Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Defense forces in any country has a vital role to play in safeguarding its integrity and security. Armed forces depend heavily on regular recruitment of young, healthy and strong soldiers to manage attrition as well as expansion. Of course with high tech fighting tools now available in the global market, the concept of old "foot soldier" is not relevant any more and physical strength has to be complimented with intellectual quality. That armed forces world over are finding it increasingly difficult to attract suitable candidates into their ranks is a problem faced by many countries, in spite of attractive compensation packages. The crisis being faced by the US is a different type as illustrated by a recent report from that country.

"Too fat to fight? Many American children are so overweight from being fed french fries, pizza and other unhealthy foods at school lunchrooms that they cannot handle the physical rigors of being in the military, a group of retired officers say in a new report. National security is threatened by the sharp rise in obesity rates for young people over the last 15 years, the group Mission: Readiness contends. Weight problems are now the leading medical reason that recruits are rejected, the group says, and thus jeopardize the military's ability to fill its ranks. In a report released Tuesday, the group says that 9 million young adults, or 27 percent of all Americans ages 17 to 24, are too fat to join the military. The retired officers were on Capitol Hill advocating for passage of a wide-ranging nutrition bill that aims to make the nation's school lunches healthier".

Is it not a paradox that a wealthy country like the US is experiencing the undesirable consequences of its richness as the phenomenon of "over eating" and "wrong eating" is an offshoot of its high economic status? The problems encountered by less developed countries like India are of different nature. Those who are wealthy and healthy will not offer themselves for military service while others with low income and less than optimum health, may find it difficult to meet the stiff health standards for recruitment. Still there are plenty of people with required health standards willing to serve the military if compensation is more attractive. Probably "soldiering" may also become a service, "ripe" for out sourcing by wealthy countries with more and more of their citizens either unfit or unwilling to "die" for their country. Of course it may be viewed as "mercenary" by the conventional wisdom but the world, probably will have to live with it.

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