Fat Troops Are Forcing The Military To Totally Redesign Its Combat Gear

The Natick Soldier Research, Develop-

Army, overweight

Photo: Ken Scar via U.S. Army

ment and Engineering centre, in Natick, Mass., revealed today they’re in the middle of analysing data from surveys that measured American troops for uniform size.The reason? A shortage of large-sized chemical-biological protective suits at the beginning of the war in Iraq for the Army, and large-sized body armour for the Marines. Ill-fitting protective gear can be a difference of life or death, so the Army did a study in 2007 to find the problem.

It found that between 1988 and 2007, soldiers were 11 pounds heavier, and their chests, waists and hips were almost two inches rounder. The obesity epidemic had hit the military – all the forces had bigger troops than before.

During the shorter deployment cycles, some of the forces worked to retain troops who didn’t fit the physical standards. But in 2008, the Marine Corps announced new body-fat standards, and gave Marines two 60-day periods to get in regulation without consequences. In 2009, they took away the probation periods–overweight Marines would immediately get placed in the Marine Corps Body Composition Program, making them ineligible for promotions, special assignments or re-enlistment.

At the same time, the Army relaxed standards to boost recruitment. It started offering waivers and a program to give potential soldiers a year to drop necessary pounds. Most people passed the test required and became eligible for service.

But overall, across the forces, bigger uniforms are still needed. The Army and Marine Corps both ordered anthropometric surveys from the Natick centre to study the differences in the size, height, and weight or their troops.The final results of the surveys will be available in about six months. 

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