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Military leaders: We're still too fat to fight
One in four young adults are too overweight to join the U.S. military, a group of retired military leaders says.
September 25th, 2012
09:02 AM ET

Military leaders: We're still too fat to fight

Childhood obesity isn't just a health issue, according to a group of retired military leaders. It's also a national security issue.

One in four young adults are too overweight to join the U.S. military, a new report from the advocacy group Mission: Readiness says. And the U.S. Department of Defense spends an estimated $1 billion each year on medical care related to obesity issues for active duty members, their dependents and veterans.

"No other major country's military forces face the challenges of weight gain confronting America's armed forces," according to the report.

"At the end of the day, the reason America is safe and sound is not because of its tanks," adds retired Lt. Gen. Norman Seip, spokesman for Mission: Readiness. "It’s really the men and women who volunteer and so proudly serve."

Kids on average consume 130 "empty" calories a day from candy, cookies and chips, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Mission: Readiness has been working to get rid of junk food in schools since 2010, when it supported the passing of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The act requires the USDA to update nutrition standards in schools.

Mission: Readiness believes having healthier food in the cafeteria and in vending machines will help slow - or even reverse - rising childhood obesity rates. And healthy children are more likely to grow up to be healthy adults who can serve their country.

"We’re not picking on the schools," Seip says. "The schools are part of the solution. We like to think that this obesity problem... is one that’s going to require all of America to tackle."


soundoff (596 Responses)
  1. lprimo

    My young nephew was recently booted from the air force for a waist that was 1/2inch too big. He had trouble with his weight all of his life but was determined to serve his country just like his deceased father had done during Vietnam war. After boot camp and further training it was decided that his waist was too big by standards. He was ashamed and humiliated that he was about to be kicked out. Afraid to even come home and have his large family know his fate. I am proud to say that he decided to come home to a family who loves him and respects him. He VOLUNTEERED to be in the armed service when many will not. He had a job as a chef in a local restaurant and gave up the job he loved to join. I told him how proud his family would be of him regardless of his size because he was unselfish enough to serve this country. When he was discharged he had to sit in front of a higher ranked female officer who weighed in at over 300 pounds. It was all he could do to keep from reminding her of her own problem. I am glad to say he overcame his "shame" and his anger and came home a changed young man who is no longer ashamed to have had the service turn their back on him.

    September 28, 2012 at 04:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SBTA

      At then end of the day not every person is fit for military service. The Armed Forces have high standards for a reason; it is a profession of arms. The Air Force doesn't "boot" people for having a waist that is a 1/2 inch too big. Waist measurement is only one component of the fitness test. It is fantastic that there are so many people willing to voluntarily serve their country, but there are still standards that need to be met in order to ensure soldiers and airmen etc. are fit both mentally and physically to handle the day to day expectations of military service. I see Officers and Enlisted get relieved often for not meeting fitness standards and have definitely never seen or heard of a 300 lb Officer in the Air Force. Fitness is a key part of being in the military. Should everyone that VOLUNTEERS be handed a weapon and be put in a position to protect the lives of others? If anything the military should be MORE stringent on who it allows in.

      September 28, 2012 at 10:28 | Report abuse |
  2. unomeasc

    I wish they would lower the prices of healthy foods and have them more available for our kids and us adults when it comes to trying to eat healthy and in a hurry with not much time to stop and eat. Doctors push "eat healthy" but the prices to do that is crazy.
    All I can say is do the best you can with our kids and pray they grow healthy and strong. As for our military I thank each and every one of them for what they do no matter what their size and pray for them each day., I was also a military mom.. God Bless you all

    September 29, 2012 at 19:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Dhoben

    Do you realize that the the female soldier in the center of the photo exceeds the standards on the Army Physical Fitness Test, runs marathons, and has a BMI of less than 20??? Maybe you should have used a better photo to prove your point rather than plaster the face of a physically fit & athletic soldier who is in better shape than most people!!

    September 30, 2012 at 10:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • troll

      sounds like a personal problem and cool story bro but it needs more food and do you even lift bro

      March 7, 2013 at 02:29 | Report abuse |
  4. luyen thi

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    September 30, 2012 at 15:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. David Sanders

    The heart of the matter is particiating in a activity like pyhical excises is apart of being graded then you must handle it like so. Otherwise it's like you not taking it suriously and you jeapardise unit.

    October 1, 2012 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. HARD

    GYSGT Haartmann would get their fat asses in shape. Just as he did Private Pyle.

    October 2, 2012 at 14:54 | Report abuse | Reply
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    October 4, 2012 at 11:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Melba Voneye

    This is so completely backwards! So, we should make sure that our kids are healthy so they can die in some useless war. If we overfeed our kids and make them fat, they will live to be at least 30 or 40 then die of a heart attack. If the republicans win, just buy pizza a lot and you will be ok, then when the democrates win you can let them lose the weight again!

    October 11, 2012 at 17:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • K.Frederickson

      Look, this article is about military readiness. Please don't be naive and deny another world war as a possibility. If our borders are ever threatened, or an aggressive superpower rises in another part of the world, we will need a draft. How is a 300lb man going to run and gun when required by his country? Don't mistake these police actions for full scale war. We live in peace at home because of our soldiers abroad. "Useless war", who the hell do you think you are?

      October 12, 2012 at 07:45 | Report abuse |
  9. Brandon

    I'm prior military, and this article is a load of nonsense. The military was (maybe still is) going through a phase of cutting down numbers and they were looking for ways of pushing people out during the recession. They've been using archaic methods of measuring body composition in order to force people out prior to retirement. My boss at the time was in 12 years and was in perfect health and got great marks on his Physical fitness tests, they pushed him out of the service because his neck was thick and it threw of body composition tests.

    The military is getting smaller, and they are using "obesity" as a way of pushing out people in a bad job market.

    October 14, 2012 at 08:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • cn

      The military is not using weight to reduce force size, that is nonsense. The physical fitness tests are designed to be flexible within each component as long as the member meets certain minimums across the board. And for those being recruited: why should the military recruit someone who is unfit? They likely aren't capable of performing to high physical demands or mental stressors. Furthermore, excess weight causes chronic medical problems that the tax payers have to pay the tab on.

      October 15, 2012 at 16:33 | Report abuse |
  10. Jerry

    Wow, I was shocked to hear that one in four americans applying to join the military are not accepted due to obesity – Alarming. For a country at the forefront of space exploration you think they would have a handle on healthy living.

    October 15, 2012 at 06:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Alexis

    CN – Yes they ARE! I'm a military wife and I have been TOLD BY HIGHER UPS that they are using messed up weigh and tapes to kick people out. Straight from my husbands C.O's mouth...They said that the minute a soldier is flagged even for 1% over they try to get him out. Other soldiers are getting in trouble for trying to keep good men in that are not overweight at all but due to having a small neck don't fit the requirements. Plus they feed them MRE's while they're out in the field...do you know how many calories are in those? Then if they're drivers they just sit there so they don't work off the calories...the army is jacked up and it's screwing over soldiers who WANT to be in the military....so sad.

    November 28, 2012 at 05:38 | Report abuse | Reply
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  13. troll

    "One in four young adults are too overweight to join the U.S. military, a new report from the advocacy group Mission: Readiness says. And the U.S. Department of Defense spends an estimated $1 billion each year on medical care related to obesity issues for active duty members, their dependents and veterans." im sorry who is keeping you alive everyday!!!!

    March 7, 2013 at 02:33 | Report abuse | Reply
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