Obesity in the United States rose from 30.5% in 2000 to 42.4% in 2018. For those of you who suck at math like me, that means in 18 years, 12% of our population, or approximately 40 million people, were told they need to report to fat camp. I want this next statistic to sink in; 71% of our population between the ages of 17-24, or approximately 24 million people, are ineligible for military service. 9 million of those youth are ineligible because they’re too fat. Those are the only stats I’ll use. I’m sure you’re aware we have a problem. I’m less concerned about recruitment numbers than I am about what exists within our military currently. Besides the seemingly tolerant environment we’ve created that allows our troops to be fat, we have an even worse problem; a culture of hypocrisy where leaders point the finger at junior soldiers, all while using the other hand to stuff their face with processed trash. The fight for the warrior culture begins here.
Our military has always been a reflection of society. We do a lot of bragging about how progressive we are when it comes to race relations, leading the way on the enforcement of laws regarding drunken driving, and many more. The truth is, none of our progressive nature was born out of noble reasons. We need people to stand on the line, and we have always compromised our standards when we need bodies. I could apply that to any war we’ve fought from the civil war until now, and maybe even further back than that. Some of our compromise turns out to be good. The military had an enormous impact on desegregation. The outcome was good, IS good, but we didn’t do this because we suddenly saw the error of our ways and wanted to be more inclusive. We needed fighting age males to fight for Uncle Sam, and we knew that blacks were just as capable of dying for their country as whites, so our leadership begrudgingly made changes. My point is, we only get what the country has to offer, so we’ll do what’s necessary, bend the rules, grant waivers, until we don’t need them anymore, then we tighten back up. Now is no different. We work with what the nation has to offer, and our nation has subsided on processed food and high calorie intake for so long that the “offering” America has to give us is fat. Once again, however, I’m less concerned about our recruiting efforts as I am about what exists within our ranks right now. Take one stroll down Battalion Avenue on Fort Hood at 6:30 in the morning, and you’ll know exactly what I’m referring to. Fort Hood is the largest military installation in the world. I feel like it contains the most authentic look into the heart of our current military, or Army anyways (though I know the Navy and Air Force are just as bad), and it’s a far cry from the images we throw up in our recruitment ads. Let’s address the real problem though; surprise, it’s not the food we have available. Like most of the problems plaguing our military right now, we’ve grown a culture of spineless leaders who have let the core discipline of our Army become hollowed out and feckless. We are an army resting on the laurels of WWII while we convince ourselves that fighting sheep herders in caves, who never left the 15th century, has prepared us for a fight against an equal adversary. Many of our flag officers are merely playing house with the fancy toys daddy bought them.
Once upon a time, hazing was a rite of passage, but I’ll concede it went too far. Some people are just idiots and don’t know how to establish limits. In an age of instant communication, hazing had to be banned because general so and so couldn’t afford to be getting multiple phone calls from a congressman telling him little Johnny’s mom called and complained and they couldn’t afford the bad press during an election year. A slow erosion of military culture that had ebbed and flowed for decades, but had ultimately maintained a warrior culture, began to eat away at our discipline. The Marine Corps is an anomaly. While they plumped up a bit themselves over the years, their ability to maintain the culture of their forebearers, while enforcing the same exact standards force wide, has allowed them to police their own much better than the other branches. The thought of being THAT marine still affects the mentality of the Corps in general and keeps them in check. The Army, on the other hand, is a mess of units who have different uniform requirements, grooming standards, and rules that vary from base to base and unit to unit. There is no one size fits all for the Army, and this is part of our problem. While overall discipline waned due to the strict rules applied after the no hazing policy, NCOs and Officers were unsure of what they could and couldn’t do and how to enforce discipline overall. Once they PCS’d to different bases, they were even more confused. There were countless stories of “toxic” leaders losing their careers because their actions were deemed to have gone overboard, so a lot of people backed off and said, “I’m not touching this. It’s not worth my career.” That, in turn, affected the next generation who had never seen anything else, and life as they knew it was the standard they would apply to their troops. Before long, you had an entire Army talking about, “back in my day” and making up stories about the abuse they’d endured, when they’d really never experienced anything of the sort and just wanted to have some credibility with their soldiers. Officers refused to back up NCOs and let them run things, NCOs became afraid to stand up to officers and enforce the standard, and before long, a whole generation of “yes men” were taking over battalion and brigade commands and toeing the line with a sluggish Army that allowed its soldiers to pick and choose which regulations they’d enforce, stretch their uniforms out through over eating and a lack of physical fitness, and focus on every task except the most important of all; training themselves and their soldiers to fight and win in combat. The warrior culture existed in small pockets of the army and in word alone; the culture was almost gone.
SMA Dan Dailey was a shining beacon of light for our Army, and I’ll stand by that statement. He was focused on physical fitness above all else, then demonstrated what it meant to lead from the front and show the entire Army what right looked like by DOING what he said. Unfortunately, for all the good that SMA Dailey was, he had a harem of scum CSM’s at every echelon below him who balked and resisted his push to clean up the NCO Corps and tighten up discipline from the top down. How many of you have seen SNCOs and officers stretching out every inch of their uniform, while somehow passing tape, all while pointing the finger at their subordinates to “fix themselves?” It’s disgusting. Leaders are an exception if they demonstrate what the right answer looks like through action anymore. I had a friend tell me about a CW3 walking around in the morning on Fort Rucker, trash talking the WOBC/Common Core students during PT, all while looking like he’s hiding a beach ball under his shirt. It didn’t shock me in the least, and the reason why is because I see it everywhere I go now. While I have not spent any time in Ranger Regiment, I have spent a considerable amount of time in a Special Forces Group, and the standards are slipping there as well. I’ve seen far too many SNCOs who are overweight and have no fear of being sent away for it. No one enforces it, the culture doesn’t demand it, therefore the personal discipline is often lacking. If you do try and enforce discipline, and you’re not in an organization that supports it, you’ll get shut down quickly. On the other hand, if you’re one of the good ol’ boys in one of the many units that hides and protects its own, and you’re a fat, mouth breathing scum bag who’s kissing the right people’s ass while hypocritically snarling and pointing your crooked, sausage finger at your troops, you’ll do just fine, because that is the culture we’ve stood up and cultivated.
Many flag officers are focusing on diet and nutrition right now, through education, all while ignoring the festering disease that cyclically feeds and grows within their divisions. The irony is they know better, they’ve been around longer than any of us, yet they are a part of the culture of yes men that dares not buck the party line. I used to wonder why small, incremental change was all that was obtained under the tenure of a Major General or Lieutenant General, when they had the authority and power to do so much more, but now I know they were aware of the beast they were locking horns with, and incremental change was a victory nonetheless. They’ve placated our elected officials, with their lobbyist agendas, at the expense of our National Security. After all, the fight will be won in the digital domain and by whoever controls the air, so what does it really matter if we allow our military to stay fat through sedentary and undisciplined behavior? It’s all about having the numbers in uniform that the current Commander in Chief demands. The excel spreadsheet those numbers exist on is more important than what it represents, right? Wrong. As SMA Dailey knew all too well, the warrior culture was a mindset, a mental state, that existed in the personal discipline in each, individual soldier. The fastest way to obtain it was through raw, physical fitness. By taming the army culture through physical fitness, we would control the environment, which would allow leaders to produce hardened men and women capable of killing, in any domain. The fight for our minds begins on our waste line, and our minds are the vehicle to winning in any challenge presented.