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Is Obesity Becoming A National Security Issue for the Military?



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Is it possible that obesity is becoming a National Security issue for the US Military? The national security issue of obesity is a two-headed monster for the United States Military. It not only affects military personnel, but it has also shrunk the potential recruiting pool. As obesity in America rises, the military and national security are impacted.

First, The Facts About Obesity and Recruiting

For Navy, Marine, Air Force and Army recruiters, the job has gotten more difficult with the climb of the obesity rate. One in five ages 17 to 24 might qualify to get into the military, while three out of the other will probably be turned away due to obesity. It’s the number one reason why the population of potential recruits has shrunk.

Decades ago, recruiters could speak to about 90% of the population between 17 and 24 and they would qualify for the military. Other than during war times, the requirements haven’t changed too drastically. However, only about 50% or even less of the same population can recruiters talk to today.

Obesity is the leading cause for potential recruits getting turned down, but they may also be turned down due to education, dependency on insulin for diabetes, ADHD or even due to tattoos or piercings. Many recruits are turned down every day and some have said they used to get 16 to 20 new soldiers a month, but the numbers are down to about 10 to 12 a month now.

Obesity and Active Military Personnel

The recruits are not the only ones with an issue. Obesity has caused many military members to lose their jobs or have to enter into a rigorous program to lose the weight. Today, about 7.4% of military members are known as obese, while the number was just 1.6% in 2001. Over the past 15 years quite a bit has changed and the obesity rate in adults has risen to 70% in the United States.

Many blame it on the lack of healthy foods, but it’s also caused by a more sedentary lifestyle newer generations enjoy. Regardless of the reason, it’s pretty clear that it has become a security issue for the country.

The Army clocked in with the worst obesity rate followed by the Air Force and the Navy. The Marines have the fittest members of the military, but they still have about 4,800 members over the weight regulations. This is a growing issue and one the Military isn’t taking lightly.

Some retired senior leaders have been sparked to form a group called Military: Readiness. They are an advocacy group hoping to get lawmakers to change some of the ways schools go about feeding and providing exercise for students. The group pushes for healthier options for school lunches, more physical education and other programs to help with the obesity in the youth of the country. While this is a great place to start, changes also have to start with potential recruits. The military has become more selective and competition is higher than it used to be. Those looking to enter any branch of the military should not only be physically ready, but also have the education necessary. Make sure to speak with a recruiter to find out what you can do to better your chances.

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