“Of the 25 percent that could join, what we found was 65 percent could not pass the [physical training] test on the first day,” said Hertling. “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.”
During the millennial wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, military officials begin to operate under a more lenient system in accepting recruits who would be considered overweight under normal conditions. They also turned a blind eye to those who had criminal records.
Fitness standards for smaller military sectors such as the Marines, Navy and Air Force were not provided. Unlike the Army, they are not being pressured to reduce their forces.
The higher fitness standards have many soldiers calling the actual fitness test into question. The two –part test involves an endurance examination including sits-up, push-ups and a short run. For the second part of the test, potential soldiers have their weight and height measured which is correlated to their age.
Some muscular-built soldiers may be surprise to find out that they may not pass the test despite their build.
Staff Sgt. Ammiel Banayat said he was initially over the limit during his first test weighing more than 160 pounds at five feet five inches tall. In order to pass, he had to undergo a body-fat index test.
“The first time it happened, I was petrified,” said Banayat, an Arizona National Guardsman. “Even though I still passed the test, just the fact that I didn’t pass the height and weight test was terrifying.”
Smith believes the weight struggle for soldiers and potential soldiers is likely due to the current culture that is more sedentary and accustomed to eating larger food portions. He believes many soldiers become overweight after succumbing to an injury during combat.
Some soldiers and their families are outraged by the extreme fitness assessments finding that it is putting them out of a job even when they are injured in the name of freedom.
“My son fought for this country and has a wife and 3 young children, the youngest a month old and they are now homeless,” wrote an Army mom on a blog whose son was kicked out for being overweight.