Japaulus Hall, a 19-year-old recruit, has been ready to join the Army since he was in high school. Recruiters say he’s smart and motivated with a bright future ahead of him, but there’s one thing standing in his way. He’s overweight.
Hall needed to lose 30 pounds before the Army would accept him, and according to a new report, he’s not alone.27 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds are ineligible to join the military because they’re overweight.
“It threatens our national security,” says retired Lt. General Norman Seip. “At the end of the day, it’s not our tanks, it’s not our airplanes, it’s not our ships. It’s young men and women who volunteer and serve.”
Lt. General Seip is working with Washington, DC based nonprofit Mission: Readiness, a group dedicated to recruiting more young people for the military.
According to their report, 9-million 18 to 24-year-olds are too fat to join the armed forces, and there are now 39 states in the U.S.. Where 40 percent of young adults are overweight or obese. There was just one state with that statistic ten years ago.
“We need a fit force. We need a smart force. Our equipment is very technologically sophisticated. We put a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of the men and women who serve, so they need to be not just mentally fit, but physically fit as well,” Lt. General Seip argues.
Seip says a tough economy has helped to keep enlistment up, but they worry that the number of new troops may start to dwindle soon. Recruiters on the street agree, saying that over the last five years they’ve also noticed more young adults who can’t enlist because of their weight.
Army Sgt. First Class Germain Saunders is a recruiter in Alexandria, Virginia.He has to weigh and measure new recruits and make sure they meet the Army’s standards.Depending on age and height, men should have a body fat percentage around 20 percent, women 30 percent.
“Individuals come in, I give them workout plans. I find them workout plans, just a basic program for them to start on,” Saunders says. He’s now working with Japaulus Hall so that he can lose at least 20 pounds and ship out.Hall says he’s now working out and eating right in hopes of getting the weight off as soon as possible.
“It’s my number one priority to knock the weight off, get into the Army, and start my career, right then and there,” Hall says.
Mission: Readiness is a big supporter of the childhood nutrition act, a bill that would require schools to make lunch healthier and eliminate any junk food being sold on campuses.