JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - - America is at war with itself. And the casualties are mounting. It's the battle of the bulge in the homeland.
America's ever expanding waistline has made it increasingly harder to recruit young people into the military because far too many are just too "fat to fight."
"When I was a brand new sailor, all of us young sailors were the first guys to cross the finish line. I'm not a young sailor anymore and I'm one of the first guys to cross the finish line," said Lieutenant Commander Todd Sullivan, a local Navy recruiter.
The physical demands can be challenging.
"A young male should be able to come in and do 60 push ups, 60 sit ups within two-minutes, and then a mile-and-a-half run in 13.5 minutes," Sullivan said.
"Less than one-percent of our national population serve. If you now delete the percentage of folks that can't physically meet the minimum requirements, then you reduce that potential recruiting segment even more," said Retired Rear Admiral Victor G. Guillory. He is the city of Jacksonville's Director of Military Affairs, Veterans & Disabled Services Department.
The military needs high caliber people who are in decent shape to serve.
"The stress of the demands that we place on our young men and women who serve this country is just amazing. And you must be physically fit to have a chance to do it and do it well," Guillory said.
In fact, a group of retired military officers point to snack machines in schools as a big part of the reason why youngsters are overweight. They say school age kids are eating 400 billion excess calories every year. That's the equivalent of two billion candy bars. So when you add up all the calories, it would be the equivalent of a more than 70,000 ton U-S Navy aircraft carrier."W
The weight of a shrinking recruiting pool to choose from isn't only LCdr Sullivan's to bear. He simply feels it more than most where it all begins out on the frontline.e're in a high operational stress environment. We need people who are in good physical shape," said Sullivan.
How bad are things? The Defense Department says only 25% of young adults qualify to enlist in the military. And among the remaining 75% more than a third have weight related problems. Over the last three decades, the number of obese kids in the U-S has more than tripled.