October 28, 2013

Some troops deploy liposuction to win fat test battle

Fitness experts join the call to revamp standards to reflect that Americans are now bigger.

By Julie Watson
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

A service member who failed the so-called “tape test” struggles doing sit-ups during a workout where he hopes to improve his conditioning and avoid being dismissed from the military, at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. Marines have nicknamed the program for those who fail the test “pork chop platoon” or “doughnut brigade.”

The Associated Press

“I wouldn’t want my career decided on that,” he said.

A more accurate method, he said, would be to use calipers to measure the thickness of skin on three different parts of the body.

“That way these guys are not hurt by a bad measurement,” said Stout, who has researched the accuracy of different body composition measurements.

Strength-and-power athletes and those who do a lot of twisting that builds up the muscle tissue over the hips would likely fail the Defense Department test, he added.

Marine Staff Sgt. Leonard Langston, 47, blames himself for weighing 4 pounds over his maximum weight of 174 pounds for his 5-foot-7 frame.

“I think we’ve gotten away with keeping ourselves accountable. Especially the older Marines have let things go,” he said after sweating through 75 crunches with others ordered to the exercise program. “And unfortunately, I’m an example of that.”

Military officials say the tape test is still the best, most cost-effective tool available, with a margin of error of less than 1 percent.

Air Force Gen. Mark Walsh noted only about 348 of 1.3 million airmen have failed the tape test but excelled otherwise.

Even so, his branch heeded the complaints and modified its fitness program in October. The Air Force obtained a waiver from the Pentagon so airmen who fail the tape test but pass physical fitness exams can be measured using the body mass index.

Marine Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Smith applauded the move. Smith said he has received five Navy achievement medals but has not been promoted since failing the tape test once in 2009.

“They call you names like ‘fat bodies,”’ Smith said. “They talk a lot of trash to you and put you down quite often.”

He launched an online White House petition this summer to talk to leaders about the tape test.

The 1,700 signatures fell short of the 100,000 needed to get a response, but Smith said the Air Force gives him hope other branches might also heed the complaints.

“There’s got to be something better for Marines who are working hard but just born like a tree stump,” Smith said.

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