Is weight a national security issue? - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Is weight a national security issue?

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- Is America's weight problem a national security concern? The Obama administration says maybe. With rising childhood obesity rates, more young people end up being deemed unfit to join the armed forces.

One study by "Mission: Readiness" says 75%of 18 to 24 year olds in this country can't join the military for reasons including being overweight.

Some government leaders are calling for new laws to regulate school lunches, making them more nutritious. Some legislators also want schools to remove sugar-filled or other "junk foods" from school vending machines.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said Tuesday, "The fact that so many youngsters are not fit for military service is, indeed, a wake-up call for this country."

Local military recruiters say they see a lot of people who want to join the armed forces, but can't because they're too heavy.

"Unfortunately there are a lot of individuals that want to join but can't. They're over the weight requirements. Some by just a little bit, some by a lot," National Guard Recruiter Sergeant Melanie Thomsen said.

Thomsen, a recruiter in Dubuque, sees a lot of people looking to serve, but one of the first steps a basic weight requirement (based on height, age and sex) knocks out many hopefuls.

"Usually I try to get them to get on a good diet, start an exercise routine, be it working out on a daily basis, every other day, as much as they can get into their schedule. Depending on how motivated they are to join, usually shows how quickly they can lose the weight, or if they lose the weight," Thomsen said.

Once in the National Guard, you have to meet another requirement for training and then maintain physical fitness levels to stay in and move ahead.

"If you happen to go over your weight limit or go over your body fat percentage, then you get flagged. You're not able to get promoted. You can't go to schools or different training, so it really holds you back in your career progression," Thomsen said.

Thomsen says it all comes down to setting standards in the military, performing on duty, and staying safe.

"If you're going to be out in a deployment setting or training environment you want to make sure that the buddy next to you isn't going to fall out and can pick you up if you get hurt," Thomsen said.

Online Reporter: Jamie Grey

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