Defender Performance Optimization

By BGen Andrea D. Tullos

We’re a year into reconstituting our Security Forces and aligning those efforts with the National Defense Strategy. We’re training hard and focused on becoming more lethal and more ready for the challenges we face today and for what’s on the horizon. We overhauled our technical training curriculum, focused more intently on weapons proficiency, and we’re sending all our Defenders to Readiness Training Centers where they will train with their peers, have the opportunity to share experiences with Defenders from other installations and Major Commands, and receive training tailored to their rank and skill level. To enable our ability to operate effectively as a team, we must ensure we’re taking care of the essential building block, the individual Defender as a human weapon system. To help our leaders at all levels better prepare our Defenders for the physical and mental challenges our mission demands every day, we rolled out our Defender Performance Optimization force development construct.

We know Defenders face unique demands from the day they assume their first post. We spend long hours on our feet, under load, armed not only with a weapon, but with the knowledge we may be called upon to use it with little to no warning. We work around the clock in harsh environments, expose ourselves to risks ranging from distracted drivers to individuals under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, and protect assets and personnel in areas of the world where health risks from water and foodborne pathogens present as much of a risk to our forces as criminals or terrorists. Unfortunately, we also know our Defenders lead the Air Force in lower extremity, back and hip injuries that erode readiness and our ability to conduct our integrated defense mission. We know we need our Defenders to be more fit, more healthy, better rested, and therefore more lethal and ready, and we’re getting after it.

Defender Performance Optimization arms our Defenders with the knowledge to prepare themselves to operate at peak performance. The concept delivers our Commanders techniques to integrate into their unit training plans and operating procedures to address nutrition, sleep hygiene, physical conditioning, mental practices, injury prevention, and effective stress resistance training. We are baking these concepts into all of our Security Forces training at the school house, readiness training centers, and at home station. And we’re working with the Air Force Exercise Science Unit to develop a Functional Fitness Exercise Regimen that will lead to an occupationally specific, relevant physical fitness test for Defenders.

Security Forces Training Reference Guide 8, Defender Performance Optimization, puts the tools into the hands of our Commanders, Noncommissioned Officers and Unit Trainers to teach our Defenders how to train harder and smarter to more effectively enable their respective missions. The guide provides both near and long term actions for Defenders at every level to continuously progress physically, mentally, and in terms of overall wellness. The concepts are intended for application prior to and during shift work, during reconstitution time, and during a Defender’s protected time off.    

For those who stand the watch, there is no “off season.” We owe it to ourselves, our Wingmen, and our nation to be as lethal and ready as we can possibly be, and that starts with our own physical and mental preparation to “take the field” every day. We don’t have the luxury of knowing when we might have to make that “game saving” play, so we will prepare so that when called upon, we’re ready. Defender Performance Optimization is our play book to get there. Start using it today.

Defensor Fortis!

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