HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M.-- The 54th Fighter Group held an event highlighting its new Optimizing the Human Weapon System program, July 26, 2021, here.
This program focuses on the fifth tenant of Undergraduate Pilot Training 2.5 announced earlier this year by Brig Gen Craig Wills, 19 Air Force commander, as “Comprehensive Readiness for Aircrew Flying Training initiative.”
This tenet aids pilots’ ability to strengthen their physical, cognitive and resilience domains throughout their entire Air Force career.
F-16 Viper pilots from the 8th, 311th and 314th Fighter Squadrons completed various workouts to increase their ability to strengthen their physique through the training of OHWS.
An aerospace physiologist by trade, Capt Andrea Simmons, 54th FG OHWS flight commander, played a key part in assembling the team, which consists of strength and conditioning coaches, a physical therapist and a soft tissue therapist.
“Our ultimate goal is to teach the pilots basic body movement mechanics, get them well-conditioned and [to] mitigate risk of injury,” said Simmons. “We've seen a lot of pilots that we've ended up losing due to neck injuries and back injuries. We have the team working together to treat any existing injuries the pilots have, but we also want to prevent these guys from getting injured at all. This program now starts at the beginning of UPT 2.5.”
With this new program, pilots will be able to take advantage of guidance from professionals dedicated to the physiological maintenance of the aircrew.
“Previously, I was mostly self-coached,” said Maj. Jordan Scheffer, 54th Training Squadron Training Systems chief. “This has been a huge thing for me and helped me stay consistent. I think this program is beneficial, even if the student pilots don’t have a program like this at their next base. They will get a baseline knowledge of how to stay healthy and fit and learn techniques to avoid injuries.”
While physical pain relief is one advantage constant professional training, the added emphasis to staying conditioned highlights how important physical fitness is as a well-rounded Airmen.
“Every second matters in that aircraft,” said Simmons. “When you look into aircraft mishaps, there’s typically something cognitively that could be a distraction or cause confusion. The more we can get them physically prepared and take their minds off any possible existing injuries, the better.”
Simmons also hopes that with the implementation of CRAFT for the aircrew community, similar programs can be started with other personnel across all air force specialty codes to ensure everyone receives preventative care and tips to reduce occupational injuries.