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Guard pilot's fitness program goes nationwide

Staff Sgt. Virgil Mendivil exercises during a 9G session. “I didn’t think I was overweight when I joined the program, but my pre-assessment results were eye-opening.  I learned that no matter how skinny you are, your body fat percentage will affect your body’s overall performance,” he said. (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Gabe Johnson)

Staff Sgt. Virgil Mendivil exercises during a 9G session. “I didn’t think I was overweight when I joined the program, but my pre-assessment results were eye-opening. I learned that no matter how skinny you are, your body fat percentage will affect your body’s overall performance,” he said. (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Gabe Johnson)

Maj. Windy Hendrick lost 75 pounds herself since the birth of her second son. She created the 9G program as a way of “teaching fitness the way fighter pilots learn to fly.” (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Dave Neve)

Maj. Windy Hendrick lost 75 pounds herself since the birth of her second son. She created the 9G program as a way of “teaching fitness the way fighter pilots learn to fly.” (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Dave Neve)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- One Arizona fighter pilot is no longer flying solo - at least not in her efforts to make the Air National Guard a fitter force, less prone to death or injury resulting from poor fitness.

Maj. Windy Hendrick, an F-16 instructor pilot at the 162nd Fighter Wing, developed the "9G Force Fitness" program locally, but it has drawn national recognition and will now be a pilot program for the National Guard Bureau.

Interest in the program piqued during a visit from Lt. Col. Edward Vaughan, a safety officer with the National Guard Bureau. He garnered enough initial interest in the program to fly Major Hendrick to brief her program to the NGB.

With NGB approval, funding will provide enough training and Web site support for a 6-month, 20-unit trial of the program. The bottom line for the trial period--1,800 Guardsmen will learn successful behavior for total fitness through education and motivation via phase manuals, academics, log books and Web support. 

The 9Gs of fitness developed by Major Hendrick for this program are:

1G - Motivation and behavioral changes
2G - Basic nutrition
3G - Getting off the couch walking program
4G - Basic exercise
5G - Objectives and lessons learned
6G - Cardio resistance program
7G - Advanced nutrition
8G - Advanced exercise
9G - Putting it all together

The intent of the program isn't to replace the existing ANG fitness program, said Major Hendrick. The 9G Force Fitness program is an educational tool with the intent of teaching healthy nutrition and exercise choices, as well as how to make lasting, positive behavioral changes. It was born out of the disappointment Major Hendrick experienced when she felt she was failing as a personal trainer in another program.

"I told them what to do everyday--and they did it willingly--but I didn't teach them what to do when I wasn't there. They didn't feel comfortable in the gym or making healthy nutrition choices. And that's how the 9G Force Fitness program was born," she said.

The success of Maj. Hendrick's inaugural class of 30 participants is apparent in the results: 299 pounds lost with an average of 5.3 percent body weight; 40 pounds lost of visceral fat--that which builds around the internal organs; 196 total inches; and an average of 3.1 percent body fat.

"I lost 5 percent body fat overall," said Staff Sgt. Virgil Mendivil, a personnelist here. He said the lifestyle changes and education have made the largest impacts on him. "My family eats healthier because of the things I learned in the program," he said.

And family has always been the guiding light behind the program.

"Our children are our future, the future of the National Guard," Major Hendrick said. "We owe it to them and the future of our country to fight, and with all we are worth, the epidemic that is attacking us on American soil; at our breakfast table! We need to commit today to do our part, and the 9G Force Fitness program will help lead the way," she said.