Can I Join the Military if I am Obese?

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Many myths have floated around about military recruiting and obesity for many years. Sometimes, potential recruits think they cannot join the military because they are not currently in the best of shape. It’s a myth to think that every recruit looking to join the military has to be in great shape the day they sign up. With today’s youth trending towards obesity, the military has considered easing the recruiting rules when it comes to obesity. This is due to the trend of about one in three people between the age of 17 and 24 qualifying as obese. About one-third of those in the right age range for military service don’t even qualify due to their physical stature and the main reason is obesity. Military recruiting and obesity have been linked in many articles in the past decade due to this epidemic. However, if you consider yourself obese, or even if a doctor has told you that you’re obese, you may still be able to join the military.

Body Mass Index is What Matters

BMI or Body Mass Index is what’s used to figure out if you’re obese or not. You can easily use an online BMI calculator to figure it out. Once you know your BMI, you can look at whether you’re obese or not. If you’re BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9, you fall into the standard category. Those between 25 and 29.9 are considered to be overweight and it’s not labeled as obesity until you hit a BMI of 30.

Acceptable Weight for Military Recruits

Every branch of the military is a bit different when it comes to military recruiting and obesity. They will certainly accept those falling into the category of overweight, as some of that weight will come off during basic training. However, not all branches of the military will take obese recruits.

Army Requirements

The Army has both minimum and maximum weight requirements. The minimum BMI is 18.9, while the maximum is 27.5. They don’t take recruits falling into the obesity category of a BMI of 30 or higher, in most cases. These requirements do vary a little bit based on age and gender.

Air Force Requirements

The Air Force is similar to the Army with the same basic requirements. They will take recruits with a BMI of 18.9 to 27.5, but they don’t vary much for age or gender.

Navy Requirements

The Navy doesn’t use BMI as a measurement for recruits. Instead, they use body fast percentage with a maximum of 22% for men ages 17 to 39. Men above 40 years of age have a maximum of 23%. Women from 17 to 38 years of age can have a maximum of 33% body fast and women ages 40 and up can have a maximum of 34%.

Marines Requirements

When it comes to weight requirements, the Marines are the most lenient. They use a BMI scale with a minimum of 17.6 and a maximum of 31.7 for men. For women, the BMI ranges from 18.9 to 26.1 depending on age. The Marines do require a waver if the recruit is more than 5% of the weight standard.

Coast Guard Requirements

The Coast Guard also uses BMI for measuring recruits with a minimum of 19 and a maximum of 27.5. If the recruit is over the maximum BMI, they are subject to a body fat assessment and could be granted a waiver.

Obese Military Recruits Receiving Waivers

It’s very possible for an obese recruit to receive a waiver. About 20% of the military recruits entering into one branch or another need a waiver to get in. One-third of those waivers are medical and many have to do with obesity or being overweight. In 2007, the Army started a forma program to study military recruiting and obesity. At that time about 1,500 of the recruits (80,000 total) were admitted into the Army even though they didn’t fit the weight requirements. They were subject to physical testing and were given a year to get in shape and meet the BMI standards.

Assessment of Recruit Motivation and Strength

Also known as ARMS, the Assessment of Recruit Motivation and Strength are one of the ways of dealing with military recruiting and obesity. This is a program put in place by the U.S. Army and has become a source of waivers for recruits not fitting the BMI or body-fat percentage requirements. ARMS requires the recruit to complete a five-minute test known as a modified Harvard Step. Then, they must do a specific number of pushups per minute (15 for men and 4 for women). If the recruit can pass the ARMS test, they will be able to enter the Army. However, they will be given a year of active duty to meet the weight requirements. When it comes to military recruiting and obesity, it’s a battle for every branch and for recruits. It’s still possible to join, even if you don’t fall into the weight requirements. The Marines are the most lenient, but with a waiver and the right physical ability, you can join other branches of the military, as well. It’s best to start working on losing weight now, however. You will be given only a year to get in shape by the Army and every branch of the military will test your physical ability regularly.

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