The Armed Forces Sports (AFS) program was officially established in 1948 as the Inter-service Sports Council (ISSC). The ISSC was directly involved in the creation of the policy and procedures that paved the way for Armed Forces personnel to have the opportunity to train and compete for national, Olympic, and international competitions, such as the International Military Sports Council (CISM) World Military Championships.
Today, the AFS program is the culmination of each branch of Services' sports and fitness program. Service members participate and compete at unit level intramurals and advance to the All-Service level. The AFS continues to provide an avenue for military Service members to participate in national and international competitions.
The AFS program offers 25 men and women team and individual sports; annually conducts 16 Armed Forces Sports Championships and 9 qualifying events/trial camps; participates in 9 U.S. national championships and 16 CISM Military World Championships. In 2016, 19 Service members participated in the Rio Olympic Games and two at the Rio Paralympic Games. The selection of the United States delegation for national and international events occurs at the annual Armed Forces Championship or through a qualification process such as a trial camp. Each year, over 800 Service members participate in various events within the AFS program. The AFS program is a voluntary program for Service members to participate in with their commander's approval.
The objectives of AFS are to promote goodwill and a positive image of the Armed Service; provide incentive and encouragement of physical fitness through competitive sports; provide a venue for military athletes to participate in national and international competitions; and to engage in valuable military-to-military opportunities with CISM member nations through sport. Lastly, AFS program directly contributes to the recruitment, retention, and readiness of Service members.
The AFS program operates under the Department of Defense Instruction (DODI) 1330.4 “Participation in Armed Forces, National, and International Sports Activities”; and falls under the purview of the Principle Deputy, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness (PDUSD (P&R)). PDUSD (P&R) delegates responsibilities to the Principle Director for Military Community and Family Policy (PDMC&FP) to provide policy guidance and oversight concerning the participation of members of the Armed Forces in national and international amateur sports competitions. Reporting to PDMC&FP and responsible for the management and operation of the Armed Forces Sports Program is the Senior Military Sports Advisor (SMSA). The SMSA position rotates every four years after the Summer Olympics among the Services Personnel Chiefs (three-star general/flag officer). Beginning on 1 October 2020, Army assumed the role as SMSA. The rotation schedule is as follows: Army, USAF, Navy, and USMC.
The Armed Forces Sports Council (AFSC) is the governing body of the AFS Program and is comprised of the MWR Directors of each of the Services. The Council establishes procedures for the organization and administration of all matters pertaining to the AFS participation in national and international athletic competition and reports to the SMSA. The AFSC Chair rotates every two years and is the liaison between the AFSC and the SMSA.
Founded on 18 February 1948, CISM is one of the largest multidisciplinary organizations in the world. Using the motto "Friendship through Sport", CISM uses the playing field to unite Armed Forces of nations that may have previously confronted each other because of political and ideological difference. The ultimate goal is to contribute to world peace by uniting armed forces through sports as well as promote solidarity and technical assistance within nations.
Since its inception, CISM has expanded from the original five member nations to 139, with the United States joining in 1951. There are approximately 20 World Military World Championships conducted each year with the United States delegation competing with 300 athletes in nearly 16 events annually. Currently, the U.S. hosts one or two CISM Military World Championships each year and remains one of the most active nations with the CISM organization.
The participation in CISM provides a vital link for the United States to connect with nations around the globe in a positive manner through Mil-to-Mil engagements and the Department of Defense recognizes CISM as a valuable Security Cooperation Tool.
The AFSC Secretariat (AFSCS) office serves a number of functions on behalf of the AFSC. This includes but not limited to the direct liaison between CISM and the United States Chief of Delegation/AFSC; liaison between the United States Olympic Committee and the U.S. national governing bodies for each sport; and provides administrative and logistical support for all U.S. Armed Forces teams.
The AFS program is a proud affiliate member of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and are currently strengthening this relationship as well as with the national sport governing bodies.