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Evaluation of the Strength Aptitude Test and Other Fitness Tests to Qualify Air Force Recruits for Physically Demanding Specialties

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[Technical Report, Research Report]

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The Air Force wants to ensure that its recruits have the physical capability to perform the tasks of their duty positions, which can vary depending upon the specific demands of the position. To do so, the Air Force tests recruits physical abilities as part of the induction process at the Military Entrance Processing Station MEPS. Since the early 1980s, the Air Force has used the Strength Aptitude Test SAT to make this determination. The SAT is a weight-lifting test performed on an incremental lifting machine similar to equipment found in fitness centers. The test requires recruits to lift increasingly heavier weights until they either fail to lift the weight or they meet the weight requirement for their specific specialty. But the composition of the Air Force has changed over time, as have the duties associated with the various occupational specialties. These changes require a reevaluation of the SATs utility and effectiveness for qualifying recruits into these specialties. The Air Force asked RAND Project AIR FORCE to first evaluate potential benefits of the SAT and then develop and validate physical performance tests and standards to ensure airmen can perform the physically demanding tasks associated with selected enlisted Air Force Specialty Codes AFSCs. To achieve these objectives, RAND conducted a series of studies between 2010 and 2015. These studies provide an initial evaluation of the SAT followed by job analyses and multiple validation efforts to determine whether the SAT and related fitness tests effectively indicate recruits capabilities to perform physically demanding tasks required by AFSCs. Collectively, these studies provide the Air Force with scientifically based courses of action for implementing changes to ensure airmen can meet job-related physical requirements.

Subject Categories:

  • Personnel Management and Labor Relations
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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[A, Approved For Public Release]