Desire, dedication, determination: the 3Ds

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Atticus C. Smith
  • Kirtland Noncommissioned Officer Academy
"It was my first marathon, and I had to stop a bunch of times to take my leg off and adjust it, almost every one to two miles after mile 10, but at least I felt great afterwards, no real bad soreness either." A former squadron-mate, Lt. Col. Juan Alvarez, spoke these words to me.

He had completed the 31st Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, a formidable feat for anyone, but quite an accomplishment for him, especially considering the events he experienced on Sept. 19, 1996. Then a Navy lieutenant, he was nearly killed following a helicopter accident in the dense jungles of Columbia. He's a man that lost his leg, but he certainly didn't lose his spirit.

As an avid runner I have completed numerous marathons. Over the years I have learned that marathons are riddled with inspiring stories. One story could be about the lady I met who shed 80 pounds in order to accomplish her goal of running 26.2 miles.

Another story could be the man who had a rope tied around his waist; the other end was tied to a person running in front of him. At first glance I immediately asked myself "What the heck?", but then I soon realized that the person being led is blind. Always a popular story is the older man slowly but surely trotting along the pavement, up the hills, toughing out the heat and finishing with his head held high. Not bad for 80+ years of age.

What separates these people from others? In all these stories, and countless others, the people have three key attributes to accomplishing personal goals; desire, dedication and determination or simply the three Ds.

The three Ds are at the forefront of anyone's success; whether in a person's personal or professional life. Now if these people: the amputee, the overweight lady, the blind man, and the older man, were told that they had to be able to maintain an average waistline, run 1.5 miles, do some push-ups and sit-ups and had three years to train for it, do you think they'd be able to accomplish the challenge? Seems like a silly question doesn't it?

Unfortunately, it's not such a silly question if I gave the same challenge to a good portion of members within our Air Force. The Air Force adopted our new fitness program several years ago so why do we still have a good percentage of Air Force members struggling with our fitness assessment?

From April 2005 to December 2006, the Kirtland Noncommissioned Officer Academy graduated 1,076 students over the course of 12 classes. During each class we conduct an initial fitness assessment within the first three days of class.

A staggering 569 of technical sergeants, or 53 percent, received a marginal or poor score on their initial fitness assessment. Yes that's right, over half! What will it take for things to change? Does it require someone to be extremely blunt? Okay I will do it ... fellow Airmen this is pathetic! There it's been said. Now honestly, am I the only one that feels these statistics are just plain embarrassing for our force? So what is the magic formula?

Just as many of us have the desire, dedication and determination to succeed in the personal, professional, spiritual and emotional facets of our lives; we must also use the three Ds to succeed in the physical fitness facet of our lives.

The Air Force push to become more physically fit is not new nor is it temporary. Our fitness standards are clear and well defined in Air Force instruction 10-248, Fitness Program. Leaders must exemplify top military standards.

Meeting and exceeding our fitness standards is not optional. As leaders it should not take three years to lead from the front in regards to fitness, if it has immediate personal behavior changes are in order because it's simply unacceptable. As a force it is long overdue that Airmen at all levels understand and accept this aspect. From the statistics previously mentioned, I conclude that many organizations and the key leadership running the organizations must not understand. It's unfortunate because it's merely a matter of attitude, namely the three Ds.

Our academy treats physical fitness as a high priority. When rearranging the schedule due to unforeseen circumstances, physical training is not chopped out. If it happens to be a bit chilly out or raining a little, or both, we don't cancel PT. We let people know when we feel they can give more effort. We establish high expectations and hold our students to them. We listen to people's reasons why they can't PT but rarely accept them. Most importantly our senior leadership leads from the front.

Granted, we may have to "force feed" some of our students the desire, dedication and determination while they are assigned; but it's not without positive results. Out of the 1,076 students, the marginal and poor scores dropped 17 percent. Not a staggering number but certainly headed in the right direction especially after only six weeks. This proves that when physical fitness is made a priority in people's lives people can make good progress towards success.

The Air Force physical fitness program is no longer new and in my humble opinion the excuses are over. The amputee, the overweight lady, the blind man and the older man have accomplished great feats, there's simply no reason why any member of our force can't do the same.