The United States Army is undoubtedly one of the most respected segments of the US Armed Forces. Currently, it is the largest recruiting group among the three branches of the Armed Forces. Accordingly, the US Army spends the biggest portion of the government budget allocation to the military. Indeed, the group has won many wars for the country, especially overseas, by undertaking rigorous training sessions and using state-of-the-art equipment. Despite their prowess in battle, one can argue that there is an underlying 21st-century problem that can undermine the ability of the group to continue with its run. The identified problem is that of fitness or lack of it.
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The US Army is currently under pressure to maintain its global clout by preserving deployments to battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq (Sefton, Lohse, & McAdam, 2016). However, according to the US Armed Forces and the US Army Training and Doctrine Command, the main threat to the Force going forward is a culture of unfitness (Grier, Canham-Chervak, Anderson, Bushman & Jones, 2017).
Indeed, there are scholars that argue that new recruits are often unfit and not suitable for deployment. Grier et al. (2017) go further to state that some recruits have often failed to be deployed due to minor injuries sustained on the training ground (Grier, et al., 2017).
I have personally seen new recruits faint or even refuse to comply with guidelines during the training period and yet they still got deployed. Several commanders agree that a crisis is looming if something is not done expeditiously especially because more warfare is expected in future over natural resources (Sefton et al., 2016). It is important to note that any solutions the Army comes up with in regard to the identified problem should not be limited to only the new entrants but should also extend to the long-serving soldiers as well.
According to the US military traditions, the majority of the new recruits are often between the ages of 17 and 24 (Grier et al., 2017). However, reports indicate that about 74 percent, or 24 million, of youth in Americans in this age group are ineligible to join the US military due to the lack of the prerequisite physical fitness. The Heritage Foundation reports that the problem of unfitness varies from state to state.
However, the crisis is higher in the Southern States such as South Carolina, Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Georgia, and Florida (Sefton et al., 2016). The main concern over this is the fact that the mentioned states provide the highest number of new recruits to the Armed Forces. A major security crisis is looming if the recruits do not meet the standards set by the US Army and a viable solution is not sought. Moreover, the cost of training one recruit is about US$31,000 (Grier et al., 2017). This implies that the US government will incur heavy losses if a big percentage of recruits are declared unfit for deployment. Indeed, investigating the root cause of the problem will help solve the issue.
From my observation, the foremost reason for the high levels of unfitness among the US youth is poor nutrition. We live in a world where there is glamour for fast food products that are detrimental to human health. Many Americans seem not to care about the repercussions of taking high-calorie foods. Indeed, one can argue that it is these types of foods that contribute to the high levels of obesity in the country (Forrest, Smith, Fussner, Dodd, & Clerkin, 2016).
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Often, the main reason for these poor eating habits is the fact that young Americans are preoccupied with many other time-consuming activities that they do not have time to prepare healthy meals. Secondly, many of the activities youth engage in today are static. This means that they are rarely active and do not exercise. I witnessed this laxity in both my junior and senior high school days. Although games were compulsory for all students, a good number would find excuses not to engage in sports.
One can rightfully argue that the culture of unfitness is deeply rooted in our social life. Thus, it can be suggested that the inculcation of an active culture in the younger school years is necessary to avert lazy behavior. For example, Forrest et al. (2016) state that regular physical exercises ensure that the blood flows into all parts of the body uniformly and maintains the required pulse rate, which is important for the general health of an individual. Such individuals build muscle faster and record better lung and heart health. All these are needed in the Armed Forces.
It is important to note that lack of exercise can result in the accumulation of cholesterol and lactic acid in the body. In turn, these elements are responsible for heart attacks and other serious heart conditions. As such, a lot of sensitization is required to encourage both healthy eating and regular exercises not only among the potential recruits to the army but the entire youth populace of the United States (Forrest et al., 2016). Part of the group to lead in this campaign must be drawn from the US Army (and other segments of the Armed Forces) as they are the ultimate beneficiaries of a healthy and fit generation of American youth.
Experts suggest that a lasting solution to the unfitness of the recruits in the US Army is an overhaul of the Army Physical Fitness Test. Army commanders in the United States and around the globe are embracing new regulations, policies, and doctrines related to physical fitness (Grier et al., 2017). The main catalyst for these changes is the fact that the US Army has been using the same test for fitness since 1980: two-mile run, two minutes of push-ups, two minutes of sit-ups (Grier et al., 2017).
Leaders in support of the changes to the US Army Physical Fitness Test lament that there is more to fitness than just the three elements mentioned above. Therefore, active working out must be made more rigorous and fulfilling right at the commencement of training sessions.
In conclusion, despite the strength of the US Army, an impending issue of concern today is unfitness. Many of the recruits to the Army are becoming increasingly unfit due to lifestyle changes. Today, there are more fast-food restaurants in the United States than there were during the First and Second World Wars. This has contributed to poor eating habits among the American youth who also do not have time for physical exercise. Even so, intense sensitization on these matters by health experts and military leadership, as well as an overhaul of the training manual for recruits, can help put together a strong army to fight the nation’s future battles.
Forrest, L. N., Smith, A. R., Fussner, L. M., Dodd, D. R., & Clerkin, E. M. (2016). Using implicit attitudes of exercise importance to predict explicit exercise dependence symptoms and exercise behaviors. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 22, 91-97.
Grier, T. L., Canham-Chervak, M., Anderson, M. K., Bushman, T. T., & Jones, B. H. (2017). Effects of physical training and fitness on running injuries in physically active young men. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 31(1), 207-216.
Sefton, J. M., Lohse, K. R., & McAdam, J. S. (2016). Prediction of injuries and injury types in army basic training, infantry, armor, and cavalry trainees using a common fitness screen. Journal of athletic training, 51(11), 849-857.