The United States Army — it would appear — no longer wants to live off the fat of the land.
A story in The Washington Post on Monday revealed that the Army is quickly purging itself of obese soldiers to — well — trim its active duty forces from today’s 570,000 to 490,000 by 2017.
The Post, citing the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center, revealed that between 1998 and 2010, the number of active-duty troops designated as overweight or obese more than tripled. In 2010, 86,186 military personnel (5.3 percent of the force), received at least one clinical diagnosis as overweight or obese.
“A healthy and fit force is essential to national security,” Pentagon spokeswoman Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde said. “Our service members must be physically prepared to deploy on a moment’s notice anywhere on the globe to extremely austere and demanding conditions.”
It is apparent that now that the Iraq war is over — at least for the United States — and our troop levels are being reduced in Afghanistan, the Army can be a little more choosy about who it lets in and who it keeps around.
Obesity is the main reason for rejection of people who want to enlist in the Army, and the Post reports that through October of this year, 1,625 soldiers were forced to leave the Army for being out of shape. That was almost 16 times the mere 112 who were let go for that reason in 2007 at the height of the Iraq conflict.
From 2001-06, the recruiting slogan was “Army of One.” Now, the service would prefer that the “one” doesn’t weigh as much as “two.”
“A healthy and fit force is essential to national security,” Hull-Ryde told the Post.
Of course, the obesity problem is more about society than about our armed forces. Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling said that in 2009 fully 75 percent of volunteers for the service were ineligible, with obesity the main reason.
“Of the 25 percent that could join, what we found was 65 percent could not pass the (physical training) test on the first day,” he said in a speech. “Young people joining our service could not run, jump, tumble or roll — the kind of things you would expect soldiers to do if you’re in combat.”
We can blame video games, fast food, sloth and all of society’s other contributors to obesity, but the brave and patriotic men and women of our armed forces need a reliable pool of fit recruits that they — and we — can depend upon for the continued defense of our country.