Group: America's obesity problem is hurting national security
Some 9 million Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are too obese to serve in the military. Add to that young people who are unfit for military service for other reasons and just 25 percent of America's youth are able to serve in the military. A group of retired military leaders are encouraging America to get a handle on its weight problem.
Obesity is a widely recognized public health crisis.
But it could it also be a threat to national security. Some 27 percent of Americans aged 17 to 24 are too fat to serve in the United States military. Add to that number those who cannot serve because they have a criminal record or have not graduated from high school, and that means as many as 75 percent of our nation's youth are not currently eligible to serve in uniform.
That's according to a new report out Tuesday entitled “Still Too Fat to Fight” from the advocacy group Mission: Readiness. In the report, the groups argues obesity is America’s greatest threat to national security.
Mission: Readiness is a nonpartisan group of 100 retired generals and admirals, including Air Force General (Ret.) Norman Seip.
"We look at this as a team effort," Seip said. "What's great about our country is that when we decide there's a problem out there that we want to solve, we go and do exactly that."
He says if America decided to rid itself of the obesity epidemic, it would be able to find a solution.
And Seip thinks finding that solution is essential if the American armed forces are to be as strong as they need to be for today's national security climate.
"At the end of the day, what keeps America safe and secure is not the tanks, and not the aircraft, and not the ships and not the technology. It's the proud men and women that serve," he said.
Seip urged Americans to embrace the new nutrition standards being implemented in America's schools, as one way to combat the problem of obesity. They're going to a lot to stem the obesity wave, he said.
Critics of the group say modern warfare makes it less important for America's fighting men and women to be physically fit. Piloting drones and driving tanks, even, are largely events done sitting in a chair.
"You never know where you're going to find yourself in the military," Seip said. "We don't pick the wars. We don't pick the locations where we engage. Many times we'll find ourselves carrying 65-pound packs in the mountains of Afghanistan or out on a flight line working on airplanes when its 110 degrees."
Even for those who aren't interested in serving in the army, Seip wants everyone to adopt a healthier lifestyle and to promote the same values within their families and communities.
"You're going to be a better person in that work force out there," he said. "It's just as competitive as what we find in the military."
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