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The Times-Tribune, Butch Comegys/AP

Military Considers “Fat Camp” to Help Overweight Recruits Slim Down

January 14, 2009 10:59 AM
by Emily Coakley
The U.S. Army is considering a weight-loss camp for people who want to enlist but do not meet weight requirements, though enrollment is increasing on its own.

Fat Camp Before Boot Camp?

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In an effort to recruit more people, the U.S. Army has opened a school at Fort Jackson, S.C., that lets would-be soldiers get their GEDs before moving on to basic training. Recruits, according to Army guidelines, must be high school graduates.

Maj. Gen. Thomas Bostick, the army’s top recruiter, wants to start a similar school for overweight recruits, the Associated Press reported.

Recruits must meet certain weight and fitness guidelines to be accepted into military service. More than 47,000 people who wanted to join the military were refused because of their weight, according to Army statistics from the past four years and cited by AP. As America’s obesity epidemic grows, weight is expected to be an obstacle for more recruits than other health problems, a criminal record, or lack of a high school diploma or GED.

Getting people to serve during the unpopular Iraq War has been difficult for army recruiters, who continually have to meet growing recruitment goals. As such, the U.S. Army has already relaxed its standards for people who are overweight. A waiver program in 2007 allowed 1,500 recruits who had body mass indexes that were too high, but who could pass the required fitness tests, to enlist, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

The military’s struggle with finding recruits who aren’t overweight is a major change for officials who, a generation ago, were concerned about recruits who didn’t have the proper diet and were “undernourished,” the Monitor said.

But the Army may not have to rely on creating a weight-loss camp to bring in new recruits. As the economy has soured in the past few months, military recruitment has risen in the United States and United Kingdom.

In South Dakota, for example, the Army Reserve and South Dakota Air National Guard are reporting more people interested in and signing up to enlist, the television station KSFY of Sioux Falls reported late last week.

“What we have seen is people wanting to get an extra income in addition to their job just in case something were to happen in the future,” said Air National Guard Sr. Master Sgt. Brian Voges in an interview with the station.

Reference: Military careers; fitness, obesity, and weight loss guides

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