Fat Force

| December 10, 2012 | 36 Comments

Pat sends us a link to the Washington Post which complains that the military is booting folks who are overweight. It shouldn’t really be news. the first time I ever heard of an overweight program in the Army was in 1977. They published height and weight standards, but along with the standards, the Army issued waivers hand over fist. No one took the standards seriously because of the waivers. But when the Jimmy Carter Volar (Volunteer Army) ended and the Reagan Era began, along with our equipment, pay raises, training and training time, they began enforcing the standards. Quite a few of our remaining Vietnam veterans fell victim to it.

Apparently, the Obama Administration sees it as a way to reduce the force;

In 2010, 86,183 troops, or 5.3 percent of the force, received at least one clinical diagnosis of obesity, according to the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center.

The trend has prompted the military to reexamine its training programs and is driving commanders to weed out soldiers who are deemed unfit 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.”

During the first 10 months of this year, the Army kicked out 1,625 soldiers for being out of shape, nearly 16 times the number discharged for that reason in 2007, the peak of wartime deployment cycles.

My problem with the Washington Post article is that somehow they conflate obesity with criminal behavior and make it sound like the Bush Administration was pumping the ranks up with fat criminals;

As the Iraq and Afghanistan wars strained the military, the Army granted waivers to recruits who would normally not be eligible, for example taking on overweight soldiers and those with criminal records.

It’s not like the Army was taking 350-pound serial killers or anything. It seems to me that there were certainly enough volunteers while the war was progressing that they didn’t need substandard enlistees. So, the Washington Post makes it sound like Obama is only separating the wheat from the chaff. But, I doubt that there are 80,000 overweight troops to bring the number down to the 490,000 goal. Well, unless they start tossing the wounded troops, like they mention in the article.

Category: Military issues

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  1. Sean says:

    So is Ray Odierno getting thrown out on his Obese ass?

    or as usual Generals dont have to meet standards? Reason I say this is I saw Fatbodies sent to Iraq as 11B. They did their duties well, never fell out unlike some younger much thinner soldiers and on DEROS were discharged out for not meeting standards. OK to be sent and Maybe Killed, but god forbid you give them a Break to get back into shape after an 18 month tour.

    Meanwhile incompetent shitbags who could run were kept. I saw a Lieutenant so incompetent he wasn’t allowed out on patrol after the first one where he shot at US troops in daylight and his job was supervising 2 radiomen in a company TOC, not only kept but promoted to Captain while our Bn Cdr fumed that his OER was thrown out.

  2. AJ says:

    Same thing is happening in the AF. They want everyone to do more with less and then close the gyms on base or restrict the hours b/c they don’t have the money to operate them but you’d better stay in shape. Those that can run will get a great rating and promoted even if they are incompetent and only care about who to brown nose next. They step all over people and stab them in the back but they can run so why shouldn’t they be promoted!?!

  3. martinjmpr says:

    Deja vu all over again. Saw the same thing during the Clinton-era drawdown. The Army lost a lot of good soldiers in that drawdown – including guys who could run their asses off but still couldn’t pass a tape test. Most of them went on to have great lives and fine civilian careers, but I can’t help but think of how beneficial their service could have been a few years later when 9/11 and Afghanistan/Iraq kicked off.

    OTOH, these are the rules of the game and it’s not like any of these people weren’t warned. Just like death and taxes, using “flexible” standards for downsizing the military is just a fact of life and has been for a long time.

  4. OldSoldier54 says:

    “… at least one clinical diagnosis of obesity…”

    Therein lies the boobie-trapped IED, and a classic example of the folly of standards set by some bureaucrat sitting behind a desk in the Puzzle Palace. Too many have little to no connection with the real world and as a direct result,at times, come up with unrealistic and dumb “standards” for everybody to comply with.

    And Obamacare is going to put that kind of stupidity on the entire population of the United States.

  5. Ex-PH2 says:

    So what are you saying, Old Soldier? We’re all going to be shipped out of the country if we don’t meet weight standards?

  6. Bill R. says:

    Ex-PH2: No, I don’t think Obama can do that just yet but I’ll bet that if someone doesn’t make progress toward standards, the level of “free” medical care will fall. (unless you are in a favored group)

  7. Ex-PH2 says:

    Will fall? Where are you living? Some high rise in Hong Kong with cadillac health care?

    The level of free medical care in this country has already fallen. Doctors are quitting the medical profession because Medicare is slow paying its bills and does not pay the full amount. You can get better care from a veterinarian than you can from most MDs these days.

  8. Just got done clearing Campbell and on my way to Benning. Let me tell you some of the turds I saw getting chaptered, and ETS’ing were a complete fucking disgrace to the uniform. Good riddance. Its about time these pieces of shit get a pink slip. These fat bodies have skated by long enough for the case of just making the numbers. The example of big dudes that can do PT but can’t make weight and tape are few and far in between. 99% of them need to get the fuck out of the army and the sooner the better

  9. malclave says:

    I was one of those “fat bodies” struggling with weight and PT (the 2 mile run) standards, barely failing more often than not. Got chaptered out just before I was due to ETS.

  10. Malclave, if you have some sort of service related injury that hampered you from doing PT and thus caused weight gain and subsequent APFT failure, then your chain of command fucked you. If you don’t, then you fucked yourself. The bare minimum army standards for the APFT are pathetic. If you can’t hack a 180, then you didn’t need to be in the army anymore

  11. malclave says:

    And I wasn’t in the Army any more. I was a good lab tech, just had problems with the standards.

    I’m not asking for sympathy, I just commented because it seemed relevant to the conversation.

  12. Stacy0311 says:

    I always thought it was ironic that we were forced to ‘flag’ the records of fatbodies in Iraq so that they could not recieve awards (personal or campaign) until/unless they made weight. Meanwhile I see so many fatasses working at Joint Forces HQ (Texas National Guard) who are ‘a little light on the right’.

  13. Not trying to talk shit Malclave, just speaking my mind. Thanks for the service regardless

  14. DaveO says:

    As a retired soldier who spent his years rarely making weight and making tape, the joke is on the Army.

    Most folks know the Army’s standards aren’t based on science – and most folks who’ve dealt with the Army’s weight program know that success in losing body-fat was the fastest way to get chaptered in the 1990s. Men lose body fat around the neck first, stomach last. I’d see joes lose the bodyfat, and get chaptered out within a couple of weeks.

    Have to agree with Sean – Big Ray is too big. So was Maples, and a number of other GO and CSM. Likewise, too many skinny joes ended up in the FLA after going into metabolic shock after a few days of not being fed while trying to do ops.

    Health, weight/diet and body fat aren’t the X Files, but the truth is out there. Sure as the sun rises, the Army won’t rely on science, or the rules of thumb the Marines use (if s/he looks fat, s/he is fat) to determine the health standards.

  15. Sean says:

    The Standards were originally made from using Cadavers as a Basis of judging Ht/wt for Insurance purposes.

  16. I agree the height weight standard measurements are completely dicked up and need to be fixed ASAP. PT standards aren’t debatable. If it perfect? Not by a long shot. But if you can’t do the minimum army standard in any of the 3 categories you know what you need to work on

  17. Dirt Dart says:

    The AR 600-8 is about as useful as a broken condom on prom night: I never made weight. But i can run my ARBN 5th point of contact like no other. I average around 250-265, i can guarentee that who ever wrote this reg was gunning for some he/she didnt like. But i love how the army says “WE will not tolerate any type of Discrimination” sit in a damn breifings given by one side crusaders who insult the class and become upset when we look at them like an alien. Maybe we should start a soliders union- piss of the morons at the pentagon for once.

  18. RunPatRun says:

    Ne Desit Virtus, I wholeheartedly agree that there are people who need to go, there are always some slackers and deadbeats. Also agree that PT isn’t debatable, but going back to the old PT test would get rid of the pencil-whipped push ups. You can’t fake overhead ladders.

    Regarding weight, I never had to be taped, but still don’t agree with the statistics behind it. Use calipers, and if a career is about to be ended the hydrostatic body fat test should be used as a final verification. And yes, I understand dunk tanks aren’t available on FOBs and COPs, but how many chapters are being processed in AFG? If an otherwise stellar troop is being booted, why not be certain the standard is not met?

    But overall, we as a society are overweight. According to the CDC almost 80% of adults over 20 are either obese or overweight:
    – Percent of adults age 20 years and over who are obese: 35.9% (2009-2010)
    – Percent of adults age 20 years and over who are overweight (and not obese): 33.3% (2009-2010)

    Just glad I hit an RCP during the Clinton era (and am not on Recruiting duty).

  19. Common Sense says:

    I see from the comments how unfairly the standards can be applied, but I also read an article about a guy in the Air Force who was doing the required combat training before deployment who had a woman in his group that couldn’t even get out of the car without assistance. There were points where they thought she was going to drop dead and they had to call the medics. She was still approved for deployment.

  20. I recall from 76′ in the Berlin Brigade as long as you could pass the PT test, they didn’t care how fat you were. In many cases, a “big bonned” dude who could run was really handy in a fight, or for packing heavy shit…like the base plate from an 81mm mortar.

  21. Eric says:

    I could’ve sworn somewhere I read or was told the ht/wt standards were based off the AMA’s standards for the average person, not the guy who has to carry 60-100 pounds of gear for a 12-hour combat patrol, regardless of his size.

    And another thing is that CDC, civilian doctors, etc., consider bodybuilders as “morbidly obese.”

    But then the Army has spent millions over the past decade “researching” physical training to create a new test. Oops, nevermind…

  22. Cajun says:

    My prior service in the Air Force during the 1st round of early 2000s “Force Shaping” prepared me for where this is going. Only the speed with which the Army is changing its tune really surprises me. throughout my 4 years in the Active Duty Army (late 2000s), it was regarded a a failure of leadership to have to chapter a Soldier (under any circumstances). Now, working with a Soldier to meet standards and succeeding is considered an annoyance at best.

    I’ve never failed a PT test and always pass tape… but I’m a big guy and always need tape. …even 2 weeks after successfully finishing the Twin Cities Marathon (before all you P90X and crossfit studs get all “just because you can run a marathon doesn’t mean you’re in shape” relax, I get it).

  23. Just an Old Dog says:

    Ht/Wt Standards are the most stupid thing the military ever shit out its ass. We have PFT standards. If every military unit has a proper fitness program and administers fitness tests that’s all you need.
    The most ignorant thing I witnessed in my time in was Marines who were able to run a 300 pft catching hell because they were 5 pounds overweight. Find me a Somoan who is over the age of 25, 6 feet tall and weights under 203 pounds.
    I had the displeasure of watching a WM SSGT who smoked, drank, and looked like a sea witch version of Olive Oyl ( not to mention she never was able to keep up for even half of a 2 mile unit run,, at a snails pace) counseling a young female Sgt with 38DDs ( who smoked the pft) on her weight and personal appearance.

  24. NHSparky says:

    “23 and you’re free” was an expression back in the Navy of the 90’s. I was never a skinny guy but still got over 270 of possible 300 in Navy PFT for my last six years straight, and was running marathons for nearly 8 years after I got out.

    Standards are such but I’m wondering if the powers that be repeal DADT (Donut Ass Dumpy Tubbies) will let the people previously booted for weight and body fat will be let in again? Yeah…didn’t think so.

  25. B Woodman says:

    I was Retention in one of my units at Ft Huachuca. Had a championship bodybuilder who was constantly weighed and taped, and maxed the APFT. Wonder what happened to him?

  26. marinewm86 says:

    I weighed 119 lbs and I am 5’3 I was on weight control the entire time I was in the Corps. I was not overweight the weight standards suck. I had to have a weight waiver my body fat was 13%. I ran a 280 PFT it was frustrating beyond belief. The military does not realize the extremes some people will go to make weight. My favorites were diuretics and laxatives. I suffered for many years after I left the Corps literally almost dying to maintain a unreasonable weight standard. Thank God for Sen. Inhoffe his office helped me get treatment via Tricare because I damn near died. To this day the VA does not recognize eating disorders or health issues related to them. The weight standards are the only thing that really piss me off to this day. They are unrealistic IMO.

  27. Bill R. says:

    Ex PH2: No, living in Mich with Tricare Standard. It’s actually been very good even with the sometime copays. My wife has been under hospice care for several years now and I’ve paid very little out of pocket. My biggest bills for myself are for preventive meds and occasional tests. My point was that if people don’t do what their doctor recommends under Obamacare, their doctors will end up not treating them for their ailments that happen because of it. For instance, obese folks may not get that bypass they need because they aren’t doing enough to make it worthwhile. I can see shit like that coming in the next decade or sooner.

  28. LostBoys says:

    @23 Buddy of mine was a 300 PFTer, within height/weight standards but didn’t ‘look like a Marine.’ Admittedly, he was built more like a floor safe but he was harassed out under the “Military Appearance Program” but not before winning the East Coast Super Squad competition. What a waste! Funnily, he still loves the Marine Corps.

  29. DETN8R says:

    In 1982 I joined the Army at 72″, 245lbs.. I had just left college where I played football. Upon graduation from AIT, I had dropped to 205lbs. still over the weight for my height, yet carring a very unhealthy 4% body fat. I was pinched or taped everytime we had a PT test and I passed for 20 plus years. I passed the PT tests even with torn cartiledge in my right shoulder and both ankles. i did not go on any walking profile for PT.

    With all of that said, I watched troops, good at their job, get put out. I had to abide by the same standards as they did. I tried working with quite a few of them and I never once found any to hvae physical issues that would keep them fat, aside hand to mouth disease and the lack of energy to get them off of the couch.

    Then again, I also did my job in either a bomb suit or a level “A” protective suit for most of my career, and watched the skinny shit PT gurus drop from the weight or heat of the job.

  30. Steadfast&Loyal says:

    Been absent for a while…sorry about that.

    I have had a love/hate with the height weight standards. Oh I understand them and agree….I think they are a bit aggressive though. I am not a small framed guy. Though I nailed my PT tests at 280 I still had to be taped….even at my thinnest. Some commanders hated it…others didn’t care. It was the one standard that had too much judegment in it. There were times when my height would vary by 3 inches. MY HEIGHT! how does that happen?

    Any case the standards aren’t that hard if you want it. You just have to accept that some have to work harder at than others.

  31. DaveO says:

    As far as the APFT goes, I’d go with the Marines’ two-part test. Pushups, situps, and the 2-mile run don’t prepare for combat. Or the Canadian PFT – something, anything that measures potential to perform in combat, not on the Parade Deck.

  32. Lifter says:

    I know if you are at all strong, you will probably be at or near the weight maximum for your age group.But then you get the tape test, which will only get you thrown out if you are a fatass.

    Body-Fat standards for Army Male Soldiers are:

    Age 17-20 – 20%
    Age 21-27 – 22%
    Age 28-39 – 24%
    Age 40+ – 26%

    None of those are difficult percentages to maintain if you can give up on the notion that you “deserve” to eat whatever you want, whenever you want. A 180 Apft is the product of just a few hours of exercise a week, and hitting bodyfat standards is the product of diet adjustment, and there is no excuse for a healthy individual failing at either.

  33. Hondo says:

    If the IDF ever get an effective weight program, they’ll be unstoppable.

  34. Ex-PH2 says:

    @27, anything is possible, but geriatric care is different from that for younger people. I simply go to the VA if I need anything. If they give me any kind of Rx, I check with my sister (teaches pre-med students) before taking anything. And since I don’t like popping pills anyway, I’m probaby better off.

  35. Eric says:

    @32. I don’t think anyone is arguing the actual “percentage” itself. It is more about the ht/wt tables that “the they” choose to determine who gets taped.

    In the early 90s, CSMs would in some cases put out guidance about certain courses, boards, etc., if someone was “taped” they don’t deserve to attend. Yes, really and I saw it in writing myself. We’ve gotten past that, but it is still a matter of unrealistic ht/wt determination by something “the they” decided would be the indicator of who is “fat” or needs to be taped.

  36. DaveO says:

    #32 Lifter: fat asses getting chaptered isn’t really the issue. It’s the standards (yes, more than a few exist in the Army) and tools used to determine who is a fatass and who isn’t.

    If you get to the tape test, there is a 7% variance built into the math, according to the worksheet. It’s +/- 3% – so technically one could have made tape, but still get chaptered.

    The other tools – the scale used to determine height, and the flexible measuring tape are equally flawed. I’m officially 5’11” & a hair over 3/4, therefore 6′. I’ve been measured as short at 5’9″ and as tall as 6’1″.

    Back in 1999 I had to go to CAS-3. A 1LT, MSC-type, was in the class and his project was to discover a low-cost but more accurate means of measuring bodyfat. The technique involved water and electricity, didn’t harm the soldier, cost the Army pennies compared to the cost of the scale + tape + paper, and was over 99% accurate.

    The Army wouldn’t accept his solution. Best guess is because the herds of GO and CSM were functionally fixated on, or invested in a system that they personally succeeded in. Change the rules, and those GO and CSM may have gotten chaptered.

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