Childhood obesity means fewer recruits
By Charles “Skip” Bowen and Vincent W. Patton III
Published: July 23, 2014
We retired four and 12 years ago, respectively, after a combined 64 years of active-duty service. Since retirement, both of us enjoy the great privilege of working closely with several military service organizations that brings us in regular contact with many of the great men and women currently serving in today’s U.S. armed forces.
Although we refrain from making comparisons, [You make a big comparison here.] we strongly believe that the “all-volunteer” post-9/11 U.S. military services have evolved into the greatest fighting force the world has ever seen. [Too much technology for that to be true. Also, I was one of the first to enter the military just after the draft ended or in other words, the start of the volunteer military, in 1974.] We must maintain our force readiness in order for America to remain strong. However, to maintain that readiness, we are challenged as we look to our future pool of candidates for the military.
Department of Defense statistics show that 71 percent of 17-to-24-year-olds in the U.S. are not eligible for recruitment primarily because they are too overweight, poorly educated [How can this be. You have to be a high school graduate. Maybe you are talking about the 30% of high school graduates that fail the ASVAB test.], or have a serious criminal record. This is a national security issue. How many are due to too overweight? Also, those are the three areas mental (education), physical (over weight), and emotional or social (criminal).
According to the same source each branch of the Military met or exceeded its recruitment goal, except the Coast Guard and they were close to 100%. Also, the Military is shrinking in all 5 branches. So, that less recruits will be needed.
Surveys done for the Army’s Accessions Command, which carries the responsibility for recruiting and initial training of Army recruits, and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more than 1 in 5 young Americans are too heavy to join the military. [Only 1 in 5? That still leaves about 80% that are NOT too heavy.] As retired senior enlisted leaders and members of the nonprofit organization Mission: Readiness, we have seen firsthand the challenges that added costs and missed training days can have on the service. All told, the military currently spends more than $1 billion per year on weight-related diseases. [How come, if they are not getting into the Military at all?]
Fortunately, there are ways to reverse these disturbing trends. We propose three key steps that would make a positive difference for America’s youth and preserve our long-term national security in the process.
Step One: Support healthier eating habits in our nation’s schools.
Extra calories from snacks and sugary drinks contribute to obesity and the rise of related chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Thirty-three percent of U.S. children and adolescents are on the way to becoming overweight or obese, and 25 percent of children ages 5 to 10 exhibit early warning signs for heart disease. Students consume almost 400 billion junk food calories at school per year, equal to almost 2 billion candy bars and more than the weight of the aircraft carrier Midway. One straightforward way to address this problem is to support efforts to offer healthy alternatives to junk food in school. We both grew up in diverse places in some pretty diverse schools and while we may not have always liked the lunches the public school system provided, we remember the options as being relatively healthy. What is consumed at school is only a small part of the problem, but it is a part that our tax dollars are supplementing. We need to encourage healthier eating habits among America’s youth in any way we can.
Children go to school about 180 days a year. When I went we had only lunch, so that meant 180 meals maximum and many times I brought lunch.
365 days times 3 = 1095 meals in a year. 180 meals represents about 16.5% of a child’s meals annually. Is this small percentage worth all of this attention?
Federal Government needs to stay out of education altogether. It is unconstitutional.
Step Two: Get kids to be more active.
[In theory I agree. I used to walk or sometimes ride a bicycle to and from school. I would play baseball, some other sports.]
Maintaining a healthy weight requires exercise in addition to a proper diet. [I did not a great diet and exercise during winters in Minnesota was sketchy at best. We took our daughter to school. She almost never walked. She is thin. She has played computer games all of her life. So, I would beg to differ. I feel that if both parents were fat when young you are going to be fat also.] As we support alternatives to unhealthy foods in our schools, we should also work to get more opportunities for physical activity back in. The first time a young person runs a mile in this country should not be when he shows up at recruit training. [Since when did you have to run a mile at Coast Guard boot camp?]
Supporting physical activity has to become a priority and it has to start young. A nation of couch potatoes cannot defend the homeland and cannot fight and win wars. [With the exception of the Marines and the Army (even some of these will be in tanks, etc); most will be in machines, boats, ships, airplanes, etc. pushing buttons or clicking on a computer screen (controlling drones), pretty much what a couch potato is doing.]
Step Three: Support making summer breaks healthier for youth in your area.
Many students gain weight three times faster during the summer months than during the school year, according to a study by Ohio State University. [Yes kids do tend to grow.] That is not surprising since summer days are often spent playing video games, snacking on junk food and drinking sugar-sweetened beverages instead of engaging in outdoor activities and healthy eating. Kids need support to stay mentally and physically fit, and expanded opportunities are needed for low-income children to participate in summer camps and learning activities that keep minds and bodies in motion while connecting to learning during the school year. [This will not help much.]
For America to remain strong, we need a strong military. [Are you expecting Japan or Germany to attack us?] The next generation [The whole generation? I doubt it. All branches of the military are shrinking, needing less and less. The Coast Guard needed less than 4,000 and it will need less yet, in the future.] of Americans must have the physical ability to step up and take our places. Obesity in our youth is a growing problem for our society. It steals our children’s health and the negative impacts on their lives are mounting. Further, obesity is having a negative and growing impact on the readiness of our nation’s military. This is not just a societal issue. This is not just a recruitment issue. It is a national security issue. [How is weight an issue when 80% make the weight limits?]
Charles “Skip” Bowen was the 10th master chief petty officer of the U.S. Coast Guard. He is vice president of government relations for Bollinger Shipyards. Vincent W. Patton III was the eighth master chief petty officer of the Coast Guard. He is executive director of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association Educational Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing educational assistance for people engaged in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.
Changes in Boot-camp:
I went to Boot-camp out on Government Island, Alameda County, California, in 1974.
We never had:
Fire, Fire, Fire. We had Reveille piped into berthing area every morning. We got on our dungarees with boon-dockers, and white navy cap (circular cap) and marched to chow. It was first come first serve. We tried to beat the Alpha Company to chow every morning. This company was the Coast Guard’s Drill Team.
Planks (Never heard of this one.),
Superman (Again, never heard of this one either.)
Never ran a mile, that I know of. Never tested on it. We did not have an obstacle course, either.
The only physical test was in swimming.
We did not have Calisthenics first thing in the morning. We marched nearly everywhere, if we did not double time it.
We did do field stripping/cleaning of an M-1 Carbine, which of course was NOT used in real life; M-16s were. We would also high port the M-1, occasionally. That is, having the M-1 in both hands it would be held (initial starting position) at chin level and then alternate between pushing it out at arms length then back to the chip then pushed over your head and back down, etc. M-1 was quite a bit heavier than an M-16.
I can remember after we got a series of shots in both shoulders we did a number of pushups.
We also went to a Marine base to the rifle range, part of one day. We were not trained just tested. If we did well we a got ribbon for rifle (M-16) and or pistol (.45 Caliber).
While at CG Station Santa Rosa (Pensacola, Florida area), I would go on a CG30534 and CG41322. I believe those were right. We did NOT have training exercises. We did not have 6 man crews. Ours were 3 man crews.