NO surprise--Most U.S. youths unfit to serve, data show

#1
Most U.S. youths unfit to serve, data show

By William H. McMichael - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Nov 4, 2009 10:26:14 EST

U.S. military-age youth are increasingly unfit to serve — mostly because they’re in such lousy shape.

According to the latest Pentagon figures, a full 35 percent, or more than one-third, of the roughly 31.2 million Americans aged 17 to 24 are unqualified for military service because of physical and medical issues. And, said Curt Gilroy, the Pentagon’s director of accessions, “the major component of this is obesity. We have an obesity crisis in the country. There’s no question about it.”

The Pentagon draws its data from the Centers for Disease Control, which regularly tracks obesity. The steadily rising trend is not good news for military recruiters, despite their recent successes, nor for the overall health of the U.S. population.

In 1987, according to the CDC, a mere 6 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds, or about 1 out of 20, were obese. In 2008, 22 years later, 23 percent of that age group — almost 1 out of 4 — was considered to be obese.

The CDC measures obesity by body mass index, a figure calculated from height and weight that is considered a reliable indicator of body fatness for most people. According to the CDC, the body mass index for a man standing 6 feet, 2 inches tall and weighing 170 pounds is 21.8; the normal range lies between 18.5 and 24.9. Below that range is considered underweight; a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight. A person with a body mass index of 30 or greater is considered to be obese.

Obese individuals are at increased risk for a number of diseases and health conditions, including hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, some cancers and other problems, according to the CDC. In addition to those concerns, the military rejects obese recruits in part because so much extra weight likely couldn’t be dropped during the course of basic training — even if they could get through the entire program.

“Kids are just not able to do push-ups,” Gilroy said. “And they can’t do pull-ups. And they can’t run.”


The reasons are “almost common knowledge, Gilroy said — what he called “the couch potato syndrome” and the widespread elimination of scholastic physical fitness programs.
Mission: Readiness

In a study being released Thursday in Washington, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and a group of retired military officers led by former Army Gen. Wesley Clark will sound the alarm bells and call young Americans’ relative lack of overall fitness for military duty a national security threat. The group, Mission: Readiness, will release a report that draws on Pentagon data showing that 75 percent of the nation’s 17- to 24-year-olds are ineligible for service for a variety of reasons.

Put another way, only 4.7 million of the 31.2 million 17- to 24-year-olds in a 2007 survey are eligible to enlist, according to a periodic survey commissioned by the Pentagon. This group includes those who have scored in the top four categories on the Armed Forces Qualification Test, or AQFT; eligible college graduates; and qualified college students.

According to the Pentagon, the ineligible population breaks down this way:

•Medical/physical problems, 35 percent.

•Illegal drug use, 18 percent.

•Mental Category V (the lowest 10 percent of the population), 9 percent.

•Too many dependents under age 18, 6 percent.

•Criminal record, 5 percent.
Waivers

Some conditions or situations can be waivered or are periodically loosened by the services, as is the case with certain medical conditions, such as asthma. Waiverable examples include limited marijuana use and having too many dependents. For example, the Pentagon says a waiver is required when an applicant is married and has more than two dependents under 18, or is unmarried and has custody of any dependents under 18. Waiver policies vary depending on the needs of the service.

The group of potential enlistees is further slimmed by the “propensity to serve” among American youths, which social scientists say also is declining. According to Gilroy, research shows that about 12 percent of all U.S. military-eligible youth show an interest in military service.

The Pentagon just finished a record year for recruiting. Every active and reserve component met or exceeded both their numeric and quality recruiting goals for fiscal 2009. Each easily exceeded the Pentagon goal of having at least 90 percent of recruits be high school graduates, and having 60 percent or more score at or above the 50th percentile on the AFQT.

But the weak economy has helped, as has increased spending on recruiting. And given the ever-shrinking pool of potential candidates, concern grows. Bill Carr, undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy, says that to maintain the force, the military has to attract more than 15 percent of qualified young Americans.

The difference is, to some degree, made up through the use of waivers. About 1 in 5 recruits still requires a waiver of some sort to enter the service, with about two-thirds for conduct and one-third for medical issues, Carr said.

http://www.armytimes.com/news/2009/11/military_unfityouths_recruiting_110309w/
 
#2
A most interesting report. A century ago 33 per cent of British men were deemed physically and otherwise unsuited for military service. This shocked the great and the good and became the long term impetus for decades of social reform to improve the health of the nation. But the conditions described in the report, I suppose, are becoming prevalent throughout affluent western societies.
 
#3
Outside the Recruiting Offices it's a fairly common sight to see Army and Marine recruiters leading PT sessions for applicants. Seems like a fairly common sense approach.

As for BMI- most of us know that's BS, right? You'd be hard pressed to find a guy on a FBS football team who conformed to it. (Apart from the service academies.)
 
#4
Volunteer said:
A most interesting report. A century ago 33 per cent of British men were deemed physically and otherwise unsuited for military service. This shocked the great and the good and became the long term impetus for decades of social reform to improve the health of the nation. But the conditions described in the report, I suppose, are becoming prevalent throughout affluent western societies.
The folks at the recruiting HQs at Upavon say that its actually worse. Many potential soldiers are none too bright. Many are thick, having real difficulties passing the tests.

At Catterick, NCOs report newly arrived youngsters feet are so tender they can't wear boots. The trainer generation never wore hard shoes. As well, many never played proper team sports.
 
#5
redleg6 said:
Volunteer said:
A most interesting report. A century ago 33 per cent of British men were deemed physically and otherwise unsuited for military service. This shocked the great and the good and became the long term impetus for decades of social reform to improve the health of the nation. But the conditions described in the report, I suppose, are becoming prevalent throughout affluent western societies.
The folks at the recruiting HQs at Upavon say that its actually worse. Many potential soldiers are none too bright. Many are thick, having real difficulties passing the tests.

At Catterick, NCOs report newly arrived youngsters feet are so tender they can't wear boots. The trainer generation never wore hard shoes. As well, many never played proper team sports.
I'm not at all surprised to read this, Redleg. It does make me wonder just what Britain is coming to. I guess U.S. recruiters could report similarly.
 
#6
crabtastic said:
Outside the Recruiting Offices it's a fairly common sight to see Army and Marine recruiters leading PT sessions for applicants. Seems like a fairly common sense approach.

As for BMI- most of us know that's BS, right? You'd be hard pressed to find a guy on a FBS football team who conformed to it. (Apart from the service academies.)
A bit dated (January 2009) but this is informative:

Washington - The waistlines of America's youth are expanding, shrinking the pool of those eligible to join the US military. But an Army program is giving overweight enlistees a second chance – and helping the military with its own expansion.

The recently-introduced waiver program allows enlistees who don't qualify for the military because of their weight a chance to shape up after joining. So far, the program has helped the Army make its recruiting goals in what remains a tight recruiting market.

If the economic recession worsens, it could help the military's recruiting efforts as people seek stable employment. That could reduce the need for waiver programs. However, nutritionists don't see the trend of overweight Americans disappearing any time soon, ensuring the continuance of such programs in recruiting an all-volunteer force.

"We support any service who comes up with a scientifically defensible way of expanding the market [of recruits]," says Curtis Gilroy, director of accessions policy for the Pentagon.

Such waivers had been studied for years but the program wasn't implemented until fiscal 2007, when it admitted about 1,500 individuals through the program (just a small slice of about 80,000 recruits). Recruits must pass a special battery of tests, including a "step test," and do a number of push-ups to demonstrate their physical abilities. If they pass and are enlisted, they have a year to comply with the Army's physical requirements, measured by "body mass index," a formula that estimates body fat based on weight and height.

Recruiting struggle

The Army's weight waiver program rests largely on a distinction between individuals who are overweight or obese and those who are physically fit but whose "body mass index," or BMI, doesn't meet Army standards.


"The point is to get the football-player kinda kids. It's not to get the couch-potato kids," says Beth Asch, a senior economist at the Rand Corporation who studies military recruiting.

The Army program is a "sensible move," says Ms. Asch, but to remain effective it must have oversight.

"There can be a temptation, not necessarily at the commanding level but at the ground level with the recruiter, who would want to slip in a kid who is overweight and has no business being in the Army," she says. "There needs to be monitoring."

So far, the percentage of those in the program who don't get into shape – and are then discharged from the Army – is low among both men and women. It roughly mirrors the attrition rates of those who don't take the special test, according to data provided by Douglas Smith of Army Recruiting Command.

The Army has struggled the most with recruiting. Although it has met its active-duty goals in recent years, it has had to issue other waivers and let in more high school dropouts in order to do so.

At the same time, the military is expanding through next year. The Marine Corps, which is not using the weight waiver, is growing to 202,000 and the Army will reach its "end-strength" goal of 547,000 this year.
Many experts would like to see the military grow even larger to meet demands.

The obesity challenge

Excess weight is the chief reason many individuals can't enlist.

It's no secret that today's youths gobble up french fries and suck down Big Gulps. At the same time, fewer are getting exercise. The percentage of young adults considered obese – with a BMI greater than 30 – has grown sharply in recently years.

Ten years ago, there were a handful of states across the country where about 25 percent of the population ages 18 to 34 were considered obese. Today, there are 26 such states.

"We know that is even going to increase because the [Centers for Disease Control] says the numbers are going to go up," says the Pentagon's Mr. Gilroy.

It's a big change from 50 years ago, when there was widespread fear that soldiers were "undernourished," says Linda Van Horn, professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine.

Today, Americans live in an age of super-sized proportions. According to the National Institutes of Health, the average-sized bagel 20 years ago was three inches across and had 140 calories. Today's bagels average twice the size and have about 350 calories.

And more Americans are eating fast food, which is cheap, plentiful – and generally unhealthy. "There is no question that America is eating out," says Ms. Van Horn.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0105/p03s07-usmi.html
 
#7
Volunteer said:
redleg6 said:
Volunteer said:
A most interesting report. A century ago 33 per cent of British men were deemed physically and otherwise unsuited for military service. This shocked the great and the good and became the long term impetus for decades of social reform to improve the health of the nation. But the conditions described in the report, I suppose, are becoming prevalent throughout affluent western societies.
The folks at the recruiting HQs at Upavon say that its actually worse. Many potential soldiers are none too bright. Many are thick, having real difficulties passing the tests.

At Catterick, NCOs report newly arrived youngsters feet are so tender they can't wear boots. The trainer generation never wore hard shoes. As well, many never played proper team sports.

This is a generational, world-wide issue, young people around the world avoid work or physical exertion, play with electronic toys, live a sofa-slugs, or couch potatoes, etc...and lack any upper body strength. I think it is due to modern lifestyles. look at the generation that fought WW2, they were tough, but, many had poor dental health, due to poor diets during the youth, corresponding to the Great Depression.


I'm not at all surprised to read this, Redleg. It does make me wonder just what Britain is coming to. I guess U.S. recruiters could report similarly.
 
#8
Helluva big turn around since the 50s when I joined up at 15.5 years of age, a few of us were so weedy due to wartime rationing and diet that we were put on extra rations to fatten us up a bit.
 

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