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Why PT Matters

“Standards and physical fitness, why does it matter? The consequences seem academic or very far away, at our next base or not until next year. In order to better answer the question, I reached out to someone I knew who learned the answer. Tech. Sgt. (Ret) Keri Pauly gave me a very honest, difficult answer that I would like to share. This is why it matters.” – Chief Master Sgt. Karen G. Blair, 315th Training Squadron Chief Enlisted Manager.

When I failed my fourth physical training test in two years, there were several things that I failed to consider.

I failed to consider that I might have to separate from the military after 17 years. I failed to consider the effect this would have on my family; I was the primary breadwinner. I failed to consider that I had no marketable talent outside what I had been trained for by the military. I failed to consider the mental side effects this would have on me. I still struggle with this to this day, a year later. In the span of two short years, I effectively took everything that I had worked so hard for over 17 years and flushed it down the toilet.

I faced not only a demotion from master sergeant to technical sergeant, but I was also kicked out of the military at my 17th year. I don’t know what rank you are, or what rank you aspire to be, but it is a devastating blow to my ego to go from a Senior NCO back to an NCO and still work with the same people. The only thing that saved me from being kicked out of the military was my work ethic. I did a damn good job at what I did and my immediate leadership at the time was willing to say so. That being said, even though the people that I worked with knew me and my work ethic, I carry the stigma of being demoted. No matter where you go, it’s there in your records. It is very hard to overcome. People that don’t know you, make assumptions about your character based on your file alone. The depression that followed was almost crippling.

If you are not lucky enough to be retained, and yes, I say lucky, there are many things to think about. You will need a job, and soon. Hopefully you got your degree while you were in because if you didn’t it’s going to hurt you. You now have to pay for housing, food, clothing and transportation to and from work. I have yet to hear of a job that gives you any kind of additional allowance for any of these items. If you are thinking you will walk into a government job, good luck. Civilian jobs are becoming harder to find with budget cuts. You might be able to find one, but after you factor in all of your bills, it doesn’t leave much. Those bills don’t even account for a cell phone, TV, internet or other fun things.

Don’t forget that you now also have to pay for health care, including separate dental care and vision care. If you don’t acquire health care, you will be fined by the government. Here is where I am thankful that I was retained and allowed to retire. What I pay for TRICARE per quarter is less than what most people have to pay per month! I recently had to have surgery. I spent two nights in the hospital, three total days. The bill for my surgery was almost $40,000. That’s one surgery. Some of the medicines I take are more than I can afford on my salary.

If I could offer any advice, I would offer this. Don’t be like me. Don’t take the route that I took. Don’t do what I did. I know it seems like the only thing that your leadership cares about is your ability to pass the test and for some of them you might be right. I know what that feels like. I’ve done remedial PT more times than I can count. I did running classes, this diet and that diet; I know this is easier said than done. I know that some people are just naturally gifted when it comes to PT. I wasn’t one of those; I had to fight for every single inch, every single second. I always came gasping across the 1.5 mile mark like an asthmatic freight train. It’s hard, I know it is. It’s no fun and there are definitely other things that I would rather do. Civilian life is not any easier. I know because I am one now.

- Keri Pauly