Group Warns More Recruits 'Too Fat to Fight'

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It's being called a homegrown national security threat -- the military is having to turn away more recruits because of obesity.

Weight problems are now the number one medical reason why military recruits are rejected, with more than a quarter of young adults being overweight.

A group called Mission: Readiness says reversing the problem is imperative and they're calling on members of Congress to help.

Now, a group of retired military officers says it's a wake-up call.

"Since 1995, the proportion of recruits rejected during their physical exams because they were overweight has increased by nearly 70 percent," explained retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Norman Seip.

The grim realities are documented in the recent "Too Fat to Fight" report by Mission: Readiness. Although there isn't one fix, the group of retired military officers say schools are the best place to start.

They want Congress to:

  • Get junk food out of schools.
  • Improve nutritional standards and the quality of school lunches.
  • Provide more children and families with access to programs that help them lose weight and eat better.

The Senate Agriculture and Nutrition Committee has already passed legislation that achieves most of the group's goals, but the bill only funds half of the $10 billion Mission:Readiness is requesting.

"Rigorous physical and mental standards are critical if we are to maintain the fighting readiness of our military," retired Brig. Gen. Clara Adams-Ender of the group said.

This isn't the first time weight problems have been listed as a matter of national security.

During World War II, military officers had the opposite problem -- too many recruits were malnourished. Congress acted then and is poised to act this time as well.

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