One of the many gifts from President John F. Kennedy‘s time as Commander and Chief was a requirement for an annual physical fitness test that all sailors were required to pass called JFK’s. This physical fitness push even extended into schools across the country and are still in effect today. They are known today as the “President’s Challenge.”
Let’s paint a picture of one such test being conducted onboard the aircraft carrier USS America CVA/CV 66 while conducting normal operations at sea in the 1960’s.
The hangar bay was full of sailors working on aircraft in various stages of their normal maintenance routine. Each group of sailors was focused on their aircraft for hours at a time, never diverting their attention to much of anything else that was going on around them.
The Airedale’s on board, had decided to run a JFK’s annual test at the aft end of the hanger bay. This resulted in a gathering of fifty sailors milling around at the stern while flight operations were going on topside.
The JFK coordinator had the fifty sailor’s line up across the aft end of the hangar bay so that they could complete the running portion of the physical fitness test. He then gave the signal to start running.
Suddenly, the sailors that are working on the aircraft in the hangar bay see this large group of their shipmates running as fast as they can towards them in what looks like a mass attempt to get clear of a casualty. This resulted in the original fifty sailors who had started this run doubling in size as their shipmates joined them in trying to escape whatever catastrophe was happening at the stern of the ship.
This resulted in approximately 100 sailors passing their annual JFK’s that day instead of just the fifty that were scheduled. One thing to note is that the additional fifty had attained ground speeds that they were never able to duplicate in later JFK sprinting tests.