24 April 2010

How bad is America's obesity epidemic?

Slate Magazine claims overweight Soldiers aren't a problem. Personal experience, on the other hand, might indicate otherwise. How many Soldiers are actually being chaptered out for being obese?

Discuss. This is probably going to get ugly.

Edit: The Atlantic tackles the issue of societal change, evolution, and obesity. Of course, their journalistic standards are pretty low. After all, The Atlantic Wire did link to this site...

7 comments:

El Goyito said...

Indeed. Thank God for the USMC. From the wikipedia entry on Marine demigod Chesty Puller:

Earlier in the war [Korean Conflict] he was reported to have ordered Marines to gather all abandoned Army equipment of withdrawing soldiers and put it to good use. He later reportedly told an Army colonel who demanded return of the equipment: "It all has USMC markings on it now and if you want it back, kick my ass." The equipment remained in possession of the Marines.

Semper Fi.

Paul said...

This obesity thing has implications that extend far beyond the size of the pool of potential recruits. These kids are going to add enormously to our nation’s health care costs over their lifetimes. Juvenile type 2 diabetes used to be rare. Now it’s commonplace. They’ll have more heart disease. Other organs will feel the effect. There will be a sizable increase in the number of hip and knee replacements — an article in yesterday’s New York Times indicated that something like 69% of knee replacements were due to obesity.

Back in my day, when we had this outmoded thing called the draft, if a recruit couldn’t pass whatever the minimum standards were at the time, they were placed in a special training company — they got a special diet and lots and lots of PT. When they got in good enough shape to pass the actual Army PT test, they were sent back to start basic training — and the time they spent getting in shape did NOT count toward their 2-year enlistment. I can’t remember the name of this company but I DO know that it got the desired results and that NO ONE wanted to go there so whatever they did must have been, er, uncomfortable.

Army standards were a lot looser then — no mandatory PT, that was at the commander’s discretion; some required it and some didn’t, and it was easy to get out of, particularly for upper enlisted ranks and officers.

When I was in Vietnam, I never saw a fat guy in the field but a lot of REMFs were overweight, sometimes grossly so. I saw one sergeant major who must have tipped the scales at above 350 pounds, and he wasn’t any taller than I was (5’11"). One thing that hampered us in terms of physical fitness, though was the lack of exercise facilities even at the major FOBs. Camp Eagle, which I called home along with between 12,000 and 14,000 other troops didn’t have a single gym. If you could even find a set of weights, it meant that the unit had purchased them themselves and the monsoon season meant that guys didn’t get out of their hooches that much for several months on end.

Starbuck said...

I used to hear about those companies. Shame they don't exist anymore.

A few miscellaneous thoughts on obesity in the military.

1) It's getting damn near impossible to chapter obese soldiers out. You need to dot your eyes and cross your ts, and even then, there's a good likelihood that months of careful counseling (on paper), weighing (on paper), dietary classes (documented), and whatnot will be for nothing. I've NEVER seen a soldier chaptered for obesity/PT failure.

2) Obesity, I can handle, so long as a soldier can pass the PT test. Unfortunately, troops only need a 50 in each event (passing score is 60) to graduate basic and AIT, and many PT tests are pencil-whipped. I received a female soldier that ran a 35-minute 2-mile run on her first PT test. Most people can WALK faster than that. If they weren't in shape when they left basic--when their diets are monitored and the drill sergeants force them to walk everywhere and do PT--they won't be in shape when they sit at a desk, ride their car everywhere, and can eat whatever they want.

3) At first, one might think that commanders are forced into the dilemma of whether or not to kick out a trained soldier that might be overweight or out of shape. But here's the kicker: if you kick that well-trained, smart, but overweight soldier, you may not get a replacement at all. Fat help is better than no help, in my opinion...

Starbuck said...

By the way, Paul, I think I cracked the code right before I deployed for Iraq (and thus, it was really too late to take effect). We can't keep people after work for extra PT (we have to balance family time, plus, all those ankle-biter problems usually pop up at 1700 or so).

Solution? Well, no one seems to be busy during the hour BEFORE PT. People get very motivated to get off the remedial PT program when they're getting up an extra hour early :)

John said...

I think there should be a sanity check for how the Army deems soldiers as "fat". I had a kid that was a fantastic analyst, maxed PT, and was a body builder, but failed the retarded tape test every time. You could see abs on him, yet he was flagged pretty much the entire time he was in. The whole fat testing and for that matter, PT test should be tailored to mission specifics. Who cares how many push ups you can do in two minutes. How long can you walk up a mountainside with your PPE and the rest of your gear before you fall out. I would think that's a little more accurate and mission specific..

Turd Ferguson - funny name...

Starbuck said...

I don't get the tape test either.

I've had a female NCO that looked grossly obese, but they made tape and passed the PT test (except she was a walker). I had another female SPC who scored a 300 on her APFT (she ran 5 miles each morning on her own) but couldn't pass tape. I guess she was just shaped strangely.

She's been flagged for years--excellent Soldier in every way, but her measurements just come up wrong.

sushil said...
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