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Fitness guru keeps Duke Field fit to fight

Going the extra mile

Jessie Ecklund, Duke Field Fitness Facility Manager, wipes down equipment in the fitness center Oct. 21, 2019 at Duke Field, Fla. In addition to conducting assessments, Ecklund also manages the fitness facility and can often be found cleaning the equipment and performs maintenance on the machines. (U.S. Air Force photo by A1C Dylan Gentile)

Man in the mirror

Jessie Ecklund, Duke Field Fitness Facility Manager, looks into a mirror in his office, Oct. 21, 2019, at the Duke Field Fitness Facility, Fla. Ecklund has recently begun conducting PT testing during the week, and no longer just on drill weekends. This has increased access to testing for active reserve technicians as well as those on orders assigned to the 919th SOW. (U.S. Air Force photo by A1C Dylan Gentile)

Pushing his limits

Jessie Ecklund, Duke Field Fitness Facility Manager, utilizes the bench press in Duke Field Fitness Facility, Fla., Oct. 21, 2019. Ecklund has worked at Duke Field since 2005, and oversees 1,800 fitness testers. (U.S. Air Force photo by A1C Dylan Gentile)

DUKE FIELD, Fla. --

Physical fitness is so engrained in the military way of life, most Citizen Air Commandos don’t think twice about what it takes to run their wing’s fitness program. They show up on the scheduled date and time, take their fitness assessment, and then get back to the business of providing combat capability.

At the 919th Special Operations Wing, however, the fitness program only runs so smoothly because of one man’s dedication: Jessie Ecklund, Duke Field’s fitness facility manager. Ecklund goes above and beyond to make sure the Reservists from the 919th SOW are fit to fight.

In many cases, fitness testing only happens on UTA weekends at traditional reserve units. Ecklund recognized the limitations and pressures of that schedule, and opted to create a better system for Duke Field.

“When I arrived in 2005, there were programs already in place,” said Ecklund. “Over my time here, I’ve tried to work with what I had, improve it, and make it convenient for everybody.”

Now offering fitness testing four days a week, Ecklund tests the majority of the 919th SOW’s members outside of the UTA. He also opened testing to Duke Field’s active duty tenants so that it would be more accessible for the 919th’s total force partners. In total, Ecklund oversees approximately 1,800 fitness testers throughout the year on weekdays or during monthly drill weekends.

“I think testing during the week is a good thing for our Air Reserve Technicians,” said Maj. Carmine Muscarella, an operations officer for the 919th Special Operations Force Support Squadron. “UTA’s are so tight as far as schedules and appointments that for some key positions, stopping during the UTA period and making it to a fitness test is sometimes unreasonable.”

In addition to overseeing Duke’s fitness assessments, Ecklund also maintains the fitness facility. He can often be found adjusting equipment, vacuuming the floors, or trouble-shooting problems.

“I love the fitness center,” said Muscarella. “The equipment quality is really good. It’s small by fitness center standards, but for our size, it fits. The cleanliness is great, and the equipment is all commercial grade.”

Ecklund is the only one working there during the week, said Muscarella. The only other time there are people around to help him is during UTA weekends when services Airmen help him with fitness tests and equipment maintenance.

Ecklund’s attention to detail doesn’t end at the facility, though. He is also invested in the health of all of Duke’s Airmen and often helps them seek out ways to achieve their fitness goals. Whether it be recommending a nutritionist or personal trainer, or cheering someone on during the problem-portion of their fitness assessment, Ecklund wants everyone to succeed.

“I want everyone to accomplish their goals,” said Ecklund. “There’s no bias -- I just like seeing people" achieve their fitness goals.