388th FW opens pilot gym
By Senior Airman Stefanie Torres, 388th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 05, 2007
HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- A ribbon-cutting ceremony in the 388th Fighter Wing Headquarters building June 4 marked the opening of the wing's pilot gym--a facility designed to prevent G-induced loss of consciousness.
"GLOC is a real threat to F-16 pilots. Over the lifetime of the F-16, we have lost 12 pilots and 16 aircraft to GLOC in the USAF," said 388th FW Commander, Col. Robert Beletic.
While the gym's primary mission is to prepare F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots for the rigors of their highly-maneuverable aircraft and modernized helmets, the gym is currently open to all who aim to be fit to fight.
Initial ideas to build originated about a year ago with Col. Jeffrey Lofgren, former 388th Operations Group commander, and Col. David Hlatky, former 388th Operations Support Squadron commander.
The force of aircraft acceleration has a tremendous amount of impact on the upper body.
"When the pilots perform 9 Gs in their aircraft, it's like an elephant sitting on your chest," said Capt. Tara Heintz, an aerospace physiologist with the 75th Air Base Wing Medical Group.
Capt. Heintz and Staff Sgt. Ezra Thomas, a physiology technician with the medical group, will partner with 388th FW and 419th FW personnel at the new gym. They are both certified personal trainers and have the physiology experience needed to assist pilots with maintaining their health.
"Our primary responsibility will be to increase human performance," said Capt. Heintz.
When flyers are in a high-G, combat environment, aircraft acceleration presents the biggest demand on their bodies.
"We want to make sure the pilots keep the blood in the upper part of the body to remain conscious. The gym will help us with that," she said.
"Over the years, we as an Air Force have become safer due to better training on preventing GLOC. We have found methodical and disciplined physical training helps pilots not only sustain higher Gs but also perform better during all aspects of all missions, high and low-G. The AF has built successful pilot gyms such as this one at both Luke AFB and Nellis AFB," said Colonel Beletic.
A neck machine is also a must-have in the new gym. The upgraded helmets are heavier than before with Common Configuration Implementation Program upgrades in the wing's Block 40 F-16s.
"We are now more concerned with neck problems and injuries because of the heavier helmets," said Capt. Heintz.
The gym may be built in support of the pilots, but it was built as a Team Hill effort.
"Our gym will prove to be the best one yet thanks to the 75th ABW," said Colonel Beletic. "The ABW has generously committed to manning this facility with Capt. Heintz and Staff Sgt. Thomas. They will condition our pilots to perform better in the high-G combat environment."
Team Hill members have dedicated countless amounts of man hours to setting up the gym.
"This gym was built for low cost; however, it has turned out to be a first-class facility due to the many volunteer hours by several 388th maintainers, led by Tech. Sgt. Stacey Yeager. The 75th ABW's Civil Engineering Squadron, Communications Squadron and services squadrons have also provided great support," said the commander.
"We started this project around November, and I put together the crews to move the equipment from Hess Fitness Center into storage while the gym was being built," said Tech. Sgt. Stacey Yeager, assistant civil engineering liaison for the 388th FW.
"I'm going to start working out in there right after it opens. I really hope, with all the effort that was put into it, that it gets good use," said Sergeant Yeager.
The new gym is located on the first floor of the 388th FW headquarters building. The location is within easy walking distance of the flightline for easy access to the pilots.