Too Fat to Fight (Or Just Too High?)


kid with snickers

Some of the nation's top military brass—including 300 retired generals and admirals, including Richard Myers, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and James M. Loy, former Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security—are worried that American kids are too fat to fight.

A new report released this week, creatively titled "Still Too fat to Fight" tries to scare policymakers into cutting down on the availability of junk food in schools.

400 billion calories of junk food are being sold in our schools every year.

That's the equivalent of 2 billion candy bars.

Put them on a scale and they would weigh almost 90 thousand tons.  That' s more than the aircraft carrier Midway.

While those stats are eye-catching, they're also misleading. Some of the junk kids eat in schools is from vending machines. But school lunches can be just as bad, and more legitimate target for reform. I say this as someone who had a fried chicken sandwich and a Hawaiian Punch—doled out in the official lunch lady—for my public school midday meal every single day of 8th grade. Recent efforts at new menus have met with mixed responses, with these Kansas student athletes complaining that they are fading away, but may actually be a step in the right direction.

Earlier this month, First Lady Michelle Obama delivered the same message on Dr. Oz, agreeing that "the greatest threat to national security that we have is obesity."

The report also notes:

Currently, 75 percent of 17- to 24-year olds in the US cannot serve in the military, primarily because they are physically unfit, have not graduated from high school, or have a criminal record. 

A good chunk of those criminal records are drug war related, of course. (Just 27 percent of kids can't serve due to obesity, which makes this another dubious stat in the report.) The way I see it, we have two choices for the defense of our nation: fit weed smokers or fat Twinkies eaters. I know which I'd choose when the Krauts come a-callin'.

I'll be discussing this story on RT at about 5 p.m. Eastern time today, so tune in!

NEXT: Romney Blames Obama for Possible Defense Cuts

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  1. We’re talking about men ages 18-24, here, right?

    If they are otherwise healthy, how long does it take them to get into shape to at least start boot camp?

    Not long, would be my guess. My recollection from that age was that working out was easy and results were close to immediate, and I only worked out sporadically. I’d go from not being in shape to being in middling shape in a month or two.

    If a problem can be solved in a few months, how much of a problem is it?

    1. Well, high blood pressue is a chronic symptom, and it places tough stresses on the renal system. That’s just one example of something that can’t be worked out in 13 weeks of boot camp.

      1. Plus, as I stated below, these policy-makers are obviously thinking in terms of conscriptional service. Months of pre-training preparation suddenly turn into weeks.

      2. If they are otherwise healthy,

        high blood pressue is a chronic symptom

        And, of course, weight loss reduces blood pressure anyway.

        As far as fitness to fight goes, I seriously doubt having kidneys that have had to work a little too hard is really much of an issue for otherwise healthy and newly fit 20 year olds.

        1. I’m not sure if long-term obesity that didn’t come with chronic cardiovascular co-morbidities is a reasonable possibility.

          1. At age 18?

            Dammit, where’s Groovus?

            Oh, that’s right. Cavorting with Slavic beauties. Damn him.

      3. If we were in a real war, we would simply accept that some of our fat recruits are going to croak during training. The Germans accepted relatively high training casualties during WWII.

        1. Maybe Nazi Germany, but Americans are the kind of people that want their global war and the boys home safe and sound too.

          1. Yep – That is why Marine Boot Camp and some of the Army combat schools are basically de-pussification courses.

    2. The weight loss on Parris Island is immediate. The mildly fat who can keep up are no longer overweight by the end of the first month.

      The really fat and / or weak were sent to the fat farm when I was there. Physical Conditioning Platoon is no joke – although one guy came back looking pretty fucked up – like they had sawed him in half then glued the extra skin back on. Like Hurley would have looked like on Lost if it was real.

    3. Some of it is on the recruiters as well to stress to the recruits what the PT standards are and encourage them to get at least somewhat close to those standards before shipping out–if nothing else, because it’s one less thing they have to worry about getting chewed out for in boot.

  2. I assume this would only be a problem in the case of a draft, so this causes me to be more than a little concerned whether the issue of conscription is truly settled in this country.

  3. BTW given than there’s a strong positive correlation between poverty and obesity in America, why do we still have the food stamp program?

    Isn’t there some better way to help poor people in 2012, than giving them diabetes and heart disease because, back in the 1930s, being poor meant being thin?

    1. The soup from a soup kitchen is probably a lot healthier than some of the crap people buy with food stamps.

  4. I never knew too many fit weed-smokers. They tended to be the Twinkies eaters.

  5. Oh please. The future is drones anyway. All the kids will have to do is what they’re doing now: sit in place staring at a screen with a controller in their lap.

  6. When I went into the Air Force back in 1988 I had to loose 40 lbs to qualify, it took me less than 6 weeks and when I had to run the Physical Fitness test in Basic (ok for the airforce this is a joke, it is just a 1.5 mile run) I came in 4th in my unit so my prior overweight problem was not exactly a hinderance.

    Plus as someone else noted, it is kinda hard to be too fat to pilot a drone. Sure, we’ll always need some ground pounders but you gotta find something to do with all those High School jocks not good enough to make a D1 College team so I’m not seeing a problem.

    1. A bunch of got sworn in together at Boston MEPS before shipping out to Boot Camp. The Air Force guys all had irons with them, which was a real source of amusement for those of us headed to Parris Island.

      The fact that were stupid enough to sign up for Marine Boot Camp was pretty amusing to them.

      1. The Air Force guys all had irons with them, which was a real source of amusement for those of us headed to Parris Island.

        One of the urban legends from Air Force boot when I went there was about a kid that brought golf clubs with him, because he thought he was going to have the weekends off.

        That wasn’t the best story, but it was a good indication of how soft Air Force boot was at the time. My favorite stories were: 1) the girl who got caught flipping off her TI while on the bus to go to tech school and was recycled back to Week 1, and 2) the Airmen who were caught having sex in the laundry room during graduation weekend.

        Incidentally, the weekend we graduated, our flight leader got a hotel room in San Antonio with our sister flight’s leader and ended up getting her pregnant.

      2. I processed through Boston MEPS as well but didn’t bring clubs since I had a pretty good idea what I was in for having done 4 years of AFJROTC in High School, bonus points it let me test put of Basic Training early, just 2.5 weeks plus I went in as an E-3 from day 1.

        What is funny is that while the Physical training in the air force is a joke the weight standards are by far the strictest of any of the services.

  7. My problems were a bit harder to fix (as long as I wanted to be a pilot): IBD and poor eyesight.

    1. Yeah, if I had 20/20 vision, I might have signed up. As it stood, I figured I’d end up doing some stupid, boring task in an office, so might as well get paid better for it in the private sector.

      That said, I sometimes envy guys younger than me who are drawing pensions now.

    2. I thought I wanted to be a Pilot as well. My original idea was enlist, get the GI Bill then go to College and do ROTC and come back as an officer. Then I spent 2 years working on the Flight Line completely changed my mind and I decided I wasn’t so fit for Military life because I had a REALLY hard time taking orders from people I was objectively smarter than, plus I got to see first hand just how little the life of a pilot resembled Top Gun so when Bush 1 was doing his force reductions I took an early release.

  8. Recent efforts at new menus have met with mixed responses, with these Kansas student athletes complaining that they are fading away, but may actually be a step in the right direction.

    Good Lord. Did I just read a soi-disant libertarian writer praising top-down control of school menus by the central government?

  9. As always

    Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Were you born a fat, slimy, scumbag puke piece of shit Private Pyle, or did you have to work on it?

  10. Alt-Text:

    you are a disgusting fat body, Private Pyle!

  11. If it’s a nuclear war, I’d definitely take the fat Twinkie eaters. They won’t go stale, right?

  12. 400 billion calories of junk food are being sold in our schools every year.

    That’s the equivalent of 2 billion candy bars.

    Put them on a scale and they would weigh almost 90 thousand tons. That’ s more than the aircraft carrier Midway.

    I realize that most people will read this statistic and recoil in disgust, but I read it and immediately think, “‘MERICA – FUCK YEAH!!!” It’s almost as if these numbers are the result of some kind of awesome, national scale dare. Good job, kids.

    1. Actually, I read and go what, did they just add up all the calories in the food and just say its “junk food” to get the numbers?

  13. If you laid all the calories out end to end, it would go from here to Uranus and back 7 times!

    1. Who’d want to eat them after they came back from Uranus?

  14. Secretary of Homeland Security?are worried that American kids are too fat to fight.

    Of course they’re gonna be too fat to fight. They banned running on the playground at my daughter’s school. Let that soak in a moment… they banned… running…on the playground… at an elementary school.

    1. … they banned… running…on the playground… at an elementary school

      Are you fucking serious?

      And do you live in California?

      I find myself frequently noting that the kids of the *millenial* generation (early 20s?) are often total spoiled pussies who expect awards just for being barely competant at something… dear god, I can’t even begin to comprehend what the later generations will be like.

      I know this sounds like Grumpy Old man, but – no exaggeration – in my elementary school, *fights with sticks and rocks* were considered ‘horseplay’. Trips to the nurses office for skinned knees, elbows, or a busted lip were a daily thing. Unless you broke a bone, no one even took notice of it.

      they were happpy times

      1. Trips to the nurses office for skinned knees, elbows, or a busted lip were a daily thing.

        Sissies. We didn’t even go to the nurse for broken bones.*

        *True story. I broke my wrist on the last day of sixth grade. I had fallen from the monkey bars from a considerable height, and in addition to breaking my wrist, I also had a slight concussion. My teacher wouldn’t send me to the nurses office until I told her I was feeling sick to my stomach (a side effect of a concussion). The look on my teachers face when I walked in the next day with a cast was precious.

        1. I am curious why you walked into school the day after the last day.

          1. It was a pretty serious concussion.

      2. You had sticks and rocks? Must have been one of those fancy private schools.

        1. I know, we were spoiled. The poor kids had to scrounge in garbage for their weaponry, or make due with biting and scratching, which is mean and disgraceful. A sockful of gravel whacked against the skull is far more genteel.

  15. Good! Maybe if we can get it so that 90-95% are too fat, too unfit, can’t graduate high school, or have criminal records, maybe then we won’t have enough soldiers to be sent off to fight these crazy wars!

  16. but may actually be a step in the right direction.

    Uh, no. It’s another step down the low-fat, high-carb road which is a blueprint for obesity.

    1. Uh, food is not a “blueprint for obesity”

      Never exercising, sitting around playing videogames and commenting on youtube for hours, is.

      plenty of people eat all kinds of ‘diets’ and are fat – and the same is true for those who are not. Some foods are more *fattening*, indeed, but there’s nothing wrong with fat if you burn more calories than you consume daily.

  17. So being fat can actually prevent certain types of illness, like lead poisoning or sudden limb removal. If I ever have boys, I’ll get them on a safe carb-heavy diet ASAP.

  18. Why are we including 17 year olds in the stats? Most 17 year olds haven’t graduated.

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