Military News

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Finish what you started

by Staff Sgt. R.J. Biermann
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs


8/17/2015 - AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- The 31st Security Forces Squadron recently hosted two Army pre-Ranger physical assessments to determine if any Airmen were physically apt for Army Ranger School.

When asked if I'd like to participate, I happily accepted the offer. I'll often say, "If you're not evolving you're dissolving." I think we should always have goals we aim to complete, or challenges that make us stronger. For me, this test served as both. 

All the calisthenics had to be completed to Army standard, which is slightly different than the Air Force standard I'm used to. We had to complete at least 55 pushups then 65 situps both in two minutes or less, six chinups in as much time as needed, and five miles in 40 minutes or less.

If that sounds like a lot, well it is. This test is certainly not for the faint of heart. When it comes to working out, I often bite off more than I can chew. On the morning of the first test, I bit off far too much.

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Steven Tijerina, 31st Security Forces Squadron superintendent, proctored the test with a handful of other cadre. The three other competitors and I were broken into two groups, one working while the other turned and faced away from the action. The test doesn't allow for any peer support or motivation. It is an individual assessment, period.

Tijerina called us to the starting point where we got into the ready, high-plank position. "Three, two, one, begin," he chimed.

I cranked out 30 pushups and returned to the starting, rest position. Ten at a time I reached 40, then 50. With fatigue quickly setting in, I pushed out some more, and then rested. When time was called I'd completed 63. As the second group began I tried to loosen up as best I could, but my arms felt like I had lead weights wrapped around them.

When it came time for situps I secured my feet under a toe-hold bar and listened as one cadre exclaimed, "Two minutes ... plenty of time folks."

Tijerina repeated, "Three, two, one, begin." I started with a nice, easy pace and completed 30 situps in about a minute's time. I thought I was right on track to finish my 65 within the two-minute timeframe. Boy was I wrong. I realized how short I was of the minimum when Tijerina shouted only 10 seconds remained. When time was called I'd only completed 63 situps - two short of the minimum.

Defeat quickly sank in. I'm not one to undertake a physical challenge and accept personal failure. Several thoughts entered my mind, "Do I quit now?" "Should I even bother continuing?" But I wasn't going to let myself quit - "Do your best" - I told myself.

Chinups were next. With my arms heavy and the feeling of defeat still fresh on my mind, I gave the final anaerobic component my best and completed 12 chinups.

When the four of us reached the five-mile starting point, Tijerina made a profoundly encouraging statement, "Finish what you started, it says a lot about your character."

His statement was exactly what I needed to hear. It was just the mental boost to set my mind straight. I approached the starting line, set my watch and waited for Tijerina's command to begin.

Five miles around the base perimeter feels like an eternity. There's nothing pretty about looking at a chain-link fence and corn fields, or the smell of fresh manure in the air. But I pushed through. As I sprinted across the finish line I knew I'd finished what I started, as best I could. My first go-round I completed 63 pushups, 63 situps, 12 chinups and five miles in 36 minutes and 25 seconds. The three other participants also failed the assessment, but I wouldn't accept failure.

Try two, one week later. This time I and nine others participated in the assessment. I wasn't going to accept defeat. Tijerina again proclaimed to us, "Finish what you started." My goal wasn't to beat anyone except myself. My previous week's numbers were all I wanted to surpass.

I took the same approach to the pushups and finished 63 again. I knew I had to crank out my situps much faster this time, and I did with a total of 68. Two components down, two to go. I powered through the chinups and added one to my previous 12, and then it was time to run.

Running five miles in 40 minutes means you have to keep up at least an 8-minute-per-mile pace. Sure that's an easy pace for the Flash, but it's no walk in the park. I knew I didn't have the test in the bag yet. I set out on a steady 7-minute-and-40-second-per-mile pace. I neglected to mention previously that this test doesn't allow participants to don headphones. The only music to my ears were cars passing by, birds chirping and water sprinklers spraying the corn fields.

When I crossed the finish line I knocked off 58 seconds from my previous time. I'd beaten myself at every component except pushups and I passed the test. More importantly, I finished what I started.

In a high-tempo, ever-changing Air Force, it's often hard to make time for ourselves. Setting goals and aiming to reach them sometimes seems to be a thing of the past, but it's not. Challenge yourself every day and once you've accepted the challenge ... finish it. If you've given the challenge your all you shouldn't have any regrets or feel defeated, because many people aren't even doing that much.

Being an Army Ranger just isn't in the cards for me right now, but I accepted a challenge and gave it my best. Finish what you started and build upon your personal character ... one challenge at a time.

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