'So what did you get?'

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Joe Bianco
  • 100th Operations Support Squadron
"So what did you get?"

"An 11."

"An 11 on your runtime? Man, that's pretty good!"

"No I got an 11."

That's right, I scored an 11 out of 100 on my annual PT test. That was in 2005, I had just moved from Vance Air Force Base, and I was in serious trouble.

I hadn't taken things seriously at all; I'd taken bike tests and blamed my back to get me out of doing PT. I came from a base where it just wasn't that big of a deal if I wasn't making it in PT. I was always a quarterly award winner and even the senior noncommissioned officers would come to me for help.

In my mind, I was untouchable.

So rewind back to July 2005, when things changed real quickly. People started acting differently around me; I had people treating me like a third-class citizen. I went to the doctors to get yet another profile and was referred to specialists.

Don't get me wrong, I wasn't sitting in my apartment playing video games nine hours a day. I worked out, I went to the classes, and I ate healthy food. But, it wasn't enough; the weight loss was minimal, and I couldn't figure it out. I was improving with each test, but it wasn't enough to pass.

The stress of it all began to show.

I had my supervisor making comments to my coworkers that, "He wouldn't be around much longer." I thought I had sealed my fate, that I was on a path of failure, and that I was never going to get out of that downward trend.

And then it happened, like all good stories you have someone to jump in and mentor you.

I was fortunate I had three at once; I had my squadron commander, operations group superintendent and flight superintendent all backing me, encouraging me too give it everything I had. And I was out there; I ran for miles day after day. I laugh at it now because I had actually caught pneumonia at one point, and it took me about a month to figure that one out.

I hit a small milestone with the POW/MIA 5-K fun run. My superintendent decided we were going to do it as a flight. I ran in the formation for as long as I could, and I fell out. I was at the end of the stragglers - and I got mad. I was mad at myself for never trying hard enough. I began to run, and I passed a lot of the stragglers and ended up between the beginning of the stragglers and the end of the formation. 

Col. Mike Stough, former 100th Air Refueling Wing commander, was leading the formation and had come back to rally the troops. As he was heading back, he noticed me and turned around and ran next to me. He and I talked as we ran; he told me that I should be proud that this was not an easy feat. He and I finished the 5K together. That was one of my proudest moments. I knew I could do this!

I was in this trend for almost two years; a fitness review board was conducted. At the outcome of that meeting it was decided that it would go to the wing commander for review.

I was either going to get one more chance, or I was going home to live in mom and dad's basement. I was at a very low point, and that was the most excruciating weekend of my life. Just that wait not knowing what was coming; my entire career was hanging on this decision.

Monday came around, and around 10 a.m., my commander came into my office and asked me to come see him. I reluctantly made that trip down the hall, knowing I was going to have to explain to my entire family that I got kicked out of the military because I was too fat.

I envisioned myself sitting in a recliner in a T-shirt and shorts eating cake frosting out of the can. Then to later on and having to be one of those people who they would have to knock a wall down so they can forklift them out of their house.

And, then he sat me down, and told me I had one last chance. The wing commander had reviewed everything at that point. I followed the Health and Wellness Center's Healthy Living Program, and I kept all my documentation (which I still have) and that decision was easy. I had 45 days.....

For those 45 days I counted every calorie, I worked out twice a day, and I refused to accept that I would be going home. I was determined, I wanted to prove my commander right, and I wanted to prove to my supervisor that I did deserve to be here.

Finally, test day.

It was one of those rare English October days - sunny, not too much wind, and it just seemed perfect. I had my running partner who was going to keep the pace, I had to score under 13:30 minutes if I wanted to pass - trust me, I did.

I did well on everything. I lost enough weight for my waist to actually count, I maxed my push-ups and sit-ups, and I seemed to have gathered a crowd of people who were there to cheer me on.

So we were at the Heritage Park track by the post office, and at 1 p.m. we began. I remember I pushed myself, and I remembered some words of advice, " If you aren't throwing up, you're not doing it right."
I dug deep, and I ran.

I had my tunes cranked, we made those turns, and I remember thinking that I could do this. And then I heard "two more turns!" That did it for me, I sprinted the last two turns surprising my running partner (who has run the Air Force marathon). I finished, and I remember that I could hardly breathe.


The blood began to calm down a bit, I heard it again, "12:58." I thought I was going deaf. I did the math, I was at 39.25, my run was 36 points - that was 75.25 I had passed even though it was by .26, I had passed.

I had made a lot of excuses, and a lot of wrong turns. My commander was ecstatic; he called the wing commander, who in turn came to congratulate me. I kept up with my training, and the following year I passed again and gained two points this time. I've helped out a few other people who were in the "Bad" category as well.

I've taken this lesson and applied it too many things - my job, my family and even with Team 5/6. The thing is we slip, we make mistakes and we adapt. Fitness isn't something that you can buy, and it's not something that is just going to show up with minimal effort.

I want to do better, I don't plan on quitting. I want to be in the 80s on my next test. I want to do a triathlon, and most of all I just want to be a better person.