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Letters to the Editor for Tuesday, July 12, 2005

European and Mideast editions

(EDITOR’S NOTE: These are the letters that appeared in each edition of Stripes on this publication date. Click here to jump ahead to the Pacific edition letters)

‘Let’s cut the fat’

Overweight soldiers lack discipline, motivation, and disregard their obligation to maintain a standard set by the Army, an institution whose standards are already too loose (“Fat troops take heavy toll on forces,” article, The Associated Press, July 5).

As a health care provider, I routinely have to deal with overweight soldiers. It is a burden on an undermanned and underfunded medical system. In screening and testing hundreds of overweight soldiers during my career, I have only identified one soldier as having a medical disorder that was responsible for the overweight condition. This growing class of soldiers is becoming increasingly expensive and medically and administratively taxing for Army leaders.

Loosen the standards so we can loosen the belt? Good news for soldiers who cannot push themselves away from super sizes and in-between-meal snacks. But the good news doesn’t stop there. The Army is now providing a uniform that looks to be a bit more forgiving in the midsection. Why lose it when you can hide it, right?

To the “military officials” who proclaim that “large and in charge” makes soldiers look more formidable to the enemy: that does not apply if you have a body produced by Hostess pastries.

Let’s cut the fat. Get back to producing quality soldiers. Stop throwing large enlistment bonuses at new recruits who “need to lose 50 pounds” just to make it through the military entrance processing station. Start putting those funds toward incentives and bonuses that will retain E-4s through E-7s who maintain high standards and solidify the backbone of the Army and preserve its integrity.

Robert B. Fox
Forward Operating Base Wilson, Iraq

Where are nutrition classes?

The issue of weight management and physical fitness has long been a pet peeve of mine.

“Fat troops take heavy toll on forces” quotes [Army nutrition expert] Col. Gaston Bathalon as stating a need to relax the weight rules in order to field an Army. I find it shocking and inconceivable that a senior-ranking officer would accept defeat on such a key issue.

The true answer lies in education and strict enforcement of the Army’s weight control policies. The Army makes no effort to educate its soldiers in proper diet and nutrition. One must ask where the Army’s priorities are.

Each month my soldiers are given mandatory equal opportunity and sexual harassment training, but not once have they been mandated to take a class on diet and nutrition.

My company’s first casualty when we came to Iraq was not from a bomb, but from a heart attack. Often I sit in the dining facility and watch in utter amazement at soldiers who can be classified as morbidly obese proceed to get more than one full plate of food to eat and then head to the ice cream bar for dessert. Where is that soldier’s leader and who promoted him to the rank of E-7 or E-8? How has that soldier allowed himself to become this way and how is he setting the standard for his troops to follow? Why is it I always have to stand in line at Burger King but never for the treadmill?

Lack of discipline, education and enforcement of standards is the only answer. Until the Army educates its soldiers, the DFAC adjusts its menu to something that can be considered healthy, the post exchange stops carrying XXXL size PT gear, leaders enforce standards, and soldiers show self-discipline, this problem will not go away. I would much rather go to war with a smaller, leaner force than a large force of overweight, out of breath, off-to-sick-call-again soldiers any day.

Relax the standards? Never.

1st Lt. Brian T. Rathburn
Camp Tigerland, Iraq

Air Force’s growing pains

There have been some growing pains with the Air Force physical training program and a few changes recently have been implemented. I believe another small change is warranted.

I am a 41-year-old male, 32.5-inch waist, my PT score was 89.5 this year largely because I received 30 points for my waist measurement. I do not believe my stature and PT score are due totally to an active lifestyle. I am what American psychologist William Sheldon (1898-1977) calls an ectomorph. Sheldon spent most of his life studying the human body and he came up with three types of body styles.

  • An ectomorph has a smaller frame, usually lean and thin, that can accept muscle mass through hard work. They are hard gainers with a delicate body structure.
  • A mesomorph is athletic, hourglass-shaped (female) or rectangular-shaped (male), muscular with excellent posture, gains muscle easily and gains body fat easier than an ectomorph.
  • An endomorph has a soft body, underdeveloped muscles, round physique and hold most of their weight in their middle; weight loss is difficult but can build muscle easily like the mesomorph.

I believe that endomorphs will have a miserable time trying to pass the Air Force PT test. Most have large frames, are what I call big boned and have a more difficult time reducing weight than the other two body styles.

Should we develop a program that everyone can pass? No, but we should develop a more fair way to measure larger-framed people.

The Air Force believes that we should be fit to fight. I’m all for that, and we should all follow the regulation, but the Air Force should rethink the measurement standard for the three body styles.

If the Air Force wants an ectomorphic/mesomorphic force, so be it, but one day it may be hard to fill our manning boots without all our hard-working endomorphs.

Master Sgt. Gregory L. Clott
Aviano Air Base, Italy

Active duty hinders fitness

I was glad to see your feature article on the obesity problem.

I am a 48-year-old Guardsman. I enlisted after Sept. 11, 2001, following a 20-year break in service with the Marines, from 1978-82. I was appalled at the physical condition of today’s soldier. In fact, being on active duty has seriously impaired my own physical training program and nutrition plan, habits and disciplines that I had kept for 20 years as a civilian. The problems are no secret. In summary:

  • Army food is horrid. Processed white flour and sugar and fried foods form the center of any menu in every chow hall. Completely eliminate the desserts, ice cream cases and soda fountains. If you know it’s bad, then why are you serving it? Serve lean meats and fresh fruits and vegetables. Ban food from the barracks so that every single night is not a Doritos and pizza party. Just do it.
  • Stop sissifying PT. I am embarrassed at Army PT, if we have PT at all. Stretching to cadence and doing some grade school calisthenics like we do would put Richard Simmoms to sleep. Make PT hard and do it every day. Design a program for men who are warfighters and execute it.
  • When did this curious procedure of having soldiers do push-ups for minor offences develop? What a stupid idea! The noncommissioned officer sends the message and reinforces the idea that PT is punishment rather than a good and necessary component of a healthy lifestyle.

I am grateful to the Guard for allowing me the opportunity to serve in this just and necessary war, but I look forward to my tour being up so I can get back to eating healthily and exercising more. It is so hard to stay in shape while in the Army.

Spc. Bill Maughan
Kuwait

Pacific edition

 Stripes made wrong choice

Stars and Stripes’ liberal bias is as obvious as all the other papers — despite its title. I back up this statement with how this newspaper (and every other paper) handles it when they print information that helps their cause or stand and then later has to retract it because it was wrong.

On July 2, half the front page called Stripes readers to the so-called increase in desertions; yet, when corrected information was provided, the July 3 front page only had a corner slice [on the matter]. (I even missed it. I did not notice it until I went to verify my facts before I finished this letter.)

Stripes’ follow-up correction article was on an inside page. I do have to give Stripes editors some credit: They did put a small notice on the front page and it did mention that Stripes should have waited to print; but after printing it is really too late to apologize. Our enemies in this war on terror will take the first article and use it to hurt our morale and help recruit more people to their cause.

I’m all for the truth. Our press needs to print it, good or bad, but the press needs to make sure what they print is the truth, especially when it can have such a negative effect on so many people. It also would not hurt to have a headline that praises the good the United States is doing in the world instead of all the bad once in a while.

Stripes doesn’t have to be a propagandist for the military, but we do a lot of good and that never gets a headline. There may have been 1,500 deserters, but how many people enlisted and re-enlisted in that same time period. Can’t we start reporting the glass half full for a change? Half full is just as truthful as half empty, but the press seems to always want to report the half empty point of view.

Sgt. 1st Class Charles A. Lewis (retired)
Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

Lack of fluoride a good thing

It is painfully clear that the writer of the July 5 article “Water on Okinawa bases not fluoridated” (Okinawa edition) only looked at one source for his information. Fluoridation is a public health policy that has been a raging controversy for 60 years in the United States, therefore, to read such a one-sided article made me absolutely cringe for Japan!

Please do your due diligence! Go to web sites such as www.FluorideAlert.org, or www.Keepers-of-the-Well.org.

The long-term effects of fluoride ingestion are absolutely devastating to the collagen of bone and connective tissue. Why do you think Americans are getting hips, knees and other joints replaced in their 50s? We have the highest hip-fracture rate of any country that keeps records, according to the National Research Council in 1989.

The very lobby that endorsed fluoridation for nationwide use in 1950 is the lobby that is desperately defending it today: the U.S. Public Health Service and the dental associations. Do you honestly think they look forward to the day when they will stand before the American people and apologize for launching and defending the scientific blunder of the century?

The lazy reporting done in this article is the exact kind of lazy and ignorant reporting that perpetuates this tragic myth in the United States. The information is at your fingertips. Take the care and time to read it.

Maureen Jones
Archivist, Citizens for Safe Drinking Water
San Jose, Calif.


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