The AP via ABC News reports that desperate service members are seeking liposuction in order to pass the Pentagon’s body fat test, which can determine one’s future in military service by measuring the waist and neck.
One plastic surgeon, Dr. Adam Tattelbaum out of Rockville, MD, described how “They come in panicked about being kicked out or getting a demerit that will hurt their chances at a promotion.”
The “tape test” utilizes a tape measure wrapped around the neck and waist rather than relying on the civilian BMI index, which calculates based on height and weight. Those who fail the test are ordered into an exercise and nutrition program (dubbed by the Marines as “doughnut brigade” and “pork chop platoon). Three failures can represent grounds for a discharge.
Service members have complained that the Department of Defense’s weight-measurement regimen weeds out both the flabby candidates and the bulky ones, who are often lumped together by the test. The Pentagon, meanwhile, defended its policy by saying that only a small fraction of service members who exceeded body fat limits actually performed well in drills.
The director of the Navy’s Physical Readiness Program, Bill Moore, said “We want everybody to succeed… This isn’t an organization that trains them and says, ‘Hey, get the heck out.'”
The number of soldiers in the Army being discharged for their weight has risen from 168 in 2008 to 1,815. Marine Corps numbers fluctuated a bit more, with 102 discharges in 2010, 186 in 2011, and 132 in 2012. The Air Force and Navy do not keep track of “tape test” discharges.
Another plastic surgeon, Dr, Michael Pasquale of Aloha Plastic Surgery in Honolulu, reported his military clientele spiked 30 percent in two years, with about six service members arriving each month looking to have some work done.
Jeffrey Stout, a professor of sports science at the University of Central Florida, said the tape test accurately describes body shape, not composition or the fat-to-muscle ratio. “I wouldn’t want my career decided on that,” he said.
[Image via this YouTube video]