South Carolina The Army has been dismissing so many overweight applicants that its top recruiter, trying to keep troop numbers up in wartime, is considering starting a fat farm to transform chubby trainees into svelte soldiers.
Maj. Gen. Thomas Bostick, head of the Army Recruiting Command, said he wants to see a formal diet and fitness regimen running alongside a new school at Fort Jackson that helps aspiring troops earn their GEDs.
Bostick told The Associated Press that obesity looms as “a bigger challenge for us in the years ahead” than any other problem that keeps young people from entering the military, including lack of a GED or high school diploma, misconduct or criminal behavior and other health issues such as eye or ear problems.
According to Defense Department figures provided to the AP, over the past four years 47,447 potential recruits flunked induction physicals at the nation’s 35 Military Entrance Processing Stations because they were overweight.
That is a fraction of the 205,902 such exams given in 2005 and 250,764 in 2008, but still amounts to a hefty number and comes at a time when the military is more interested than ever in recruits. The Army and Marine Corps together paid more than $600 million over the past year in bonuses and other financial incentives to attract volunteers.