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NEWS | Sept. 12, 2013

New PT program helps ALS class ‘come together’

By Mike Joseph Joint Base San Antonio, Public Affairs

Recent graduates of the Airman Leadership School here said the school's new physical training program helped the class "come together" and also "decompress" during the five-week course.

"It was like the class would come together, even on the really hot days," said Senior Airman Keegan Hoover, 802nd Logistics Readiness Squadron, about the warrior performance workout program. The physical training program was developed by Staff Sgt. Thomas McKerlie, an ALS instructor and the school's PT NCO.

"We were motivated to go out there and do it even though it was 100 degrees," Hoover said. "Everyone made a silent agreement to suck it up and help each other get through it. Once it started, it's like, 'only nine more minutes, eight more minutes . . . let's just get through it.'"

The class of 47 senior airmen, ALS instructors and ALS leaders held 40-minute PT sessions three times a week, often when the temperature was near or over 100 degrees. PT began at 3:45 p.m., in the heat of the day, as a way to honor military members who died in Iraq and Afghanistan combat operations.

"It was a great way to decompress," said Staff Sgt. Justin Chalut, 959th Clinical Support Squadron, who moved up in rank after graduating Sept. 4. "We spent so much of our time being intellectually simulated that it was nice at the end of the day, three times a week, to be physically challenged. It gave you a break (from the classroom)."

Master Sgt. John Chacon, ALS commandant, said a student survey on the PT program was all positive feedback. He said most students indicated honoring the fallen service members was worth enduring the heat and that they better understood the sacrifice those military members made.

Staff Sgt. Desiree Echeverri, 59th Radiology Squadron, who also earned NCO status after graduating the school, agreed with the survey's results.

"I think our mindset was changed by the moment of silence we had (for a fallen member) before we started PT," Echeverri said. "We knew why we were working out and the sacrifice (those fallen warriors) made, so it was worth giving 40 minutes of our day for PT."

"I think it impacted us in the classroom, too," said Senior Airman Brittany Gomez, 59th Medical Operations Squadron. "On the first day we saw slides of the PT program, and who we would be honoring. It got you in the mindset of, 'This is why I'm here, this is why I'm in the Air Force.'

"Doing it three times a week was extremely profound for me," Gomez added. "It made me appreciate them and their sacrifice. It also applies to everything you do, not just PT. It really brought us together."

Chalut said he noticed a difference in some students between their classroom and PT demeanor.

"It was interesting to see people who weren't necessarily leaders in the classroom but were during PT," he said. "Everyone has the potential to be a strong motivator and leader in PT."

Echeverri said she was motivated to make it through PT by her classmates and the ALS instructors, who worked out with the class at each PT session. The inspiration Echeverri found helped her deal with exercising while being pregnant.

"Being pregnant in the first trimester is exhausting," she said. "But to see everyone else give 100 percent during PT, I was like, 'No, I have to do it. I have to give 100 percent.'"