FRIENDSVILLE, Tenn. — U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the Air National Guard training and education center in East Tennessee are not taking their current seclusion for the global pandemic sitting down but instead exercising through shared video workouts.
The I.G. Brown Training and Education Center’s online fitness classes are a means to tackle the COVID-19 adversity together, said the staff and faculty.
The Tuesday through Friday, 10:20 a.m., workouts are challenging. Still, there is plenty of camaraderie and encouragement that radiates from the computer screen, tablet, or smartphone. The 25-minute Zoom meetings that began on April 7 are open to service members and their families and continue for the foreseeable future.
“The more structure we can provide and build in our daily activities, the more unknowns we can take away during this time, despite our unprecedented situation,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ebonie Hills, the enlisted professional military education instructor, who coordinated the idea for the classes with three other Airmen. Together they lead four live fitness sessions that include full-body high-intensity interval training, isolated muscle group work, and strength training.
Two Airmen leading the fitness sessions are professional bodybuilders, and one Airman is a certified fitness instructor.
“Our team has come up with some fun and creative ways for you to get moving and increase your serotonin to boost your mood and overall sense of well-being,” said Sergeant Hills. “While there are many programs out there online, working together within our team, we will be able to experience familiarity. Spouses and children are welcome to join!”
U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Juan Castro, Master Sgt. Isaac Dobson, and Staff Sgt. Ricky Castorena joined Sergeant Hills to lead the exercises. They are all assigned to the Lankford EPME Center, which usually teaches NCO Academy and Airman Leadership School for the total U.S. Air Force. Those in-resident courses suspended due to pandemic mitigation efforts.
Airmen usually seen at the workplace are seen in their living rooms, garages, or porches in squares on the view screen. By allowing each other into their personal spaces, it is immediately apparent how they are all affected together in the crisis that upended their lives. The workouts may bring some comfort in the normalcy of shared isolation.
“I think that it’s inspiring to see us all virtually working out, motivating each other, and it’s an integral part of the day – it makes the day worthwhile when you can break a sweat and do it as a team,” said Sergeant Castro. “Our expectations have been exceeded in that regard.”
Sergeant Castro noted how the staff and faculty emphasized fitness before COVID-19 because they are on-camera broadcasters and classroom instructors who want to represent the U.S. Air Force as good role models.
“It is also due to our leaders who make fitness a priority, and I think that approach has seeped into the foundation of our organization,” said Sergeant Castro.