7/6/2012 - OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Over the past few years, the Air Force has put greater emphasis on physical fitness. Previously, an Airman could fail multiple fitness tests with no real consequences. This is no longer the case. The Air Force has been forced to reduce its numbers, so more and more Airmen are facing discharge for fitness failures.
Some Airmen are unaware of their legal rights. After several failures, they give up trying to improve their fitness scores because they think discharge is unavoidable. Don't let this be you. You may still have options to salvage your Air Force career.
Know your rights and understand discharge procedures:
1. Discharge is not automatic after your fourth failure in 24 months. After your forth failure in 24 months, your commander is required to make a recommendation to the convening authority (usually your wing commander) as to whether you should be retained or discharge proceedings should be initiated. Your commander could recommend that you be retained, especially if you have shown significant improvement or are very close to passing your test.
2. You may be entitled to a discharge board hearing. If you are an NCO or have been in the service for a total of six years or more (including any period of delayed enlistment), then you have the right to have your case heard before an administrative discharge board. You have the right to be represented by an Area Defense Counsel at this board hearing, and you may present character witnesses, character letters and other awards and accolades. You can also present evidence of your workout routine and efforts you have made to improve your fitness. The board members may take your entire military history into consideration in deciding whether you should be discharged. Preparation for a board hearing requires a lot of hard work, but your ADC is available to help and advise you at every step.
3. If you are not entitled to a board hearing, you may still submit matters for consideration. If you are an E-4 or below and have less than six years of service, you may still respond in writing and submit matters on your behalf. An ADC will represent you and help you properly respond to your commander.
4. If the only basis for your discharge is fitness failure, your discharge must be characterized as "honorable." This means you are still eligible for all your separation benefits, including the GI Bill.
Fitness failures can lead to a progression of administrative actions such as a Letter of Counseling, Letter of Reprimand, unfavorable information file, control roster and even administrative demotions. The ADC can help you respond to any of these actions. After your first fitness failure, you will likely be directed to the Health and Wellness Cener, but it is never too early to also consult an ADC to develop a strategy to fight for retention. While a good legal strategy is not a substitute for improving your fitness score, the worst strategy is giving up on improving because you assume your Air Force career is already over. Know your rights and options and know you can seek help from your ADC early.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact the Osan Air Base ADC at 784-6674.