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Airmen initiate fitness program

Tech. Sgt. Melanie McDonald, 115th Fighter Wing Fitness Working Group organizer and coach, works out at the base gym on Truax Field in Madison, Wis., Jan. 9. McDonald teamed up with two Airmen to develop the Fitness Working Group. They currently have more than 15 members and are implementing a running group and fitness classes for those who are interested. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Andrea F. Liechti)

Tech. Sgt. Melanie McDonald, 115th Fighter Wing Fitness Working Group organizer and coach, works out at the base gym on Truax Field in Madison, Wis., Jan. 9. McDonald teamed up with two Airmen to develop the Fitness Working Group. They currently have more than 15 members and are implementing a running group and fitness classes for those who are interested. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Andrea F. Liechti)

Tech. Sgt. Melanie McDonald, left, and 1st Lt. Angie Hellenbrand, members of the 115th Fighter Wing Fitness Working Group, work out together at the base gym on Truax Field in Madison, Wis., Jan. 9. As members of the fitness group, Airmen have the opportunity to participate in fitness classes and a running program. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Andrea F. Liechti)

Tech. Sgt. Melanie McDonald, left, and 1st Lt. Angie Hellenbrand, members of the 115th Fighter Wing Fitness Working Group, work out together at the base gym on Truax Field in Madison, Wis., Jan. 9. As members of the fitness group, Airmen have the opportunity to participate in fitness classes and a running program. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Andrea F. Liechti)

1st Lt. Angie Hellenbrand, 115th Fighter Wing Fitness Working Group member, lifts a weight at the base gym on Truax Field, Madison, Wis., Jan. 9. Hellenbrand joined the Fitness Working Group to help Airmen succeed with their fitness goals. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Andrea F. Liechti)

1st Lt. Angie Hellenbrand, 115th Fighter Wing Fitness Working Group member, lifts a weight at the base gym on Truax Field, Madison, Wis., Jan. 9. Hellenbrand joined the Fitness Working Group to help Airmen succeed with their fitness goals. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Andrea F. Liechti)

MADISON, Wis. -- Listen to the radio, watch a TV show or simply have a conversation with friends. Odds are the topic of weight loss will come up when New Year's resolutions are discussed.

Conversations between Airmen at the 115th Fighter Wing are a little different. Yes, they are still talking about exercising and eating right, but losing weight isn't their main objective -- passing their physical fitness test is.

"I've always had a passion for fitness," said Tech. Sgt. Melanie McDonald, 115th FW Fitness Working Group organizer and coach. "I see a lot of PT failures and people struggling, so I got together with a couple others and we developed the Fitness Working Group to help each other succeed in our fitness goals."

McDonald joined forces with Master Sgt. Tina Johnson and Senior Master Sgt. Chris Lemke last October and started brainstorming ideas on how they would like to run the group. The 115th FW Fitness Working Group has been growing ever since.

"We're now up to nine active members and about 15 or 16 who've shown interest in the group," she said.

McDonald had an opportunity to discuss the group's ideas with Col. Jeffrey Wiegand, 115th FW commander.

"Colonel Wiegand is supporting us 100%," McDonald said. "He's asked for us to come up with ideas and equipment we'll need to make this group successful. His vision is our vision."

In a recent commander's call, Wiegand mentioned how excited he is to see the Fitness Working Group implement the four pillars of resiliency. The positive physical, mental, social and spiritual impact this group can provide will ensure Airmen enjoy a happy, healthy environment here at the 115th FW.

The support the group has received from leadership has opened their eyes to numerous opportunities. They've discussed a kickboxing class, running groups, and even the possibility of a larger gym so Airmen can workout together.

This month, the Fitness Working Group produced their first newsletter called Minuteman. The newsletter was distributed via email to full-timers and leadership with the intent it be forwarded to the traditional Airmen. Issues of the publication will also be available on the Truax Ticker.

"The goal of the group and our newsletter is to help people by educating them about fitness and overall wellness," McDonald said.

The newsletter will include articles, website suggestions and even healthy recipes to help Airmen at the 115th FW meet their personal goals and the requirements of the Air National Guard.

Staff Sgt. Jodi Gerth, 115th Medical Group, was featured in the January 2014 issue of Minuteman for her fitness accomplishments.

"Training was like a part-time job," Gerth said. "Trying to squeeze in training whenever I could was challenging, but totally worth it."

Gerth completed the IRONMAN in 2013 in less than 13 hours, exceeding the goal she set for herself.

The organizers of the 115th FW Fitness Working Group hope stories like Gerth's inspire Airmen to get active.

"Commanders are counseling Airmen on fitness failures and dates they need to be prepared to retest by," McDonald said. "We're here to help those Airmen pass their PT tests, by providing support and guidance along the way."

Active-duty bases have the Health and Wellness Center. The 115th FW has the Fitness Working Group.

"The sky's the limit," McDonald said.

For more information, contact McDonald via email at melanie.mcdonald@ang.af.mil.
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