Brave men and women risk their lives to protect us and defend our freedom, but some are losing those honorable careers in the armed forces. Others are being denied. It's because of a physical test that is now becoming a bit controversial.
Expanding waist lines, declining health and mobility problems are part of America's obesity epidemic. Now, it has become a national security concern. Department of Defense officials said obesity is the the biggest reason people who want to join the army can't.
In 2009, 75 percent of people trying to join the Army were denied due to their weight. Between 1998 and 2010, the number of active-duty military personnel overweight or obese more than tripled.
It's forcing military leaders to take a look at training and discharge those who aren't in shape. Last year, nearly 2000 soldiers were removed.
That isn't going over well with everyone. Some soldiers say some circumstances make the Army's physical fitness test unfair.
WHSV's Melanie Lofton organized a fitness test to see if the average Valley neighbor could pass it.
Major Nevin Blankenship served 18 years in the National Guard and has been deployed four times. He said at the peak of his youth, he didn't do so well.
“I played three sports in high school. I came in there, the longest I'd ever run was a mile, and the two mile run, I couldn't do it," said Major Blankenship.
Major Blankenship was the test administrator for Melanie and two other volunteers. The test consisted of two minutes of push-ups, sit-ups and a two-mile run.
Orva Crawford was one of the volunteers in the group. She is a 24-year-old EMT and former ROTC cadet, who no longer has time to exercise.
Erick Krulman was another volunteer. He's a 25-year-old Staunton police officer and an avid runner.
Finally, Melanie Lofton is a 32-year-old working mom, who uses P90X videos to stay healthy.
A woman Orva's age had to do at least 17 push-ups to get 60-percent, which is the minimum to pass the test. She struggled with form and not going low enough to the ground. She finished with only five.
Then it was Melanie's turn. Forty five push-ups would have been 100 percent and she completed all 45 of them.
For Erick, 75 would be 100 percent and he did 86!
The next phase of the test was sit-ups.
Orva needed to do at least 50, but form got her in trouble this time too. If a participant's hands come from behind his or her head, the event is over. For the sake of this experiment, Orva was allowed to continue, but she still fell short of the minimum to pass.
Melanie had to do at least 44 and finished with 52.
Erick once again surpassed his goal. To get 100 percent, he would need to do 80 and he completed 84 sit-ups!
The last part of the test was the two-mile run.
Erick quickly put a distance between himself and the other two. For a man his age, 100-percent would mean finishing in 13-minutes. He finished in 12 minutes 38 seconds.
For Melanie, finishing in under 21 minutes and 46 seconds would get a passing score. She finished the run in 18 minutes and 56 seconds, which is a passing score of 79 percent.
Orva was only about 90 seconds away from passing with her final score.
“Definitely used to doing this back in school, not so much anymore, looks like I gotta get back into practice,” said Orva.
In a report, former Navy Seal Stew Smith, said that's the lesson. Most people are simply not practicing and putting their health second. The other issue is there are many soldiers who are out of shape as a result of injuries. Others are deployed in remote locations where there isn't a gym within a convenient distance.
These are things Army leaders, at least right now, are not making exceptions for. That's what's making this test, and the requirement to pass it twice a year controversial.
The group of volunteers had a little fun with the test, but it seems that if a participant exercises regularly, passing the test shouldn't be a problem.
However, it is upsetting when someone loses their career over this, specifically when an injury gets in the way of training.
Failing to pass the test doesn't make our soldiers any less brave, or honorable.
Click the document link above to see the full requirements of the test.
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