Minto
Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations