Ex-military leaders: Young adults 'too fat to fight' | 04/20/10

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CNN IS REPORTING: More than a quarter of young adults are unable to meet physical requirements to join the military, creating a potential threat to national security, a group of retired armed forces leaders said Tuesday.

"It's not drug abuse, it's not asthma, it's not flat feet -- by far the leading medical reason is being overweight or obese," said retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Norman Seip at a news conference.


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CNN ARTICLE CONTINUES: About 27 percent of young adults are medically ineligible for the military, according to Mission: Readiness, a group of retired admirals, generals, and other senior military leaders.

Mission: Readiness' report, "Too Fat to Fight," said that 75 percent of young Americans between the ages of 17 to 24 do not qualify for the military because of failure to graduate [from high school], criminal records or physical problems. The study cited Department of Defense and health data.

Different branches of the military have their own policies, but they all measure strength, body fat, aerobic capacity, weight and height, Seip said.

A person must pass the physical fitness standards at the time he or she signs up for enlistment. These standards include sit-ups and push-ups.

"The logic is pretty obvious," said retired Army Brig. Gen. Clara Adams-Ender. "The troops need to be in excellent physical condition because of the demands of the important jobs they do in defense. Rigorous physical and mental standards are critical if we are to maintain the fighting readiness of our military."

The maximum weight depends on the person's sex, height and age. The Army allows women up to the weight of 241 pounds and men up to 259 pounds. Depending on age, it allows women with no prior service to have up to 36 percent body fat content and men with no prior service to have up to 30 percent.

Once enlisted, individuals also have to pass annual physical tests.

"We lose upwards to 12,000 young men and young women a year before they even finish up the first term of enlistment," Seip said. "That's another person, who has been recruited, trained and left because they're not able to maintain standards and can't pass the physical fitness test."

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