Too fat to fight: Overweight recruits make it tough to fill military ranks


by Nadia Ramdass / KENS 5

Posted on October 14, 2010 at 11:02 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 14 at 11:38 PM

SAN ANTONIO -- One of the biggest threats to national security may not be what you think. In fact, it may be found at your dinner table. The military says a number of prospective recruits are just too fat to enlist and it is making it tough to fill their ranks.

One branch of the military claims "Be All You Can Be", that is if you are not overweight.

"Those who are best qualified are those who we want to bring into our service," said Colonel William Lachance, Commander of the 32nd Medical Brigade.

According to a non-profit group made up of retired senior military leaders called Mission Readiness, about 27% of young Americans are too overweight to join the military. That equates to roughly 9-million Americans who are not eligible to serve.

"If you haven't arrived at your basic training unit in the best physical shape, it's going to be hard," said Colonel Lachance.

Since 1995, the proportion of recruits who failed their physical exams because they were overweight has risen by nearly 70%. This particular trend severely limits the pool of available recruits and erodes our nation's ability to protect itself.

"It took a lot of load off my shoulders coming in," said Private James David Smallwood.

Private Smallwood enlisted in the army back in April. He says meeting the military’s height for weight requirement and being in good physical condition makes a difference for those enlisting.

"It allows you to stay focused more on your training than worrying about whether you're going to pass your first {physical training} test," said Private Smallwood.

Mission Readiness states there are three ways to solve the obesity problem for prospective recruits. Mission readiness solutions: 1) Get the junk food and high-calorie beverages out of our schools 2) Increase funding for the school lunch programs 3) Support the development, testing and deployment of proven public-health interventions

A bill currently exists yet is stalled in Congress providing many of the provisions that Mission Readiness desires. However, there’s no guarantee when it will be taken up again.