COVID has not been friendly to any of us. For soldiers in the US Army parts of it were downright miserable. Unable to use the gyms on post, and forbidden from group workouts or physical training, many found the pounds packing on. As many were stuck in their barracks rooms or houses, the motivation to work out alone and the equipment to do so were nonexistent.
Staff Sergeant Daniel Murillo, 27, told the Associated Press that early in the lockdown the cookies and chips were easy companions and snacks during his countless hours on the laptop in his barracks room. Combined with the lack of exercise, the pounds just racked up. “I could notice it… The uniform was tighter.” At 5’5” when he reached 192lbs it was incredibly noticeable to him and those around him.
This was now a service-wide problem. The Army alone reported 10,000 active duty soldiers became obese between February 2019 and June 2021. This represented nearly ¼ of the troops studied in the new research. The Marines and Navy saw a surge in obese troops as well. Tracey Perez Koehlmoos, director of the Center for Health Services Research at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Maryland led this research. “The Army and the other services need to focus on how to bring the forces back to fitness.”
This is a concept leadership has been focused on for at least a decade, with retired Marine Corps Brigadier General Stephen Cheney co-authoring a separate report on the subject. “The numbers have not gotten better. They are just getting worse and worse and worse.” When it comes to the topic of a lack of recruits and growth, Cheney says “It is devastating. We have a dramatic national security problem.”
He’s not wrong either.
FY22 was the first time the Army failed to make its recruiting goal for the first time. Falling 15,000 short, or roughly 25% below what was required. With 75% of Americans aged 17-to-24 unfit for military service for multiple reasons, weight is a major cause of that. Impacting 1 in 10 recruits, the problem is ever-growing.
When already on active duty, overweight soldiers are much more likely to fail at the new core fitness requirements. While these vary based on the branch, they are tools specific to each branch. The Army Combat Fitness Test is the most recent test of ability for the US Army. Failing that could mean their careers are put on a military version of probation, or possibly the end of their career.
While many branches try extensively to rehabilitate and return the servicemember, a large chunk of this comes down to personal responsibility.
Koehlmoos’ testing looked at two time periods: Feb. 2019 to Jan. 2020 and September 2020 to June 2021. The records for those who lacked complete records in both periods were taken away as were soldiers who were pregnant the year before or during the study. This kept the playing field not only even but well established across the board.
In this survey, they uncovered 200,000 soldiers remained. 27% of previously healthy soldiers turned overweight. 16% of overweight soldiers became obese. Pre-pandemic, the obese made up 18% of the study, by 2021 it was 23%. This figure comes from the body mass index (BMI) calculation. 18.5% to 25% is considered healthy, 25 to just under 30 is overweight, with 30 and above are considered obese.
Granted, numerous experts discredit their BMI calculation as incredibly outdated and inaccurate. By not taking muscle mass or underlying health tools into account, the system has incredible flaws in it. Given its ease of use and ability to be done anywhere unlike a much more reliable and accurate such as a dip tank, it has remained unchanged for years.
This is another area that was introduced with good intentions, but no senior leadership has had the backbone to challenge it. It has helped weaken our military, and it is an area we would be wise to invest in, not integrating transgender troops and promoting the leftist agenda. Fitness is the core of our military, and without it, we are doomed to failure.