That was the message from Rear Admiral (ret.) James A. Barnett, Jr. at a policy meeting May 23, 2011 in Washington, D.C.
Speaking for Mission: Readiness, a nonpartisan organization of over 300 senior retired military leaders, RAM Barrett called attention to the fact that, according to the Department of Defense, 75% of the 17 to 24 year olds in the United States cannot serve in the military, primarily because they are unfit, do not have a high school diploma or have a criminal record. 25% of young Americans are too overweight to join the military. Approximately 1,200 individuals are discharged from military service at the end of one year because they exceed the service’s weight standards. Barnett said that obesity was “eating away at our national security.” He indicated that the armed forces were taking steps to improve the food on military bases and in Department of Defense vending machines and snack food offerings. He also indicated that overweight soldiers were more subject to sprains and strains, necessitating their removal from combat operations.
Asked about the spouses of soldiers deployed overseas who reportedly experience significant weight gain, followed by drastic weight loss efforts when their spouses return home and if the Department of Defense had research on this population or programs for them, he said he wasn’t aware of any.
The event was sponsored by Weight Watchers International and arranged by the National Journal. David P. Kirchhoff, president of Weight Watchers Intl. said that he was optimistic that the message was finally getting through that obesity was about health, not appearance and that while there was not going to be a ‘silver bullet’ we had to bring “silver buckshot” to fight obesity. Mission: Readiness issued a 2010 Report, Too Fat to Fight. An update is in the works.