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Thank goodness I failed my PT test

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Gary Coburn
  • 90th Missile Wing Chaplains Office

What a title for an article. You’re probably wondering how someone could be thanking God that they failed a test, much more a physical training test where it seems as though your whole Air Force career could be on the line. However, sometimes things happen in our lives that later on we look back and realize made us a better person or possibly showed us something about ourselves that we didn’t know before. Or, quite possibly saved our life.


Several years ago I was stationed with a chaplain assistant that was in great shape. He spent time in the gym, watched what he ate and could have easily been an example as to what an Airman should look like.


One day he came into my office, closed the door and told me he failed his PT test. I was absolutely astonished because he was the last one on our staff I thought would ever fail. He did very well on the waist measurement, pushups and sit-ups, but failed the run.


We discussed his run and the adjustments that he would need to make. We also made more time for him to work on his run. There were several days that I went with him to run and noticed that he wasn’t running as well as he had in the past. In fact I was rather concerned about him.


The time came for him to retest, and again he passed everything but his run. At this point, he was scheduled for an appointment with his primary care manager to see if there was anything wrong with him physically. He told his health care provider of the severe headaches he would have after every run. He was scheduled for an MRI which revealed he had a brain tumor.


My chaplain assistant, the picture of health, was actually saved by failing a PT test. He was medically discharged and is now a stay-at-home dad to his three beautiful children. He is still the picture of health and has regular check-ups to monitor his brain tumor. The important thing is, he’s still alive and with his family because of a failed test.


In 2012 I too failed a PT test. Not for any health-related issue, but because of other reasons. My family was going through an extremely heart-breaking and stressful time, a time in which I had to dig deep to find the courage to even get up in the morning. We were overwhelmed to the point of exhaustion as we were traveling through our own personal “valley of the shadow of death.” Yes, I’m a chaplain, and I guess we aren’t supposed to have times like this, but sometimes we do. I took my PT test and quite honestly, I didn’t really care if I passed because I had other things on my mind.


I failed the test, but here’s the good part, I went to see my vice wing commander regarding the failure, and to my relief she wasn’t concerned so much with my PT test. She focused on me and my family. She patiently helped us during this time and walked side-by-side with us through every step of our healing process. What an encouragement and blessing she was to all of us. I retook the test and passed. Since that time I’ve done very well, even scored over 90 percent a couple times. Because of the failure, my family experienced our big Air Force family coming together to offer amazing support. Because of my failure I think I’m a better chaplain now.


Many times in life God’s blessings shine brighter after a failure.