Air Force reservist collapsed during final part of run

Air Force physical training

The Air Force reservist who collapsed and died Saturday morning during his Air Force physical fitness testing was nearing the end of his mile-and-a-half run that was the last of three exertion evaluations of the day.

He'd also been required to take the Air Force fitness twice a year, rather than just once, as those with higher performance scores can do.

Staff Sgt. Richard Spofford, 26, of North Charleston, was taken to Trident Medical Center where he died. Spokesman Maj. Wayne Capps, chief of public affairs with the 315th Airlift Wing, said Spofford was on the last of his six laps around the quarter-mile outdoor track when he went down.

The running portion of the fitness testing came after Spofford had completed his sit-up and push-up portions. Both of those tests were done indoors.

Airmen on active duty and in the Reserve are required to test every six months unless they score a 90 percent or better on the fitness test, Capps said. Those who score a 90 percent or above are only required to be tested once a year. Spofford fell into the twice-a-year category.

Fitness training for Air Force personnel is highly regulated, with conditions and requirements outlined in a Personnel Fitness Program manual running more than 140 pages. It addresses a variety of performance parameters that include taking into consideration such factors as an individual's body size, sex and age. It also addresses weather conditions, including heat stress.

The testing Saturday was underway by around 6:45 a.m., and several hundred airmen and women were taking part in the examination. The actual temperature was in the 73 degree range.

The heat stress point used in the Air Force testing is tied to a measurement called the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature, which must be less than or equal to 86 degrees at the start of any walk or run test, according to the exercise manual.

WBGT is a measure of the heat stress in direct sunlight, which takes into account such areas as temperature, humidity, wind speed, sun angle and cloud cover, and solar radiation, according to the National Weather Service's definition.

Capps said the WBGT at the base at the start of the test Saturday was 79 degrees, which would have been in the safe zone.

"All weather conditions were within limits for Sergeant Spofford's test," said Capps, who added the base is awaiting information on the cause of death.

An autopsy was performed, but the cause of death is pending, the Charleston County Coroner's Office said. The results are expected to take several weeks.

Prior to a fitness test being administered, members are also required to review and complete a Fitness Screening Questionnaire that helps determine status and identify potential health risks, Capps said. Physical training officials certified in CPR were on site at the time of the testing, as was an Automated External Defibrillator and drinking water made available.

Spofford's funeral will be Saturday at the base. He had been a member of the 315th Airlift Wing since January 2013.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.