Services’ weight measuring discussion ghostly similar to women in combat

Posted on: August 10th, 2016 by Will Rodriguez 7 Comments

There was a story this week in Army times about all the services looking at weight standards in light of our nation’s battle with obesity.  Conflicting concerns for fairness and maintaining the force’s capability to fight our nation’s war were mentioned.  There was also discussions that lowering standards wasn’t acceptable, the services are looking for better ways to measure troops’ body fat than measuring tapes but that can be conducted in austere environments and at low cost to serve over a million person armed forces.

What struck me though was how similar the discussion was to allowing women in combat arms.  There were issues of equality as well as how overweight troops don’t perform as well as those that aren’t.  The story cited as evidence an unspecified study that found overweight soldiers were 40 percent more likely to suffer an injury during deployment.  That reminded me of numerous studies showing women were exponentially more prone to injury during basic training and in the more physical training associated with combat arms.

Strikingly missing from the discussion was a proponent for overweight people’s rights citing diversity as making the force stronger.  Maybe overweight people don’t deserve the same level of fairness we demand for groups differentiated by gender.  Funny, since the issues are the same, force readiness vs. fairness.  Add to the mix that many overweight troops are still able to pass their physical fitness tests and meet other standards while admittedly not looking their best in uniform.  Interesting…

Be Respectful, Candid and Pertinent. No Posers, No Trolls…
  • YankeePapa

     Winfield Scott served from 1808-1862… under every president from Jefferson to Lincoln.  At 6’5″ he was very imposing… never more so than in the Mexican American War.  By 1860, he was a Brevet Lt. General.  When the American Civil War  began in the spring of 1861, Scott was 74 years old and suffering numerous health problems, including gout, rheumatism, and dropsy.  He weighed in excess of 300 lbs and was unable to mount a horse or review troops.   

     While hardly fit for a field command, Scott had a good grip on the strategy required to win the war… and the time frame.  “On to Richmond” was a pipe dream and he knew it.  He proposed the “Anaconda” plan to cut the South off with a blockade in the South and on the Mississippi River.  Lincoln pushed McDowell into Bull Run and the “grass green” troops ultimately ran, all the way back to Washington.  

     Scott was blameless, but took full responsibility… and McClellan quickly took advantage of the situation to undercut Scott, who soon retired.  As Lincoln ultimately discovered, McClellan had a terminal case of “The Slows”, to the point of insubordination.  As Lincoln grew increasingly disgusted with McClellan, he sometimes held private discussions with Scott… whose grand strategic view was clear… if not always his tactical.  (Brigades were good enough for the Mexican-American War… why not now?)

     Generations of officers named their sons after Scott.  It was Winfield Scott Hancock who held the Center at Gettysburg.  None came closer to worshiping him than Robert E. Lee.  For a Lt. General (at least) Scott holds the all-time record for body mass.  

    (Images:  Mexico and 1862… -Yankee Papa-)

  • Camo_Steve

    In other words, double standards. The equality elites will not care about injury rates with woman serving in combat roles, but will bring up and use similar statistics for overweight soldiers.

  • Michael_mike
  • YankeePapa

    Michael_mike  Agreed.  The Marine Corps funeral detachment at HQMC in Washington D.C. is made up of
    body builder types.  Only four to a casket instead of six.  

    Extremely well equipped weight room.  Of course they still have to pass the standard Marine Corps physical readiness tests… (they are not musclebound types who can barely walk…)  HQMC tailors have crafted uniforms for them that are regulation… look sharp… but absolutely will not rip out the first time that they bend and lift a casket.  

     No doubt that most of these bull-necked geeks would fail a “tape-test…”


  • Michael_mike

    YankeePapa Michael_mike Good example of dedication, and a proper use of that generous margin. But I suspect that it’s not necessarily just the geeks who are relying on 2 weeks of just-in-time emergency workout to pass the minimal mark. That was probably the most shocking truth from that article. And they don’t even need to have their body at pain for 3 to 5 days, the standard does not require that much … unless they happen to have gained a lot of fat.
    The military is clearly facing a cultural problem but before the video console there were the television; it just got worse. An adaptation is clearly required, lowering the standard is not the solution.
    For the case of people having a high BMI I am a bigger fan of a more exhaustive fitness assessment, a proof of hardwork. Below an example of what it might look like; not sure if anyone rely on that manual anymore -surprisingly not “stolen” from fm 21-20. The person who posted this on a paintball forum managed to unlock 3 highly secretive extra level. 
    Or more simply a more restrictive tape-test for which people above a certain score are exempted?

  • Michael_mike

    YankeePapa ( Somehow deleted the first paragraph when I edited my post.)
    These folks are clearly a good example of why margin exist. That and wear and tear. But I don’t think that only the geeks are relying on a “just-in-time” 2 week emergency workout to pass the bare minimum. That was the most shocking truth of that article. The margin is so high that they won’t even need to have their body at pain for 3 to 5 days.

  • Michael_mike

    Undeniably similar to women. The “we need more people” trump it all. The difference is that one is from politicians while the other is an actual need. As 1/2 of the population is overweight it can’t be simply ignored.

    Beyond that, measuring fitness level is not that simple/straightforward. It always end up measuring its reflection regardless of the metric used. Something that can be ignored when enforcing the standard but not when designing it. 
    One person might be an avid swimmer or cyclist and have an “excellent” or “superior” VO2 max, but have an ordinary score at the run. But they will have the strong cardiovascular system required to adapt and survive.

    I would like to see a breakdown of that 40% more at risk of injury. Back and knee falling apart? Both can be addressed with more muscle, something that will likely not improve his fitness score much. And fat stored outside the muscle have limited impact on cardiovascular efficiency. It’s ugly but one can manage to have a fairly strong cardio. No “fat” excuse here but I had to mention.
    Not surprised that an obese can make it by giving a performance of a lifetime, that fitness standard is definitely a little too permissive for them. 2 miles in 17 minutes is the jogging I do when I want to dry 3 side of my t-shirt, and I got some chunk of fat. I’m not entirely sure how fast it start to feel like a run, my instinct tell me under 14’30. Will have to try.

    But if the bar is raised too high it may end up having more in common with the hunger game -where a single scratch can be fatal- than an army wide fitness standard. Better grow that standard to challenge the real problem. Laziness/lack of accomplishment might be the worst of all.