This week the First Lady declared that the childhood obesity epidemic is a threat to national security. Because more and more Americans are no longer fit for military duty due to obesity and other related health issues, Michelle Obama declared that America will be safer when our citizens are healthier.
On one hand, I agree. I think a healthier nation would be ideal. On the other hand, I don't think that comparing terrorism and children drinking pop is a good strategy to either garner support for the troops or promote good health. It brings both topics down to a level that most Americans won't pay attention to.
This also brings up the issue of being overweight in the Army. Many people think that the current Army height/weight standards are outdated and do not promote the kind of warrior we need today. I agree that the Army does not leave commanders with much discretion regarding the fitness of their troops. If someone is able to exceed at standardized physical fitness evaluations and serve as a leader, he should not worry about being penalized by the Army for being over their ideal weight standards.
In addition, I don't think Soldiers are getting enough information about how to properly fuel themselves based on their activity level and body type. As the First Lady pointed out, public schools and American culture are not promoting proper nutrition, and new Soldiers need indoctrination and a whole new outlook on food. They need to know that vegetables and fruit are important, and that just because they're doing PT everyday, they don't need to dramatically increase their protein intake. They need to know how to balance their meals. They also need the support of the Army as a whole to do this, from the DFAC to PX vendors to every part of the chain of command. Too often the response to a day or two in the field is, MREs! MREs are not suitable for a day in the field when it's just as easy to order a fresher bag lunch from the DFAC. They have way too many calories for the average Soldier, and were designed for a deployed environment. MREs are not the answer.
Overall, the Army needs to step up their nutrition program to reach out to new Soldiers as well as remold the thinking of leaders at every level to make sure that every Soldier is properly fueled and fed to do their job. If we can set a good example, and raise our Army families with a solid sense of nutrition, the rest of America can follow our lead.