Retired Admirals and Generals Want Your Spaghetti With Orange Sauce

Greasy school lunches are paving the way for the Taliban conquest of the United States, a group representing more than 100 retired generals and admirals warned today.

The group Mission: Readiness says childhood diets heavy on fries and pizza have made obesity the leading cause of medical disqualifications of recruits. That may not seem so threatening given that the armed services just completed their most successful recruiting year since 1973, but the general staffers have their eye on the big picture. From AP:

In a report released Tuesday, the group says that 9 million young adults, or 27 percent of all Americans ages 17 to 24, are too fat to join the military. The retired officers were on Capitol Hill advocating for passage of a wide-ranging nutrition bill that aims to make the nation's school lunches healthier.

The military group acknowledges that other things keep young adults out of the armed services, such as a criminal record or the lack of a high school diploma.

Although all branches of the military now meet or exceed recruitment goals, retired Navy Rear Adm. James Barnett Jr., a member of the officers group, says the obesity trend could affect that.

"When over a quarter of young adults are too fat to fight, we need to take notice," Barnett said. He noted that national security in the year 2030 is "absolutely dependent" on reversing child obesity rates.

In its report Too Fat to Fight [pdf], Mission: Readiness recommends the following changes to the Child Nutrition Act:

Allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture to adopt new nutrition standards that will get high-calorie, low-nutrition foods out of our schools;

Support the administration’s proposal for adequate funding to improve the quality of food available in schools and increase the number of children who have access to quality meals at school;

Deploy proven school-based programs that enlist parents in helping children adopt life-long changes in their eating and exercise habits.

Note that obesity is the leading cause of medical disqualifications. In recent House Armed Services Committee testimony [pdf], Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford L. Stanley cited a mishmash of reasons prospective warriors fail:

Medical disqualification, with obesity a large contributing factor, removes 35 percent, drug or alcohol abuse removes 18 percent, and another 23 percent do not meet our standards for reasons including criminal misbehavior, low aptitude scores or having more dependents than can reliably be accommodated in their early career. Other factors impacting recruiting efforts include only 75 percent of our young people graduate with a high school diploma; high numbers of youth going to college directly from high school; and the continuing concerns about overseas contingency operations with its associated high operations tempo.

Since this testimony and Mission: Readiness' report mix statistics for the general population with statistics specific to recruits, it's hard to get a handle on the many reasons for rejection, but Too Fat To Fight says 42.5 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds are obese, which would mean about 15 percent of recruits get sent home for being overweight. That's still fewer than are rejected for having criminal records or (if we apply the 25 percent non-graduation rate to recruiting) for not having a high school diploma. That is, high schools are not failing to feed kids properly so much as they are failing to educate them properly.

Which would seem to make school lunches something that shouldn't really concern these high-ranking retirees. But Mission: Readiness has another wrinkle: The original reason school lunch service became standard was to provide the nation with meatier cannon fodder:

Stunted growth from inadequate nutrition and poor health was so common that the young men who made it into the military during World War II were more than an inch and a half shorter, on average, than young American men today. After the war ended, General Lewis Hershey, the military’s Selective Service Director, delivered testimony that helped win passage of the National School Lunch Program. The National School Lunch Program, established in 1946, helped improve the health and well-being of our nation by making sure children across America had access to healthful meals at school.

It's characteristic of a public sector mentality that these bemedaled buttinskis think a federal mandate could have created a nation so prosperous that even the poor people are fat. It's even more dubious to believe adjusting the least important meal of the day will do any serious liposuction on kids who can start the day with a Carl's Jr. breakfast burrito, sneak off school grounds for an order of Hot-n-Ready Caesar Wings, and pound an Ono Hawaiian Party Pack with their homework. Back when the supersizing of America was just beginning and the military was usefully engaged in bombing the Serbs so Bill Clinton could get some head in peace, Reason's own Mr. Mxyzptlk explained why caloric police actions like these are not just pointless but un-American:

[Q]uite possibly, we have always been a nation of fat slobs trapped in skinny bodies. The difference is that, now, we can afford to pig out like there's no tomorrow; the whole world is an all-you-can-eat buffet. The line between Manifest Destiny and Wendy's "Biggie" menu (cheerily pitched by multiple-heart-attack survivor Dave Thomas) is perhaps shorter than we think. Like the dog that licks its own balls, we now chow down to excess not necessarily for the flavor, but simply because we can.

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  • what||

    If we weren't so busy invading countries, we wouldn't need the extra 15% of fat kids.

  • cmace||

    If we weren't so busy invading countries, with overseas contingency operations with its associated high operations tempo,we wouldn't need the extra 15% of fat kids.

  • what||

    Oh yeah. I totally forgot about the "high operations tempo".

  • ||

    I don't what they are planning that will require more than 85% in the year 2030, but count me out.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    That used to be my favorite Allan Sherman bit, Brian. First time I ever heard of the Marshall plan, and I had no idea what it was, but I knew it had to be something important because all the grownups laughed about it.

  • Syd Henderson||

    I don't see why there being other causes for rejection should preclude being concerned about obesity. 15% is still quite a few.

  • Michelle Obama||

    Told you I was serious.

  • kiwi dave||

    They should draft the porkies. Let's see the Navy SEALS live up to their name.

  • kiwi dave||

    Does anybody else find this statement creepy?

    “Our national security in 2030 is heavily dependent on the boys and girls in preschool and kindergarten right now.”

    Maybe some peacenik parents will start feeding their young'uns on KFC double downs and double-stuffed oreos to keep their offspring from the maw of the military-industrial complex.

  • cmace||

    These were the same kind of arguments used for alcohol prohibition: better soldiers.

  • kiwi dave||

    You know, if we really want to raise a generation of warriors, we can't trust existing family structures to do it. We need to go all the way, the security of our nation depends on it:

    As soon as a child was born in Sparta, the mother would wash it with wine, in order to make sure that it was strong. If the child was weak, it would die soon. Later it was brought by his father to the elders, who inspected carefully the newborn infant. If they found that the child was deformed or weakly, they threw it into Kaiada, the so called Apothetae, a chiasm at a cliff, of the mount Taygetos.
    ...
    When the child completed the age of seven, it was taken from his mother and given to the state. A rigorous discipline and mainly military type education, the so-called Agoge, commenced, lasting twelve years.
    The boys enrolled in one of the many troops (the Ageles), which was under the supervision of a senior Spartan and at thirteen under the leadership of a prudent and brave youth, called Eirena ,supervised by an official (Paidonomos) and were drilled in gymnastics, running, jumping, throwing of spear and discus, and also taught to endure pain and hardship, hunger, thirst, cold, fatigue and lack of sleep. They were walking without shoes, bathed at the cold waters of the river Eurotas and were dressed winter and summer, with the same piece of cloth, which the state gave them once a year. They were not using blankets and were sleeping on top of straws and reeds, which they were cutting without knives from the banks of the river Eurotas.
    Their main meal was a broth (melanas zomos), but they were encouraged to steal food, to compensate for the meager portion they were given, but if they were caught, they were punished. They were eating also a lot of honey. For one whole month, before they finished their training, they were exercising and feeding themselves exclusively with honey (month of honey).
    As for proper education, they were taught only the basics of how to read and write and to waste no words speaking to the point (Laconizein). They also learned military poems, war songs, how to dance and recited Homer.
    The main purpose of Agoge was to discipline the youth. Once a year, they tested them for their endurance in front of the altar of Orthia Artemis, in the game of stealing cheeses whipping them severely. The ones who withstood this event, in which not a few died, without moans and cries, they crowned with wreathes.
    ...
    At the age of twenty, when the Agoge ended, the military service of the Spartan begun. He would join compulsory one of the dining messes or clubs (pheiditia, syssitia), which were composed from about fifteen members (one of Lykourgos laws) and he will eat and sleep at public barracks, until the age of sixty. At twenty, most of the men and women will also get married.

    http://www.sikyon.com/sparta/agogi_eg.html

  • affenkopf||

    This is why 300 pisses me off. We celebrate facist barbarians while making fun of Athenians.

  • ||

    Interestingly enough, I used Bill Murray's line "Chicks dig me, because I rarely wear underwear and when I do it's usually something unusual" (though rephrased) in a college introduction session at my dorm. Guess what? Chicks dug it.

  • colon pow||

    Fucking generals don't have access to google?

    A quick google search found me plenty of possible recruits who are in shape:
    gaymanmuscle.com
    4musclemen.com
    musclegayhunks.com
    (Note: Probably not good for your computer to visit those sites)

  • alan||

    Nicely done.

    Were these retired admirals rear admirals? Har! Har! Har!

    Are they looking for a few seamen or for semen? Har har har.

    Wait one more . . . where are you going?

  • alan||

    (Note: Probably not good for your computer to visit those sites)

    Can't be any more gross than your typical threesome video where the DP slut knocks two cocks together. It catches me by surprise every time. Not the cock knocking which a genre staple, but the fact the universe doesn't unravel at the seams because of her actions, when by all laws of sound physics and sentient behavior, it should.

  • alan||

    It's characteristic of a public sector mentality that these bemedaled buttinskis think a federal mandate could have created a nation so prosperous that even the poor people are fat.

    Stupid public sector employees. Even if your body mass index says zero, and the mirror shows a six pack of abs and a thin physique, so long as you are cashing in at the public expense, you still consist of one hundred percent blubber.

  • If you keep your machine||

    lubricated, It shouldn't be a problem

  • ||

    Maybe, just maybe, the solution is to lower the weight standards for joining, then have those soldiers eat half rations in basic? Or three-quarter rations, or whatever makes sense from a nutritional standpoint? Couple that with making basic actually [i]difficult[/i] again (I hear Marine boot camp still is, but not nearly difficult enough). Seriously, isn't that what basic is [i]supposed[/i] to do?

    Not only that, but maybe, just [i]maybe,[/i] we could relax standards on some of the other points. No high school degree? Why do you need a high school degree to be in the military? Maybe for some fields, but not most, and if you're actually too dumb to be a grunt or whatever, you can fail out in basic. Hell, when my dad was in the Marines guys though he was an intellectual because he read comic books (actual books, too, but still). Same thing with not letting people who've had psychological counseling in. Unless it's for something that would actually make you a bad soldier, who cares? I had to get a waiver because I'd gone through marital counseling when I was getting divorced.

    The military is just insane in the way it handles recruiting. The standards are ridiculously high, leading to recruiters telling recruits to lie. It comes to the same thing as actually relaxing standards when you allow recruiters to do so without punishment. Maybe if generals and admirals were more concerned with forging an effective fighting force and less concerned with their careers the military would be better off.

  • Sidd Finch||

    The standards for military enlistment are anything but high. You only need a diploma to be in the Marines if the standards haven't changed, and you can be an Army officer with two years of college. And you can't not feed people who are burning 5000 calories a day. And you can't send people home from basic for being dumb because 1)that's what ASVAB is for 2)it's really expensive to get people signed and through reception and several weeks of basic 3) if you gave recruits outs in basic, nobody would make it through. And, well, everything else you said is bullshit.

    The better line of attack would be against all the bitchy Air Force generals who command troops that could be morbidly obese and be exactly as useful.

  • Pope Jimbo||

    When I was in the Marines, the general level of intelligence was about the same as you would find anywhere else.

    Today's military has a lot of complicated weapons systems that require very smart people to keep them running.

    One of the great things about the Marines was the fact that they are very good about taking in raw potential and teaching them a lot about very complex things without sacrificing quality.

    When I joined, I scored very high on the ASVAB so they put me in an electronics repair MOS. I knew nothing about electronics at the time but they sent me to Memphis to learn about them and learn I did. If you couldn't cut the mustard, they sent you off to a less demanding MOS.

    When I went back to college with the training I got from the Marines, I didn't run into anything new until late Jr year of my Electrical Engineering program. So they did a pretty good job of teaching.

    I should also point out that during my entire stint in the Marines, everyone always harped on the fact that being smart was a very good trait to have. Dumb riflemen tend to become dead riflemen and are of no use to anyone.

    I think the whole idea that the military is staffed by dummies is a completely wrong. Why would you want to staff your organization with unintelligent folks when doing so will result in getting your ass shot off?

  • Cabeza de Vaca||

    "I think the whole idea that the military is staffed by dummies is a completely wrong. Why would you want to staff your organization with unintelligent folks when doing so will result in getting your ass shot off?"

    Maybe because you have to be pretty stupid to turn yourself into an indentured servant.

  • Chinny Chin Chin||

    So graduates of basic would all be lean, mean fighting machines?

    Sounds too much like EST to me.

  • MJ||

    "Deploy proven school-based programs that enlist parents in helping children adopt life-long changes in their eating and exercise habits."

    Is not teaching their kids how to eat properly part of the parent's job anyway? Perhaps if the government schools had not decided they needed to usurp that position by trying to get as many kids as possible getting school lunches, then maybe the quality of school lunches would be less of an issue?

  • LibertyGal||

    Prediction:
    1. Watch out! If passed, the next governmental dictator-style step will be Guantanamo-style forced-stomach tube feeding the nutritional lunches the kids won't want to eat.
    2. Return of home-made lunches.

  • ||

    Unhealthy food and other self-harming behavior is a threat to national security to those who believe people are the property of the state.

  • Congress & The President||

    (Waiving) Us! Us!

  • ||

    The wars of the future will not be fought on the battlefield or at sea. They will be fought in space, or possibly on top of a very tall mountain. In either case, most of the actual fighting will be done by small robots. And as you go forth today remember always your duty is clear: To build and maintain those robots.

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    I'm not seeing a problem here. When you go into the military, aren't you subjected to a period of training full of harsh, grueling workouts that would cause even the fattest recruit to shed pounds pretty quickly?

  • ||

    a nation so prosperous that even the poor people are fat

    *facepalm*

    With a limited food budget, high fat makes the most rational choice. It costs more per calorie to eat vegetables and whole grains. So poor=skinny is a misnomer from the 1930s.

    Bad libertarian! Bad! Bad!

  • Khalil||

    If obesity were a sign of prosperity, the upper income individuals in this country would be the fattest, followed by the middle, then the lower classes.

    Instead, the opposite is true - our fattest folks are the poorest. So I wouldn't go with the whole, "Obesity = prosperity." It's more like, "Obesity = low education and low income leading to poor diet choices."

  • Dqd and wishing||

    i think they should also look at rethinking some of the criminal charge policies also, i am part of the 25% dqd for that. i am 30 now and am dqd for stuff that happened when i was 13.
    With over a 1000 enlisted men/women committing suicide last year and more than that dqd for minor offences. i believe that better policies on certain dq subjects could help alleviate these issues.

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