Hooah! Being "Army Strong" means being Army lean. In the early 2000s, the military ramped up its fitness initiative. Wise commanders know that a fit Army is a strategically advantaged Army. Whether dodging bullets in Baghdad or scaling mountains in Afghanistan, extra body weight can slow you down and jeopardize your unit and your mission.
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The Army's Weight Loss Challenge
According to the head of the Army Recruiting Command, Major General Thomas Bostick, obesity is one of the greatest obstacles recruiters face to meeting quotas. Defense Department figures back that up. In a four-year period in the late 2000s, nearly 50,000 potential recruits were turned away because they failed to meet weight standards during their induction physical. Bostick proposed a diet and fitness program that would enable aspiring recruits to attain acceptable body weight and fitness standards, much like Army GED programs help them meet academic requirements.
Measurements and Markers
The primary stated objective for the Army Weight Control Program, or AWCP, is "to ensure that all personnel are able to meet the physical demands of their duties under combat conditions." One standard of measurement employed is a height/weight/age chart. Army personnel are weighed every six months, at the time of their physical fitness evaluation. If body weight exceeds the numeric standard for height, or if a commander identifies an individual as overweight, they are subjected to a body fat analysis and counseling. If warranted, candidates are referred to a "fat boy" program where they participate in informational classes and exercise programming.
On its offshoot website "Hooah 4 Health," the Army tells soldiers "watch what you eat but don't diet." The site includes a table for calculating caloric requirements--multiply your ideal body weight by 11--and debunks diet myths, advocating nutritional balance combined with portion control. This common-sense approach to weight loss allows soldiers to indulge in a weekly "treat" and discourages the use of diet pills to achieve weight goals. The site's links include educational advice on nutrition and its relationship to performance and combat readiness.
Army fitness is evaluated twice yearly and is based on scores derived from two minutes of push-ups, two minutes of sit-ups and a timed two-mile run. Soldiers must score a minimum of 180 points, with a minimum of 60 points in each category. Points are calculated by referencing performance tables based on age and gender. While these tables represent the bare minimal requirements, the Army Weight Control Program pushes overweight soldiers to exceed minimum requirements. In addition to fitness education classes, soldiers participate in group exercise, running and resistance-training programs.
The repercussions for failure to meet weight, body fat and fitness standards are harsh for a soldier desiring to climb the ranks. Individuals identified as unfit for duty due to excessive weight are barred from professional military school, are not assigned to command positions and are ineligible for promotion and re-enlistment. On the other hand, the Army offers premier military and civilian professional support, giving soldiers the all the tools they need to meet its high standards.