28 September 2009

Information is Power

A soldier that has been wearing the uniform for 23 years is being forced to retire due to not passing a tape test. He recently posted a comment on this blog after reading the Chapter 18 fact sheet. I am sadden to hear that he would have fought his separation if he had known what his rights were - such as the right to request an administrative separation board or the right to be enrolled in the Army body composition/weight control program and given adequate time to lose weight.

The Army needs to retain senior NCOs and not separate them based upon the screening process (height and weight tables) and the questionable accuracy of the body composition worksheets ( DA Form 5500). These body composition tests have a high margin of error. These errors are due to the soldiers conducting the tests. Many have been given limited if any training. They are then asked to apply this test with their tape measure (highly subjective). The results of their efforts often result in the end of an honorable soldier's career.

The body-weight standards really don't take into account men who are built like an NFL linebacker. Most tape tests would say that these men are overweight and unhealthy. Really? If I am on a battlefield and need someone to carry me to safety, I will take a soldier built like a linebacker over one built like a long distance runner any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

With the known inaccuracy of tape tests, a soldier should not only be given the opportunity to have a physician determine if there are underlying causes to their “weight problem” but also to have a professional, not a E-5 with a tape measure, conduct the test. The Army needs take a look at the cost of its inaccurate testing methods. Experienced and valuable NCOs should not be flagged from promotion, reenlistment, or other favorable actions based off this standard alone.

I hope that the soldier with 23 years in service pulls his retirement paperwork and pushes to be allowed to continue to serve. If he is truly overweight, well then a good PT program should resolve the problem. If he just happens to be a big man - then I think we need to rethink if this is a bad thing for the Army. I say it's not.

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