Air Force Looks to “Alpha Warrior” to Change PT Culture

From left, brothers Army Lt. Col. Eric Palicia and Air Force Capt. Noah Palicia take on a weightlifting obstacle during the 2019 Alpha Warrior Inter-Service Battle at Retama Park, Selma, Texas, on Sept. 14, 2019. Air Force photo by Debbie Aragon.

The Air Force wants more airmen to take advantage of the “American Ninja Warrior”-esque fitness rigs it has deployed to dozens of bases, one of multiple steps it is eyeing to change its physical training culture.

The service has deployed “Alpha Warrior” training contraptions, which combine an obstacle course with CrossFit-like training, to bases around the world since 2017. The rigs build skills like agility alongside “functional fitness” exercises that combine muscle groups and are thought to be better for airmen than other forms of PT.

Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Air Force Magazine not as many airmen have used the rigs as anticipated. His solution: “Someone’s got to own it.” He wants a certain career field, such as base security forces, to take charge and get others to try them out.

The military launched competitions to encourage Alpha Warrior training and brought in celebrity judges from the “American Ninja Warrior” TV show to help with recruitment. Goldfein took Capt. Noah Palicia, the current overall Alpha Warrior champion, to the 2019 Air Force Marathon earlier this month to highlight the initiative.

Palicia is a C-130J instructor pilot with the 36th Airlift Squadron. In September, Palicia rose through local, regional, “super”-regional, and national competitions to beat his brother, Army Lt. Col. Eric Palicia, in the Alpha Warrior championships in San Antonio, Texas.

“I hope we motivated some individuals to come out and try it,” Capt. Palicia said, adding that he’s seen interest in Alpha Warrior grow as the equipment spreads throughout the Air Force.

Group activities like Alpha Warrior are seen as a way to change how the Air Force views PT and give younger airmen a way to lead. Squadron commanders can ask newer service members to be instructors during designated group workout times.

“You get 15 to 30 people on the rig at a time doing different exercises, you have people cheering you on, having a good time,” Palicia said. “That, to me, is how you change the culture.”