The Air Force tape test is back! However, it might look a little different than before. Waist-to-height ratio is the new measuring stick, not body mass index. This article will tell you everything you need to know about the Air Force Tape Test.
Body Composition Tape Test Requirements
On 10 March, 2022, Under Secretary of Defense Gilbert R. Cisneros Jr. approved DoDI 1308.03 which is the DOD PHYSICAL FITNESS/BODY COMPOSITION PROGRAM.
This new policy stresses the importance of physical fitness by requiring all of the uniformed service members to possess the necessary body composition and anaerobic and anaerobic fitness to be successful in accordance with service-specific requirements, missions, and military specialties.
We have always complied with this with regular fitness assessments, but now there’s a catch.
That means that in addition to our PT Test, we need our body composition measured. On 5 January 2023, Lt. Gen. Caroline Miller signed the Body Composition Program Policy Memo outlining that the Department of the Air Force has opted into measuring waist-to-height (WHtR) ratio to remain compliant with DODI 1308.03.
On 1 April 2023, the Air Force will begin doing the new “Tape Test” or the Body Composition Program using the waist to height ratio method. This is replacing the abdominal circumference measurement that was removed in December 2020.
The Body Composition Program will require all Air Force service members to complete the Tape Test annually within their birth month or every 12 months if testing out-of-cycle.
Tape Test Roles and Responsibilities
- As of now, this is a unit commander driven program so they will implement the program.
- They’ll appoint Body Composition Managers (BCMs) within the unit to carry out the Tape Test
Fitness Information Manager (FIM)
- Resides in the Force Support Squadron and is appointed by FSS Commander.
- Manages “myBodyComp” in myFSS ensuring information accuracy and compliance.
Body Composition Managers (BCMs)
- Administers Tape Test. (same gender only)
- Input results into myBodyComp
- Assist members enrolling into the program.
- Provides unit with tape test standards and reports to the unit commander.
- Inform unit commander of any high risk Airmen.
- Take the tape test annually.
- May take the test one calendar month early.
Tape Test Body Composition Standards
The Waist-to-Height Ratio (WHtR) has three categories you may fall under. Low Risk, Moderate Risk, and High Risk. The WHtR will be used as a snapshot of overall health.
Low Risk is a WHtR of less than or equal to 0.49.
Moderate Risk is 0.50 to 0.54. This could lead to prevention focused counseling or training.
High Risk is greater than or equal to 0.55. This will lead to actions focused on improving your WHtR.
This chart will help you know where you’re at.
For example, if a member is 72 inches tall and their waist measures 35 inches, than they’re low risk. If the waist measurement was 36 inches, they’d be moderate risk. And finally, if the waist measurement was 40 inches, they’d be high risk.
Body Composition Verbal Instructions
Your BCM should make sure that you completely understand the Tape Test or Body Composition Assessment before he/she administers it. If not you need to let your commander know.
At a minimum they should read the following instructions to you.
A measurement will be taken on bare skin, from the right side of the member’s waist, at the midpoint between their lowest rib and the top of the hip bone (iliac crest). The tape measure must be flat on the bare skin and should not compress the skin.
Before the waist measurement, the member may adjust their clothing, so it does not fall over their waist during the measurement. The member may assist the administrator by holding the tape in place when the midpoint has been identified and the tape is around the waist.
The member must let go of the tape and relax the arms to their side, standing at the position of attention before a measurement is recorded. The member is not allowed to hold their breath or suck in their waist during the assessment. The administrator will record the measurement at the end of a normal exhale.
Three measurements will be taken rounding down to the nearest ½ inch. If any of the measurements differ by more than one inch from the other two, an additional measurement will be taken. The three closest measurements will be added together, divided by three, and rounded down to the nearest ½ inch. This value will be recorded as the waist measurement.
After the verbal instructions, the measuring tape will be used to record the WtHR.
What Happens if You’re High Risk
If your waist to height ratio is greater than or equal to 0.55 then you’ll be considered high risk.
Between April 2023 and March 2024, it’ll not be considered a failure because it is an adaptation period. The member will be enrolled into an informal self-directed body composition improvement program, schedule an appointment with medical to assess for risk factors, review BCP guide, complete DAF Form 108 or 113 and submit to the commander. Administrative actions are not authorized during this time period.
Between 1 April 2024 and 31 March 2025, it’ll be considered a “first fail.” The member will be enrolled into a formal self-directed body composition improvement program, review BCP guide, continue completing DAF Form 108 or 113 and submit to the commander.
Between 1 April 2025 and 31 March 2026, it’ll be considered “subsequent or second fail”. The member will continue with a formal self-directed body composition improvement program, and if no medical condition exists to keep the member from meeting the standard, the commander will consider administrative action to include forced separation.
Some military service members may have a problem with the new body composition program, but the goal of the new program is to increase physical readiness. Having a large waist circumference compared to height has shown to increase cardiovascular disease and musculoskeletal injuries.
How to Improve
The new tape test in a nutshell is measuring for excess belly fat comparatively to military member’s height. It’s next to impossible to completely focus on lowering the amount of fat in one area. That means a good diet and regular exercise is the best way.
If you, your troop, or your friend is struggling with this, encourage them to start working out regularly and taking charge of their health. Enroll in a running improvement program, try a new workout plan, or find a workout partner. Your 1.5-mile run time will go down, and you’ll have less fat in the abdominal region.
There are educational resources to help with diets. Try youtube, dietary classes on base, and online research.
My tips are to stop drinking soft drinks, energy drinks, and anything else with sugar added. Stick with water. Meal prepping is the way to go for a busy military schedule. Get your meals ready ahead of time and stop eating out. Stay away from processed foods like chips, little debbies, and other sweets. Focus on whole foods that are on the perimeters of the grocery stores.
The new tape test is definitely an improvement over the previous version used during our physical fitness test. Air Force officials are excited about it with some hoping to see a shift from “episodic fitness mentality” and seeing more of a “holistic health approach.”
In my opinion, it may be a little over hyped. Of course anyone would see a lifestyle enhancement after shedding a few pounds.
If you want to stay in the United States Air Force, I highly recommend making sure that you meet the waist to height ratio standards because I see it as an easy separation tool for commanders to use after 2026 to kick people out who do not meet the standards.
Stay fit, stay in decent shape, and it shouldn’t be an issue. You got this.