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Event Recap: The Recruiting Crisis: Obesity’s Challenge to Military Readiness

Event Recap: The Recruiting Crisis: Obesity’s Challenge to Military Readiness

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On November 15, the American Security Project hosted a virtual discussion on the implications of obesity in America for military recruitment and national security. Panelists Brigadier General Stephen A. Cheney, USMC (Ret.), the President Emeritus of the American Security Project and a former marine with 30 years of experience, Brigadier General Stephen N. Xenakis, USA (Ret.), a former medical corps officer with over 28 years of experience and a senior medical adviser to the Department of Defense, and Amy E. Rothberg, M.D., PhD, a Clinical Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan in the Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology and Diabetes (MEND) explored both trends in American obesity and prospective solutions for military recruiters.

Brigadier General Cheney initiated the discussion with an overview on the potential dangers of the armed services failing to “make mission,” or achieve their recruiting goals. He then addressed how the problem can compound over time as the services are increasingly forced to draw upon applicants from their recruit pools for the next fiscal year. General Cheney also emphasized the importance of approaching obesity seriously as a national problem.

Brigadier General Xenakis then spoke about the relationship between societal obesity and obesity in the military, and how the military has a part to play in helping combat the national obesity crisis. Brigadier General Xenakis also underlined the importance of giving military recruiters access to the tools they need to empower potential recruits to achieve the necessary conditions to join the miliary.

Dr. Amy Rothberg then addressed how obesity is a disease and must be viewed as such, and how that affects avenues for treatment and corrective measures going forward. Dr. Rothenberg emphasized the costs of obesity to both the military and the nation as a whole, the scientific causes of obesity, and the progress that has been made towards finding long-term treatment.

The event concluded with questions on topics such as the effects of mental health on the obesity crisis and how people who have lost weight can prevent regaining that weight.