"The Army’s height and weight requirements are laid out in Army Regulation 600-9, the guidance for the Army Body Composition Program, which dictates how much a soldier should weigh depending on their gender, height, and age. If a soldier doesn’t meet the standard on that body mass index (BMI) table, they have different parts of their body measured as part of the tape test...
... To meet those standards, service members often adopt unhealthy behaviors like starving themselves, working out excessively, taking diet pills or laxatives, or sitting in saunas for prolonged periods of time to drop weight quickly. An Army major who struggled with bulimia for years said taking drastic measures ahead of weigh-ins is “so common that nobody looks at it as weird,” and while “people will fully admit it’s happening … it’s never discussed as a danger...
... the rate of anorexia and bulimia were higher among Marines than the other services. One study estimated almost half of U.S. service members reported at least one experience with weight stigma in the military in 2017, noting that stigma is “associated with harmful thoughts and behaviors, including diet pill and laxative use, purging, and overeating.” Those behaviors fall into a category of “disordered eating.”
...these habits don’t happen only among young service members, or just women. The problem extends to men and women, officers and enlisted, from new lieutenants to senior non-commissioned officers...
...getting taped is in Army regulations and not technically considered a punishment, there is an overwhelming negative stigma attached to it. Every service member interviewed by Task & Purpose described a certain amount of shame that went along with the practice, summed up by a first lieutenant... who has heard soldiers say “all the fat kids need to go get taped.’”
To say only “fat” service members get taped simply isn’t true. The test equally punishes muscular men and women and service members whose body types don’t fit the required measurements. That problem was highlighted in March by The Army Mom Life, an advocacy group for mothers in the Army, in a slideshow that showed photos of women and their height and weight results. The photos show women who appear muscular and fit, yet surpass their table weight and in some cases barely meet their body fat percentage requirement.
As one soldier noted on her photo, the terror over being taped has made her rethink strength training, opting to reduce the weight she tries to squat since she would fail if she gained 1.5 inches on her gluteus muscles.
“I am perplexed by the idea that we are asking women to gain muscle, and then we use a tape that measures that muscle (gluteus) and punishes them for increasing the size of that muscle,” she said.
An Army sergeant first class at the Pentagon said that despite excelling on his fitness tests, he’s a naturally “stocky guy,” and the tape test has been the “only thing that’s ever threatened my career.” He had good reason to be worried. If someone fails to meet the height and weight requirements, and fails the tape test, they are put on the Army Body Composition Program. They’re given a maximum of six months to show “satisfactory progress” in losing weight, which the Army defines as three to eight pounds a month.
If a soldier fails to be within weight standards by six months — and it is not due to a medical condition — the soldier will be separated from the service. The Marine Corps has a similar policy, which says Marines who have not made “satisfactory progress” within those six months will be processed for administrative separation.
Aside from the threat of separation, there’s fear that news of a soldier failing height and weight could damage their reputation. The Army major remarked that “so much of people’s reputations are on these silly” tests.
“If word gets around then it’s going to professionally affect you,” he said. “Even if it’s something you can pass, it’s still just the fear of that possibility.”
The sergeant first class added that he experienced harassment while at the Drill Sergeant Academy because even though he passed tape, he looked bigger than some of the other soldiers who “all fit a very particular mold” and were “fairly skinny people.”
Other soldiers interviewed by Task & Purpose echoed that sentiment — saying the Army is holding onto an antiquated view of what a “good soldier” looks like, which they say often translates to a thin “runner’s body.” Even the Army’s own standards lean on a subjective appearance; the service’s body composition program regulations say that commanders “have the authority to direct a body fat assessment on any soldier that they determine does not present a soldierly appearance.”
... Marines can be assigned to the program even if they meet height and weight standards...
... There’s also an argument that measuring someone’s health with BMI is not only outdated, but biased towards anyone who is not a white man...
... Experts also say it’s not accurate. Velasquez... said BMI doesn’t take things like muscle mass, cardiac health, or metabolic health into consideration, which she and other experts agree are more important indicators of health. (For context, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was considered “obese” according to BMI standards, Men’s Health reported in 2015.) “When we’re testing our service members on these standards, it’s kind of a one-size-fits-all that does not fit who we are as a nation anymore,” she said.
The tape test, which is conducted if a service member is over the regulation weight, is not much better. Lampert called it a “terrible” and “notoriously unreliable way to measure body fat.” Notably, a Military Times study of the tape test in 2013 found it was inaccurate in measuring body fat for 10 out of 10 active duty service members. Dr. Jordan Moon, the director of the Sports Science Center Research Institute, told Military Times the tape test “can vary by as much as 15%.”
“So, if your results show you’re 20% fat, that means there’s a 95% chance that you’re really somewhere between [five] and 35% fat,” Moon said.
One of the most common criticisms of height and weight standards is that they are often enforced differently depending on the unit, your leaders, or the person administering the test.
“You go in there potentially about to end your career or start the downfall, and it’s all dependent on how this person is going to tape you,” the major said. “You could have different people tape you … how are they actually positioning the [the tape]? How tight are they squeezing the tape, some people say you’ve got to put your shoulders up, or are they making you stand normal? What are they letting you get away with? And there’s so many little tricks — I’ve seen people hit themselves in the neck thinking it will kind of cause it to swell up, or they’ll put their tongue at the top of their mouth … If you can get your neck bigger and your waist smaller, then you’re giving yourself every possible advantage.”
A Marine Corps staff sergeant and Army captain echoed that view, saying that it was not uncommon for men to focus on working out their necks in the days leading up to a weigh-in to help them pass tape.
The Air Force recently became the first military service to get rid of the tape test, though it’s still unclear what a new body composition measurement would look like; the Army and Marine Corps still swear by it. And in the Army’s case, soldiers say the existing standards and tape test aren’t accounting for the service’s new fitness test, which emphasizes building muscle for test events like the deadlift, standing power throw, and sprint-drag-carry.
“Fundamentally, the Army system for height and weight is broken,” said the captain, who is assigned to the 25th Infantry Division. “And the Army has a very toxic understanding of health, weight, and fitness.”
Ironically, the methods many are using to meet the military’s height and weight standards are hurting the physical fitness they’re supposed to support, and in the Army’s case, they know it.
Army regulations factor in the possibility that soldiers may be doing things to rapidly lose weight, and even details various “unsafe” tactics soldiers may be using to do so. In AR 600-9, the guidance for the Army Body Composition Program, the service urges commanders to allow a seven day period between taking the fitness test and taking soldiers’ height and weight because some “may attempt to lose weight quickly in the days leading up to a weigh-in.”
“This practice may result in the soldier being unable to perform his or her best on the [fitness test], if the two events are scheduled close together,” the regulations say.
...The Army and Marine Corps are currently studying their body composition programs.
... None of the service members who spoke with Task & Purpose advocated for no fitness and health standards, and Lampert argued there are plenty of ways to measure those things that are accurate and actually correlate to health instead of just looking the part."
Note: there's a bunch of links within the article to more information about almost everything, so please click through and click around if any part of this interests you.
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This Day in History: George Rentz’s Navy Cross
On this day in 1882, a hero is born. George S. Rentz would go on to become the only Navy Chaplain to receive a Navy Cross during World War II.
Chaplain Rentz had already served in World War I and was pushing 60 years old by the time the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Nevertheless, he was soon in the thick of things, serving aboard the heavy cruiser USS Houston.
Rentz had already made a favorable impression on his crew. A story is told about an early February 1942 battle in which Rentz refused to find cover. He instead circulated among his men, offering encouragement.
“When the sailors saw this man of God walking fearlessly among them,” one officer noted, “they no longer felt alone.”
But his real heroism came a few weeks later, just after the Battle of the Java Sea. Allied forces took a hard hit at that February 27 battle, but Rentz’s cruiser survived, as did the Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth.
Unfortunately, Houston and Perth would be hit again the next night as they attempted to pass through the Sundra Strait.
Houston had already been injured during the battle the night before, so her guns weren’t all operational. Worse, the two Allied ships were badly outnumbered. They held their own for a little while, but by midnight both Houston and Perth were sinking.
Houston’s crew was left in the Pacific, clinging to floating wreckage. Rentz was among the survivors who’d found their way to an overcrowded pontoon.
The story concludes at the link in the comments.
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