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Nearly 10,000 Army Soldiers Emerged From Covid Lockdowns Obese

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Obesity is the single greatest barrier to recruitment in the American military today, and the problem is only getting worse.

The Associated Press reported last week nearly 10,000 active-duty Army servicemembers emerged from the coronavirus lockdowns obese, “pushing the rate to nearly a quarter of the troops studied.” Major weight gains were also seen in the Navy and Marines.

A pamphlet from the American Security Project (ASP) published last month raised the alarm over the nation’s runaway obesity epidemic jeopardizing national security. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 42 percent of the U.S. adult population was obese in 2017. Harvard researchers expect nearly half the adult population to become obese by the end of the decade.

“If trends in overweight and obesity continue, especially amongst the populations which are or soon will be within military service age,” the ASP literature read, “the military may no longer be able to recruit enough personnel to fulfill its national security obligations.”

Federal research shows excessive weight is already bearing down heavy costs on the American military, with more than 650,000 workdays lost each year from the extra pounds. The Department of Defense spends about $1.5 billion in obesity-related health-care costs each year for current and former servicemembers and their families.

[LISTEN: America’s Health Crisis Is Jeopardizing National Security]

While the nation’s incumbent fighting force packs on the pounds, fresh recruits in prime shape have become hard to come by. Less than 30 percent of Americans aged 17-24, which account for 90 percent of military applicants, are eligible to serve in the armed forces, according to the CDC.

The Army missed its recruitment goals for the first time last year with a 15,000-member shortfall. The next generation of recruits is entering adulthood no healthier, with 1 in 5 American children categorically obese. Childhood obesity has become such an emergency that doctors are now recommending a cocktail of pharmaceuticals and invasive surgeries as a last resort to combat the epidemic.

Military bases, meanwhile, are continuing to subsidize unhealthy lifestyles. In February, Army Major Nolan Johnson outlined “Why the Army can’t get in shape” for ArmyTimes. In short, the answer lies in “Dip, Doritos and drinking.”

“On every base, [the] Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) offers tobacco at state minimum prices, deals on candy bars, and alcohol without tax,” Johnson wrote. “Soldiers can either embrace these cheap, unhealthy options or take a 30-minute trip off-post to find healthy options that cost a premium.”

“The results are obvious,” Johnson added. “For a force pressed on time and money, 2-for-1 Monster energy drinks, discounted hot dogs, and chewing tobacco are the regular lunch plan.”


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