The obesity problem and general lack of fitness in the United States is now affecting the armed forces and the pool of available recruits that the military needs to draw on to maintain the force.

The Fayetteville Observer has looked at the growing issue of a lack of qualified recruits which is shrinking the available pool of recruits for the U.S. Army and how the military is attempting to address the problem from within.

The mission of the U.S. Army is to fight and win the nation’s wars.

To that end, soldiers at installations across the globe train each day. They jump from planes. Maneuver across vast training areas. Shoot artillery. Fly helicopters. And drive tanks.

But while soldiers remain largely focused on potential enemies abroad, there’s another fight underway within the ranks themselves.

Officials from U.S. Army Forces Command and U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command said they are working to fundamentally change the culture of fitness within the Army. Their efforts will impact everyone from the nation’s newest recruits to its longest-serving soldiers.

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Outside of the military, officials are tackling an even greater fitness challenge with what some have called a “looming national security crisis” caused by a lack of fitness in America’s youth.

More than 100,000 soldiers are unable to deploy, officials said. For a large percentage of those soldiers, it is due to injuries sustained during training.

And those soldiers are becoming harder to replace. An improving unemployment rate means fewer potential recruits are turning to the Armed Forces among a population that is already largely unfit to serve.

A recent Heritage Foundation report found that, according to 2017 Pentagon data, “71 percent of young Americans between 17 and 24 are ineligible to serve in the United States military.” Nearly one-third of those young Americans are too overweight for military service.

“Put another way: Over 24 million of the 34 million people of that age group cannot join the armed forces — even if they wanted to,” said retired Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr and Bridget Handy, who authored the report, “The Looming National Security Crisis: Young Americans Unable to Serve in the Military.”

The OPAT (Occupational Physical Assessment) allows recruits a glimpse of what they’ll need to function in the military and gives them the needed push to begin physical training for the military before they arrive for basic training.

Since its inception, the Army has lost 1400 fewer recruits to attrition in basic training.

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