If President-elect Donald Trump's plan to expand the military is approved, then the pool of potential troops needs to shape up and get fit—starting right now, according to the group PHIT America, Silver Spring, Maryland.
Statistics from Mission: Readiness , a report released last year by a group of more than 600 military leaders, reveal that at least 70 percent of 17-24 year olds in 45 states plus the District of Columbia are not fit to serve in the military because they are out of shape, lack enough education, have drug issues or have a history of crime. The issue of physical fitness is largely due to the lack of physical education offered in U.S. schools, according to a release from PHIT America. Physical education is offered in 48 percent of U.S. schools.
Mission: Readiness supports more P.E. and structured recess breaks in school to get students physically fit.
"One in three children are overweight and obese, and about 71 percent of our children cannot serve in the United States military because they are overweight or obese," said retired Rear Admiral James Rodman during a recent interview with KUSI-TV in San Diego, California. "That's an issue of national security that needs to be addressed."
U.S. Army Colonel Charles H. May, based at Natick Soldier System Center in Natick, Massachusetts, said: "Many young men and women are lacking the necessary physical strength and endurance required for military service. This fitness delta must be bridged. Our society, as a whole, needs to embrace the life benefits of increased physical fitness. Many potential recruits, because of the fitness shortcomings, never have the chance to exploit career and life enhancing opportunities because they do not meet minimal physical fitness standards. Families and academia have a responsibility to come together as one positive force to promote greater fitness now and forever so that all generations can truly 'Be All They Can Be.'"
U.S. Health and Human Services suggests 60 minutes of physical activity each day for each student. It can be done at school with a mixture of P.E., recess, and physical activity breaks.
While the focal point of the issue is the fitness of 17-24 year olds in the U.S., it's necessary for the U.S. to make sure its young children are given the necessary attention and training to succeed in life—as both civilians and as future military personnel.
"A strong body of research has proven that high-quality prekindergarten prepares children to succeed in school and beyond," said Joseph F. Perugino, a retired major general who previously commanded the Pennsylvania National Guard's 28th Infantry Division and who now serves on the executive leadership council of Mission: Readiness – Military Leaders for Kids. "Children who enter school from quality early learning programs are better prepared for school, show lasting academic gains, and are less likely to engage in crime or substance abuse. In turn, that means they require less money in the form of taxpayer dollars be spent on things such as prisons and welfare, and more important, they grow into productive members of our communities."
These statistics underscore the importance of PHIT America's GO! Grants program, according to PHIT America. The Go! Grants are a series of grants to support the expansion of elementary school P.E. programs in the United States before, during and after school. The goal of GO! Grants is to jumpstart increased physical activity in schools, thereby increasing physical literacy skills, health and academic performance among students aged 5-12.
"That is one of the reasons PHIT America is working so hard to rebuild P.E. programs in America," Doug Gordon, special ambassador, PHIT America and a longtime executive in the sporting goods industry, said in the release. "Our PHIT America GO! Grants get kids off the couch and ready for an active life outside of school."
According to Gordon, PHIT America is also speaking with corporate America to generate additional support for its quest to get American children active, fit and healthy.
"One of our goals is to find a private sector brand and to get the U.S. military actively engaged as presenting sponsors in a program aimed at high school aged students," Gordon said. "We need to reverse this physical inactivity issue. We can. It is timely, the time is now, and we can build a solution."
Founded in January 2013, PHIT America is a non-profit campaign focused on overcoming the ramifications of inactivity through three approaches—education, supporting school-based activity programs and advocating—that will get Americans, especially youth, more active, fit and healthy.