The obesity epidemic is posing a threat to national security.
Military officials report that obesity has become the leading cause of ineligibility when recruiting people into the armed forces.
Over the past decade, the number of military personnel classified as obese or overweight has dramatically tripled.
In 2010, 86,186 military personnel were clinically diagnosed as obese according to the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center.
Because of the issue, military officials are reassessing its current training programs and pressuring commanders to sift through soldiers to identify who is and is not fit to fight.
“A healthy and fit force is essential to national security, “said Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde, a Pentagon spokeswoman. “Our service members must be physically prepared to deploy on a moment’s notice anywhere on the globe to extremely austere and demanding conditions.”
This year alone, the military has kicked out 1,625 soldiers for being out of shape, which is 15 times the number of discharged soldiers dismissed for that reason in 2007.
Army commanders are being instructed to show no mercy while weeding out those who are unfit. This has become a common method used to cut soldiers since the Army is being forced to reduce the number of troops by ten thousand in the next couple of years.
This method was also used during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
“During a war period, when we were ramping up, the physical standards didn’t have a lot of teeth because we needed bodies to go overseas, to fill platoons and brigades,” said Stew Smith, a former Navy SEAL and fitness expert who has organized training programs for soldiers classified as unfit. “During a period of drawdown, everything starts getting teeth, and that’s kind of where we are again.”
The army dismissed over 3,000 soldiers shortly after Desert Storm ended, which was the highest number of troops dismissed since 1984. However, the method was suspended once the Iraq operation became apparent. During the Iraq war, 112 soldiers were cut for being overweight.
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling said he saw the effects of the strict fitness test first-hand when he had to classify 57 percent of individuals as overweight during the recruitment process.