What Is the Air Force Physical Ability and Stamina Test?

Definition & Examples of the PAST

A U.S. Air Force pararescueman jumping out of an HC-130P Hercules aircraft
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The Air Force physical ability and stamina test (PAST) is a physical assessment that officers aspiring to certain physically demanding roles must pass in order to begin training. These roles include combat controllers and pararescuemen.

The PAST establishes a minimum fitness level for recruits to be accepted into the training pipeline for these positions. Learn what the test covers and what is required to pass it.

What Is the Physical Ability and Stamina Test?

Positions such as the Air Force pararescueman (PJ) are among the most physically demanding roles in the military, so they come with stricter fitness requirements for admission. The PAST is designed to test candidates' physical abilities in terms of calisthenics, strength, cardiovascular fitness, and endurance.

The different assessments in the Air Force PAST are for prior and existing personnel who wish to retrain into the Air Force Combat Controller or Pararescue Career Fields. New accessions (i.e., those who take the PAST) prior to completing basic training and ​technical school take the Combat Controller Non-Prior Service PAST or the Pararescue Non-Prior Service PAST.

  • Acronym: PAST

How the PAST Works

This test must be conducted in a specific order and within a three-hour timeframe. Test administrators will record PAST results on unit letterhead, sign it, have commanders endorse test results, and provide a copy to the participant

If you are unable to meet any minimum standard, you have failed the test. However, you should continue to take the remainder of the test to determine other weak or strong points of your physical condition and prepare to retake the test in the future.

The components of the test are as follows (and in this order):

Two 25-Meter Underwater Swims

If you break the water surface during any portion of the swim, the test will be stopped and considered a failure for the entire PAST. Three minutes of rest should be allowed in between swims and 10 minutes before the next event.

One 500-Meter Surface Swim

This swim can be performed using the freestyle, breaststroke, or sidestroke. It must be continuous—if you stop any time during the swim, the test will be stopped and considered a failure for the entire PAST. There is a 30-minute rest break after the swim.

For swim tests, equipment is limited to only swimsuits and goggles or scuba masks.

One 1.5-Mile Run

This test should be conducted on a measured running track. The run must also be continuous—if you stop at any time during this run, the test will be stopped and considered a failure for the entire PAST. There will be a 10-minute break prior to the next event.

Calisthenics

Four calisthenics exercises are evaluated based on time parameters and specified physical mechanics. The test will run until your muscles fail or you complete it with as many "good form" repetitions as you can within the allotted time.

In performing all calisthenics, it's critical to follow the exercise’s proper form. Deviation from the form to allow extra repetitions will be counted against you.

The calisthenic exercises consist of the following two-count exercises, with a three-minute break in between each:

  • Pull-ups: You'll start hanging from the bar, palms facing away with no elbow bend. Hands should be spread to approximately shoulder width. On count one, you pull the body up until your Adam’s apple clears the top of the bar. On count two, slowly drop back to starting position. You can bend your legs but not kick or use them in any way to boost upward movement. If you fall off, stop, or release the bar, the exercise is terminated.
  • Sit-ups: Start with your back flat on the ground, fingers interlocked behind your head, head off the mat, and knees bent at roughly a 90-degree angle with (optionally) another person holding your feet. On count one, sit up so that your shoulders are directly above your hips area or at a 90-degree angle to the floor. On count two, lean back to the starting position. No resting is allowed.
  • Push-ups: Begin with your hands shoulder-width apart, arms straight and directly below your chest on the ground, and your back and legs straight and extended. On count one, lower the chest until the elbows are bent at a 90-degree angle (or less). On count two, return to the starting position. If your knees touch the ground, you raise or sag your buttocks, or raise any hand or foot from their starting position, the exercise is terminated.

Key Takeaways

  • The Air Force physical ability and stamina test (PAST) is a physical assessment for officers seeking certain physically demanding roles, such as pararescuemen or combat controller.
  • The test consists of three swims, a run, and three calisthenics exercises, all conducted within a three-hour window.
  • Candidates must pass every part of the PAST in order to begin training.

Article Sources

  1. The Combat Control School and Heritage Foundation. "PAST Requirements." Accessed Sept. 15, 2020.