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A Threat to National Security?

December 14, 2010 | Captain Hannah He

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 Many people think that the current Army height/weight standards are outdated and do not promote the kind of warrior we need today.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.


3 Comments

  • Luke Ulrich
    12/15/2010 5:07 PM
    I heartily agree with your assessment of MREs! From my limited experience of Army training as a cadet both at Warrior Forge at Ft Lewis and the Leaders Training Course at Ft Knox, MREs are simply not appropriate for garrison meals. The food is far too heavy and calorie-rich to be fully digested by Soldiers or cadets. Why hasn't the Army figured this out??
  • Comment removed by admin.
  • Susan Camoroda
    12/27/2010 12:21 PM
    LT Guarendi,

    The First Lady is not the only one stating that childhood obesity is a threat to national security. Please read this article http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/04/20-4 and comments from over 100 retired GO/FOs. There is even an organization dedicated to this effort : http://www.missionreadiness.org/. Their letter to Congress states their concern. http://cdn.missionreadiness.org/CNR-Sign-On-Letter-2.pdf

    The article states that this is not the first time the military has been concerned about the nutrition of our youth - during WWII the opposite was the problem - inadequate nutrition.

    Blogging is a great way to communicate your opinion. But also research the facts before you speak. I read many people expressing a view that the First Lady has no business getting involved in nutrition. I disagree. As a mother concerned about the welfare of her children and all the children of America she is speaking from the heart. And as First Lady, she is adding her voice to those of 100s of retired (and current if you are aware of the new Army TC on Physical Fitness and LTC Hertling's mission to change the way the Army eats and maintains health and fitness: "We are seeing many soldiers entering our profession who need phased conditioning methods and improved nutritional habits," said Hertling. "This is not (just) an Army problem," he said. "This is a civilian problem that we're receiving, and fixing." http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/dec/01/yogurt-in-soda-out-army-revamps-training-diet/

    As a young First Lieutenant, you need to be aware of the messages your senior leaders are sending, the publications they are writing, and the programs they are instituting. You are correct that the Army needs to lead the way - support the cause.

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