Monday, October 03, 2005

Fit To Serve: Shaping Up

Master Chief Petty Officer Terry D. Scott speaks right to the point when it comes to physical fitness: “No enemy, whether it’s an opposing force or a natural tragedy, is going to give us time to get fit.”

There it is. The NYTimes reports that in 2003 alone more than 3,000 soldiers washed out of the service for being overweight or unfit, according to the latest numbers from the Defense Department. Lt. Col. Joanna J. Reagan, the chief of the nutrition care division at Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, N.C. speaks to the parallel nature of the American military with the American public. “The military is a reflection of the American public, and we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic.” This epidemic manifests in the lives of women in the Army in an average gain of nearly 17 pounds in their first year of service.

Commitments in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere are forcing a change of policy: leaders have concluded they can no longer afford the drain on personnel, and fitness initiatives are being put in place for service men and women stationed around the globe.

Today every member of the military, no matter how many years he or she has been in the service, is required to pass a fitness test that includes a run, pull-ups and push-ups, once a year in the Navy and Air Force, twice yearly in the Marines and Army. Service members also must undergo a "tape test" - a measurement of the waist for men, and the waist and hips for women - that is used to calculate body fat. The results are compiled into a composite score that tells whether they still qualify for the service. The minimum score varies according to age and sex.

Tommi underwent her six-month fitness test just yesterday. She reports having “smoked” the run – two miles in 16:44, but she failed the sit-up requirement. Reasons being as they were “legitimate,” however, she’ll have one more shot at making it happen next week. A failure on any part of the evaluation means a repeat on all parts, so Tommi will have to pass the run again along with a second chance at the sit-ups. If I know Tommi, she’ll make it happen. Early morning rising for fitness training and a run around the track is just not her cup of tea!

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Saturday, October 01, 2005

Hero Missions

The NYTimes has posted a multimedia report (Juliet Macur reporting) that presents a piece of the story about America's fallen from the war in Iraq. After an introduction to the nature of the job, the viewer meets "The Captain," "The Chaplain," and "The Volunteer," all in passing images and voiceover. I most noted the mention of the slow salute that is given when the recovered body of a fallen soldier passes by and the intent of the oldest soldier among the crew who volunteers for every mission in remembrance of the soldiers because "they shouldn't have died this way." This is a difficult report to watch but one that does honor in remembering the soldiers who have died and those who do the work of recovery - Hero Missions.

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Setting the Record Straight

Blogging at "Six More Months," Pat succinctly sets the record straight with his comment: "So for the record, we are not at war with Iraq. We are at war in Iraq. There is a difference."

No matter my political leanings on this matter of war in Iraq, the legality of Mr. Bush's move into war, or the economic state of our nation as a result, I stand with Pat on this point. Our soldiers are fighting a war in Iraq not against it. We are a nation at war alongside Iraqis fighting, as Tommi puts it, the "bad guys" - those who intend to terrorize, destabilize, and promise fear.

Our soldiers are doing their jobs and doing them well - making a difference in the lives of countless Iraqi citizens. They are not alone in their efforts: many of us are supporting, encouraging, and believing in them and in the good work they are doing person-to-person, day-to-day. I hear the stories from Tommi. These are hard-working men and women staying the course in amazingly difficult situations.

I do not discount the violations that have and are occurring, violations against human rights, against a Geneva convention now side-stepped, and the egregious loss of human decency/dignity manifest whenever "blood is in the water," but these truths only further mark the honor of those who remain faithful to a higher cause, calling as they do for a nation's fidelity. These men and women are "doin' us proud," and this point should not (and I believe most often is not) be lost amid the noise of public debate addressing the now increasingly difficult decisions to be made over whether or not (and how) to proceed with the project.

It is in the meantime that Pat's message speaks so clearly to the point: We are at war with Iraqis against those who would terrorize a nation, a world. Withdraw our troops or don't ... the war against that enemy is far from over.

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