A story on Military.com about the Army’s desire to change its culture of health and fitness had a frightening statistic in it.
A recent Heritage Foundation report found that, according to 2017 Pentagon data, “71 percent of young Americans between 17 and 24 are ineligible to serve in the United States military.” Nearly one-third of those young Americans are too overweight for military service.
“Put another way: Over 24 million of the 34 million people of that age group cannot join the armed forces — even if they wanted to,” said retired Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr and Bridget Handy, who authored the report, “The Looming National Security Crisis: Young Americans Unable to Serve in the Military.”
As a soldier and a former active duty Marine, this frightens me. This is the pool from which my future troops will come from, and unless something changes, the Army will have to do one of two things: lower recruitment standards to allow overweight recruits into the Army and then have to work to get them into height/weight standards, or find a way to do what we are tasked with doing today with fewer people. The latter is untenable. The former may be the only solution.
What I don’t understand is why the Army doesn’t address the problem in basic training by teaching recruits to eat properly. Afterall, getting them fit is easy, but getting them to lose weight to improve their health won’t happen on the current diet that is fed to recruits: high carb, low fat. It’s actually the exact opposite of what would help these young Americans be able to serve their country.