Army recruits fitness fails

| January 11, 2018 | 84 Comments

According to a USAToday link sent to us by HMC Ret, the Army is having trouble finding qualified recruits in southern States.

The regional distinction also suggests that government policy can influence fitness, and the South may be falling behind the rest of the country. “Some of the greatest public health achievements have come as the result of state-level policy change,” the study found.

Eleven states — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia — had among the highest rates of recruits who become injured during basic training.

The article claims that only 23% of prospects are fully qualified compared to 50% of candidates during World War II.

That number also includes those not qualified because of other factors, such as a criminal record or lack of a high school diploma. But physical fitness remains a growing problem for the military.

“What we’re seeing is a less fit population,” said Mark Hertling, a retired three-star general who served on the president’s physical fitness council under President Barack Obama.

The solution, according to the “experts” is more sidewalks.

Bornstein and Hertling said the Army cannot fix the problem without support from society. The study cited bringing physical education back to schools or improving infrastructure, such as sidewalks, to encourage walking.

Or parents who will kick their kids out of the house a couple of times a day.

Category: Army News

Comments (84)

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  1. IDC SARC says:

    Food in Mouth Disease is an epidemic.

    • Martinjmpr says:

      As is sitting-on-your-ass-playing-video-games or surfing-pRon-on-the-intertubez-all-day.

      Getting old sucks – I just turned 56 a couple of weeks ago. But as sucky as it is to age, I have to say I feel nothing but sorry for the kids who have to grow up in this culture.

      If I’m 100% honest with myself, I have to admit that if I was a hormone-ridden teenager today I’d have a difficult time resisting the temptations of the likes of video games, pRon, smart phones, etc.

      • rgr769 says:

        Part of the problem is our society of pocket screen staring youngsters and young adults. When I go to the gym I see them staring into their iphones constantly when they are resting between sets or in the steam room. My granddaughter (13) is on her Ipod constantly. We have become a nation of sedentary over eaters. But I have noticed for over 20 years how many overweight teenagers there are in high school ROTC units and bands that march in our Veterans Day parade. I would venture a guess that 40 years ago less than 10% of junior and high school kids were overweight. Certainly more sidewalks is not a solution; the kids will just walk to the same extent, but staring at their phones.

    • Graybeard says:

      There is also the problem that in many urban areas letting the kids run free is almost (or actually) considered child endangerment.

      For my country-dwelling grandkids, they get to get out and run around – although their mothers still have to ‘prompt’ them from time to time. Computers & video games are an issue even so. But at least we are not in danger of having “child protection services” called on us if we let them out of the house without an adult holding their hands.

      • Jeff LPH 3, 63-66 says:

        Growing up in Queens NYC during the 1950’S had us kids playing stick ball, Punch ball, chinese hand ball (asses up) mumbily peg, stoop ball, metal roller skating in the street, ringo levio, hide an seek, Johhny rides a pony, dodge ball, Nock hockey, flipping Davey Crockett and Bazooka bubble gum Base ball cards etc. Mom would not let me get a DA haircut, wear a motorcycle jacket and engineer boots and a Garrison belt with the buckle sharpened was also a no no.

  2. A Proud Infidel®™ says:

    How about putting them on a “Fat Boy Program” like they did in 1991 when I first came in? I remember seeing Drill Sergeants taking desserts off of the fat kid’s trays and putting them on those of the skinny kids telling them they needed to feed themselves more.

    • Twist says:

      I don’t understand how they even made it to Sand Hill (or other BCT equivalent). At 30th AG they had a special Platoon for the fat bodies and the super out of shape people where they got them in better shape before they would send them on to their training Companies. In 92 while waiting my turn to go to training I met a dude that had been in that special Platoon for about a month and a half.

      • Bernie Hackett says:

        When I was in, back when the basic load was two rocks (1967) they had the “Motivational Platoon”, which was where the fat boys and those who could not pass a PT test went. One of the guys from my company ended up there, and they shaped him up real quick. Passing tree trunks back in forth does that to a body.

      • LRRP2 says:

        Back in the day (early 1968), it was the Drill SGTs job to whip everyone into shape . Skinny kids as well as the chubby ones got some extra attention , but they all seemed to make it okay . They made us all do stuff that we never thought possible before enlisting .

    • Skippy says:

      We had what they called a DCU Wash-Out platoon
      Anything from broke finger nails to I did my 2 mile in 1 hour
      Hell we had a kid that could not do sit-ups
      No matter how hard he tried

    • OldManchu says:

      We had a fat boy PT group in my at Planet Ord in 89 – 92. I never saw more than several dudes in it at a time and they didn’t stay in it long that’s for sure. They had a second PT session after final formation and it was usually some fast longish run. These dudes weren’t slow or slobs by any means, but they crossed over the magic weight line for their height.

      • OldManchu says:

        …my Company…

        • Fyrfighter says:

          Yeah, BMI is one of the dumbest measurements around.. it’ll classify a body builder with single digit body fat as morbidly obese… with technology available today, they need to change it to a straight body fat measurement, and be done with it.

          • Aysel says:

            I have a friend who’s currently in, she likes the pick up heavy things, they are always trying to put her on some kind of over weight profile. She went and took a dunkin donut test and she’s at 12%. You could bounce a quarter off her ass and yet they still try to tell her to lose weight because of the measurements.

          • rgr769 says:

            When I was in the 10th SFG at Devens in 1971-74, we had a CPT we affectionately called the Round Ranger. He clearly couldn’t pass the BMI and tape requirements today, but we had a 5 mile fun run every month (except dead of winter) and he frequently finished in the top 10 with the ex-marathoners.

            • SFC D says:

              Had buddy in ANCOC built like a grapefruit on pencil legs. Strained the zipper on his ACU’s, pants sliding off his ass. Overweight by Army standards, barely passed tape. 300+ APFT and a certified badass ranger, HALO, Pathfinder, all that high speed shit.

        • David says:

          Had a weightlifter in my department at DLI who was sent to Ord for evaluation for his weight… he flexed and literally split the seams on his khaki shirtsleeves – he passed. Had a platoon sergeant in Germany who could not do a normal pushup well since his chest hit the ground before breaking the plane… was funny watching the platoon gazelles trying to keep up with Mike on PT tests. As one put it – “he kinda bounces along like the Incredible Hulk – at a 5 minutes mile pace.”

  3. Twist says:

    This isn’t new. A week after I moved Companies to take over a Platoon as PSG we had a Company APFT. One of the guys that I inherited ran his 2 miles and crossed the finish line at a little over 25 minutes. My 1SG, who was standing next to me, was so disgusted that he just yelled at the Soldier “turn around and run it again”. I couldn’t say anything because I was speechless that someone just “ran” their 2 mile run at a walking pace.

    • A Proud Infidel®™ says:

      I came back in after a nine year break in service and left many a twenty-something eating my dust on PT runs and ruck marches.

      • Twist says:

        Most of my guys were in excellent shape. I was never a good runner and it sucked keeping up with kids 15-20 years my junior without seeming to be sucking wind. After runs I would act like it was nothing and then go into my CP, shut the door, and then collapse in my chair and die.

        • Fyrfighter says:

          I suck at running, and definitely can’t keep up with the 20 somethings these days ( my basic was ’88) but I’ll be damned if I can’t do better than that.. hell, wildland red-card test is 3 miles, with a 45lb pack, in 45 min, and we do that every year!

        • Ex-PH2 says:

          This is interesting. I could and did run three miles every night when I lived in Chicago, but I could literally not run more than 10 blocks without nearly collapsing because I couldn’t get the hang of breathing when running. Ditto swimming. I’d do 30 laps (down & back) in the 25 meter pool at the Y three nights at week and twice on weekends, but couldn’t swim fast enough to get out of the way of a slow barge because I couldn’t figure out how to breathe. I was always out of breath.
          It’s for that reason I thought speedwalking (or race walking) might work better for me, and it actually does work. I guess it’s the pounding when running that did me in, same thing with swimming. I could tread water in the deep end for hours, but swim laps nonstop?? Not in this lifetime.

  4. Yef says:

    Natural selection at work.

    If you do not educate your kids to work out, including lots of cardio, you are selecting your kids out. for the very young ones, soccer is the best way, so they do cardio while playing. For the older kids, they need to have a real fitness program to balance their sedentary way of life.

    • Sapper3307 says:

      My kid is in youth hockey, he loves it because you can “bump” kids. Thanks to global warming we have an extended season.

    • Graybeard says:

      In Texas the State Religion is football. Although futbol is popular as well.

      • Fyrfighter says:

        Brazilian Jui Jitsu .. now that’s a cardio and strenght workout that’ll kick you ass! My teenage son put on 20 lbs of muscle, and I lost 30 lbs of, umm, “not muscle”… and mine was in 3 months…

        • Just An Old Dog says:

          BJJ is a good all around workout, but after you reach a certain level you pretty much maintain it.
          My Son started last May at about 210 pounds and stays around 195.
          There’s 3 guys there that have been at it for a while ( ones a Black Belt) that are a bit Husky. They are schooled enough to know exactly when to spend energy.
          When the less experienced, younger, fitter guys roll with them, they just let them spazz out and get tired.
          Then they arm bar, triangle or choke the shit out of them.
          Just curious, which School or affiliation do you guys train in?

    • 26Limabeans says:

      Around here you either work the farm or work in the woods or both. It’s like the way it used to be.

      Oh, we got fat kids but they suffer from the welfare gene passed on in the womb. The sound of potato chip bags while momma sits on the couch for 9 months preps them for the next ten years of breast feeding while momma continues to sit on the couch.
      Where’s daddy? He comes around on EBT day.

      • Just An Old Dog says:

        Was out for a drive the other day and saw a huge ass sign on a TACO BELL
        ” We Accept EBT,,, Inside Only”
        I guess they justify it by making people have to get out of their cars to get that anal explosion in a box.

  5. OldSoldier54 says:

    Speaking of overweight, who is that large “econo-size” troop in the photo?

  6. CCO says:

    I was one of those guys; not fat (then), but I was in poor physical condition when I reported for Basic at Fort Jackson at age 29. My two mile time went from 26 minutes to 18 minutes but the time I graduated. My weight fell from 172 to 155. Later I got my time down to under 16 minutes. In fact, I think I ran my best time at Dugway—in November, in a light snow—when the LT had two NCOs do a record PT test on me so she could put me up for an award; I had flunked a record PT the previous August. It was pushups that were my bugaboo by then with my long, skinny arms and not-Charles Atlas chest. I’ve got a long torso so sit-ups were a breeze.

  7. Dinotanker says:

    In all my years in the USAR and ARNG, I have only seen two dudes as big as the Large Econo-Size soldier in that picture. One was a long serving MSG in the Montana Guard, who transferred out of the cavalry troop I was assigned to after he realized he could not through either the commanders or loaders hatch on an M60A1. The other was an O-6 who was at the time one of the few board certified Maxilo-Facial (I know you dirty minded SOB’s are going to run with that…) surgeons in the USAR.

    Is the guy in this picture REALLY in the Army?? WTF? I used to catch hell for being 5/8, 175 as not quite setting a good example for the soldiers.

  8. Skippy says:

    Crazy stuff half of us were out of shape at the start of basic
    Then we all made it to the end . My first AIT school was a different story
    Last APFT ONLY 1/3 of us passed there was a big difference between
    Ft Sill (basic) and fort lost in the woods fot my first AIT…. my second AIT At Knox
    Was back up to standerd with Sill

  9. Jay says:

    Used to love being a MEPS liaison and have a kid hang like a smoked ham when it came to doing pull ups on a pre ship. All they had to do was 4…..and they would grunt, struggle, kip, and finally fart there way over the bar ONCE…..and then get pissed when I sat them down and told them they were going home until they could do 4.

  10. Dave Hardin says:

    You People need to stop the Body Shaming. Just because some people do not metabolize nutrition as quickly as others is no reason to shame them.

    Special Valor awards are being given to warriors that never get out of a chair and dole out death with a joystick. What are the fitness limitations for that?

    Body Shaming needs to stop, not all warriors have wieners, valor has nothing to do with fitness and refusing to kill the enemy does not stop someone from getting the Medal of Honor.

    I try to be humble about my Greek God like physique, the less fortunate should not be humiliated.

  11. HMC Ret says:

    I gained weight in boot camp. I had been doing very strenuous work and found boot camp not at all physically demanding. Well, it was Navy boot, after all. My biggest problem with boot was getting up at zero dark thirty. My last mile and a half just prior to retirement was 9 minutes 20 seconds. Let’s just say that since then I haven’t done all that well.

    At least they have identified the solution to the problem: sidewalks. Who knew that shovel-ready projects were the answer to the nation’s obesity problem. In a real world …

  12. The Other Whitey says:

    I don’t know if my kids will choose to enlist or not, but they sure as hell won’t be too fat. A complete lack of video games is a good start to that. Going hunting with their dad every fall and hiking with both parents won’t hurt, either.

  13. USMC Steve says:

    Simple fix to this is to add three weeks to the initial part of basic that is nothing but PT. Like a version of the Marine Corps Physical Conditioning Platoon.

  14. AnotherPat says:

    Interesting.

    In reading the USA Article. The study was conducted for the Army, not the other Sister Services, during 2010-2013 under the Obama Admonistration.

    Oher interesting aspect is that if you look at the States identified, their College Football teams seemed to have no problems winning College Championships from 2010-2013.

    Perhaps the study needs to be updated to the current timeframe? Or perhaps more folks in the South are willing to join the Army versus others who live elsewhere?

    What does TAH think?

  15. lily says:

    The military needs to stop using BMI because it’s outdated. Also, it’s ironic that it would be those states that have the problem because you know a lot of them think California would top that list.

    1. The person who dreamed up the BMI said explicitly that it could not and should not be used to indicate the level of fatness in an individual.

    The BMI was introduced in the early 19th century by a Belgian named Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet. He was a mathematician, not a physician. He produced the formula to give a quick and easy way to measure the degree of obesity of the general population to assist the government in allocating resources. In other words, it is a 200-year-old hack.

    2. It is scientifically nonsensical.

    There is no physiological reason to square a person’s height (Quetelet had to square the height to get a formula that matched the overall data. If you can’t fix the data, rig the formula!). Moreover, it ignores waist size, which is a clear indicator of obesity level.

    3. It is physiologically wrong.

    It makes no allowance for the relative proportions of bone, muscle and fat in the body. But bone is denser than muscle and twice as dense as fat, so a person with strong bones, good muscle tone and low fat will have a high BMI. Thus, athletes and fit, health-conscious movie stars who work out a lot tend to find themselves classified as overweight or even obese.

    4. It gets the logic wrong.

    The CDC says on its Web site that “the BMI is a reliable indicator of body fatness for people.” This is a fundamental error of logic. For example, if I tell you my birthday present is a bicycle, you can conclude that my present has wheels. That’s correct logic. But it does not work the other way round. If I tell you my birthday present has wheels, you cannot conclude I got a bicycle. I could have received a car. Because of how Quetelet came up with it, if a person is fat or obese, he or she will have a high BMI. But as with my birthday present, it doesn’t work the other way round. A high BMI does not mean an individual is even overweight, let alone obese. It could mean the person is fit and healthy, with very little fat.

    5. It’s bad statistics.

    Because the majority of people today (and in Quetelet’s time) lead fairly sedentary lives and are not particularly active, the formula tacitly assumes low muscle mass and high relative fat content. It applies moderately well when applied to such people because it was formulated by focusing on them. But it gives exactly the wrong answer for a large and significant section of the population, namely the lean, fit and healthy. Quetelet is also the person who came up with the idea of “the average man.” That’s a useful concept, but if you try to apply it to any one person, you come up with the absurdity of a person with 2.4 children. Averages measure entire populations and often don’t apply to individuals.

    6. It is lying by scientific authority.

    Because the BMI is a single number between 1 and 100 (like a percentage) that comes from a mathematical formula, it carries an air of scientific authority. But it is mathematical snake oil.

    7. It suggests there are distinct categories of underweight, ideal, overweight and obese, with sharp boundaries that hinge on a decimal place.

    That’s total nonsense.

    8. It makes the more cynical members of society suspect that the medical insurance industry lobbies for the continued use of the BMI to keep their profits high.

    Insurance companies sometimes charge higher premiums for people with a high BMI. Among such people are all those fit individuals with good bone and muscle and little fat, who will live long, healthy lives during which they will have to pay those greater premiums.

    9. Continued reliance on the BMI means doctors don’t feel the need to use one of the more scientifically sound methods that are available to measure obesity levels.

    Those alternatives cost a little bit more, but they give far more reliable results.

    10. It embarrasses the U.S.

    It is embarrassing for one of the most scientifically, technologically and medicinally advanced nations in the world to base advice on how to prevent one of the leading causes of poor health and premature death (obesity) on a 200-year-old numerical hack developed by a mathematician who was not even an expert in what little was known about the human body back then. https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106268439

  16. Tallywhagger says:

    We had two guys in the basic training cycle who were way over weight when they arrived. The senior DI immediately named the guy from NJ BigFatDaddy and the name stuck. The uptick in the story is that BFD really wanted to be in the Army and he worked his ass off, trying to qualify. Because of his attitude, the DIs and guys in his platoon worked with him and provided loads of encouragement.

    BFD was losing at least 10 lbs a week, if not more, and had reissued fatigues within three weeks.

    Despite all of hat it was pretty certain that he was going to recycle but he had support from the training company.

    My recollection is that they had a two week program for guys like him who just about there. That was at Ft. Knox. For sure, the next time his family or friends saw him, they were looking at a different young man.

    Basic was easy for me, I had worked as a longshoreman before going in and could have passed the PT test the day I arrived, albeit, I did get a lot better with push ups before it was all said and done.

    The worst part of basic, for me, was the awful combat boots. They did not fit well and I ended up getting compound stress fractures from running in them. Still, even after profiling for a couple of weeks, the two mile run was no problem.

    Profiling in basic is NOT a good thing!

    I doubt that I can run a quarter of mile, these days, but I do walk a mile at lunch time, everyday. The dog appreciates that as much as my heart!

    • A Proud Infidel®™ says:

      We had a guy in my OSUT Platoon who lost 84 pounds through Basic & AIT, his own Mom walked right past him on Graduation Day!

      • Tallywhagger says:

        To my experience, 20 lbs amounts to about one inch in waist size. That probably varies depending on body shape.

        I weighed about 180 when I quit smoking. within about six months I had blimped out to 230. Waist size at outset was 36. I topped out at 40 but the cigarettes were behind me and I have never looked back. It took about six months to drop the weight but 180 no longer seems achievable, 190 would be looking good and a 38 waist is good enough for me!

        Congratulations to your classmate, losing 84 lbs is an impressive accomplishment!

        I should be ashamed to say it but I gained weight in the Army and had to buy a larger class A uniform to out-process. Being in the Army was my first sedentary job! And, the food at WRAMC was great.

  17. Green Thumb says:

    This is stupid.

    Easy fix: “Fat Boy PT”.

    Run them up Kolekole twice a day.

    Problem solved.

  18. 1610desig says:

    Purely anecdotal but I noticed a remarkable number of AF fat bodies deployed supporting OIF…I joked that maybe that was their fate if they couldn’t make tape…I dropped eight pounds both deployments and returned rather sinewy….mostly the heat and drab DFAC food…maybe it worked for them too but since many were on four-month deployments (no shit), I kind of doubt it

  19. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

    I haven’t been able to read the full study yet, but my math tells me that five of the states listed supply 25% of all the personnel for both active and reserve components of our military…consequently having higher injury rates from those states doesn’t seem unusual on the face of it.

    I’d also be curious as to what MOSs were involved in the study to draw this conclusion. Were they primarily sedentary positions or mobility positions? All of these factor in…

    Until I can read the actual report though I’m reluctant to draw too many conclusions.

    The states in question have issues with obesity as does most of America, but it seems to me that many of these younger troopers are bigger, stronger, and more fit than many of those who were with me way back when the Peanut Farmer was in charge…we had a lot of potato boys at both Fort Dix and Benning and they were “road” guards in those days to help them become something other than potato boys.

    I’ll be looking to access the full report and not just the abstract.

  20. Frank says:

    The recruits which weren’t fat were all hopelessly addicted to crystal meth👌

    • rgr769 says:

      That’s seems like a serious over generalization. Where and when did this occur? Seems like they would all be guilty of fraudulent enlistment, since they would have to deny such drug use when they enlisted. Plus, I never saw any drugies happy be in the Army. In RVN, we had a whole barracks full of them in the rear awaiting court martial for refusing to go to the field. Most of them because they knew they couldn’t get their drugs in the bush.

  21. Thunderstixx says:

    America got fat, along with the military when they outlawed amphetamines back in the 70’s.
    For the military recruits, send them out to the field at Ft Polk for a couple months and give them nothing but Vietnam Era C-Rations…
    I never gained any weight when I had to eat those things…
    Either that or send them to Alaska and make them eat the same damn liver and onions they fed us two or three times a week…
    Myself, I’m for getting back to the White Cross days and the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Fat Freddy and his poster, Keed Skills, Skeed Slills, ummm never mind !!!

  22. Devtun says:

    The British Army, and the Chinese Army are apparently struggling w/ their own issues of flabby troops & recruits. I guess the being sedentary couch potato & over stuffing the pie hole is pretty universal.

  23. Ex-PH2 says:

    When I went to get my flu shot in November, I asked if I could step on the scale in the nurse’s office. As it turns out, I had dropped almost 40 pounds, and the only change I had made at all was to drop Diet Coke, or anything else with aspartame in it.

    I certainly did not refuse good food, which gives you a return for your money, while diet sodas do not do that. It seems like an odd thing to lose weight by simply eliminating one item from the grocery list, but I did that for economic reasons: the cost of a 12-can pack is nearly $5.00, which is 2/3 the cost of a pack of fresh chicken at $1.69 to $1.89 per pound.
    If aspartame is the guilty party in this, then I don’t miss it at all.

  24. Steve1371 says:

    That dude reminds me of Curly of the three stooges.

  25. FatCircles0311 says:

    Well if they’d just mandatory K-12 PE that would help a lot. Instead governments have been removing all PE from schools because some fatty ding dong gets tired.

  26. Cris says:

    I have worked on an Air Force base as a civilian for 3 years now, and it’s amazing the number of fat airmen I have seen. I’m talking excessively obese. One example is a TSgt that I’ve seen/worked with for at least 2 years and has not changed one bit. What has happened to upholding the standards? Aren’t they given so much time to reduce their weight and get back in shape? I know they do, but why doesn’t it apply to these folks? They didn’t magically gain all that weight overnight, someone in their command had to see the weight gain over time and said something.
    This TSgt also reported me to EO for how I addressed her after she came into my office and took a folder without asking. I guess the Marine in me came out.

  27. Sorensen25 says:

    “The article claims that only 23% of prospects are fully qualified compared to 50% of candidates during World War II.”

    Sure but aside from being a warm body, were there really many requirements for joining the military like there are now? Somehow I doubt it.

    Before anyone asks, I was a USMC recruiter. Yes, most kids aren’t qualified or interested, hence the reason why nobody volunteers for recruiting duty.

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