As the Army faces a prospective troop drawdown, it is grappling with the fact that increasing numbers of soldiers aren’t medically fit for duty. The problem has “begun to erode the readiness of the Army as a whole,” Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker said Monday, according to the Army Times
About 15 percent of the active forces aren’t prepared for deployment for medical reasons, the Times reported, because of the elimination of stop-loss, attrition of surge forces, and expansion of medical programs that better identify troops’ medical needs.
The Army aims to start addressing the issue at the point of entry into service.
Roughly 25 percent of new recruits have low iron and low bone density, and recruits overall have the highest body mass indexes ever, said Maj. Gen. Richard Stone, deputy surgeon general.
Those issues can be addressed during boot camp with better nutrition, improved fitness programs and lifestyle education, Stone said.
The Army plans to continue its soldier fitness program but also will use an electronic health profiling system to monitor fitness and diet.
Schoomaker has even asked medical commanders to check the body mass indexes of children, family members, and retirees. Some have resisted his request, he said.
“They’ve said, ‘How do I do that? I can’t get in children’s lunchboxes.’ I know. But figure it out,” Schoomaker said. “Some commanders have started teaching in schools or partnering with the local fast food chains and AAFES [Army and Air Force stories and restaurants] to see if they can inject healthier foods and change behaviors, because we are all about trying to change behaviors.”
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