Too fat to fight

More than a quarter of young adults
are unable to meet physical requirements to join the military, creating a
potential threat to national security, a group of retired armed forces leaders
said Tuesday.

“It’s not drug abuse, it’s not
asthma, it’s not flat feet — by far the leading medical reason is being overweight
or obese,” said retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Norman Seip at a news
conference.

About 27 per cent of young adults
are medically ineligible for the military, according to Mission: Readiness, a
group of retired admirals, generals, and other senior military leaders.

Mission: Readiness’ report,
“Too Fat to Fight,” said that 75 per cent of young Americans between
the ages of 17 to 24 do not qualify for the military because of failure to
graduate from high school, criminal records or physical problems. The study
cited Department of Defence and health data.

Different branches of the military
have their own policies, but they all measure strength, body fat, aerobic
capacity, weight and height, Seip said.

A person must pass the physical
fitness standards at the time he or she signs up for enlistment. These
standards include sit-ups and push-ups.

“The logic is pretty obvious,”
said retired Army Brig. Gen. Clara Adams-Ender. “The troops need to be in
excellent physical condition because of the demands of the important jobs they
do in defence. Rigorous physical and mental standards are critical if we are to
maintain the fighting readiness of our military.”

The maximum weight depends on the
person’s sex, height and age. The Army allows women up to the weight of 241
pounds and men up to 259 pounds. Depending on age, it allows women with no
prior service to have up to 36 per cent body fat content and men with no prior
service to have up to 30 per cent.

Once enlisted, individuals also
have to pass annual physical tests.

Mission: Readiness urged Congress
to pass a new childhood nutrition law to remove school junk food, improve
nutritional standards and quality of school meals, and to open access to
anti-obesity programs for children.

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