Obesity is a national security threat: military leaders

A general in the Illinois Air National Guard called the obesity rate in the US a “national security threat,” Capitol News Illinois reported.

Brigadier General Richard Neely, adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard and the primary military adviser to Illinois Gov JB Pritzker, spoke at Springfield School District 186’s Early Learning Center on October 8. He and three other generals called up a recent study that found 70 percent of adults aged 17 to 24 in the state can’t qualify for military service. And 31 percent of those adults would be disqualified due to obesity.

“As a commander who over the years has really served at all different levels within the organization, it’s surprising to see how challenging recruiting has become over the years,” General Neely was quoted as saying. “I was not shocked by it because we’ve seen this in the recruiting numbers, but it was very nice to have the report to then really back up the data that we’re seeing through our experiences.”

The report, entitled “Unhealthy and Unprepared in Illinois,” was published by Mission: Readiness, a group of about 750 retired admirals and generals, now in its 10th year. The group promotes physical fitness among children so they grow up productive and healthy.

The percentages are in the ballpark of national numbers, and the military leaders urged lawmakers to invest in more early childhood education programs that focus on nutrition, health, and physical activity.

“We know that starting at a young age being physically fit is important to qualify not only just for military service but for life in general,” the news service quoted retired General Mark Rabin, who also spoke at the event, as saying. “You have to be physically fit to be mentally sharp and able to do your job. And we who have been in the military, of course, have seen so many situations where physical fitness is a requirement, not only just to get into the service, but to perform your duties and be mentally sharp.”

When Congress passed the School Lunch Act in 1946, right after World War II, they acknowledged that poor nutrition was a problem, which could be fought successfully only through programs in the early years that addressed nutrition and health. Before World War II, underweight men were starving during the Great Depression. Now it’s the opposite problem.

HBO talk show host Bill Maher said in a recent episode, “Fat is ‘beautiful’: that’s in the eyes of the beholder. But fat is ‘unhealthy’: that’s just science.” I couldn’t agree more.

About the Author

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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