Troops turn­ing to li­po­suc­tion in or­der to save jobs

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY KRISTINA WONG

As shrink­ing bud­gets force the Pen­tagon to thin its ranks, troops en­gag­ing in their own belt-tight­en­ing in­creas­ingly are turn­ing to li­po­suc­tion to meet strin­gent phys­i­cal stan­dards and re­main in the mil­i­tary.

Call­ing it “mil­i­tary lipo,” doc­tors say ser­vice mem­bers are seek­ing the pro­ce­dure to meet the “tape test,” which uses a ra­tio of the cir­cum­fer­ences of the neck and the waist to de­ter­mine a per­son’s body fat per­cent­age. The big­ger the waist, the higher the per­cent­age.

Mostly ser­vice­men in their mid-30s and 40s are re­sort­ing to li­po­suc­tion as a last-ditch ef­fort to erase those inches, said Dr. Ja­son Miller, founder of Re­newal Body Con­tour­ing in Durham, N.C. He said ser­vice mem­bers have sought li­po­suc­tion in in­creas­ing num­bers at his clinic and more than 100 have un­der­gone the pro­ce­dure this year.

“Th­ese peo­ple are usu­ally in top shape. Th­ese guys are work­ing out con­stantly, but they have spare tires they can’t get rid of,” Dr. Miller said.

The armed ser­vices — par­tic­u­larly the Army and the Ma­rine Corps — have been re­duc­ing their forces as the U.S. mil­i­tary pre­pares to leave Afghanistan by the end of next year and smaller bud­gets con­strain de­fense spend­ing. Troops who do not meet per­for­mance, be­hav­ioral or phys­i­cal stan­dards can be re­moved from ser­vice.

Ser­vice mem­bers who fail the tape test are or­dered to spend months in a vig­or­ous ex­er­cise and nu­tri­tion pro­gram, The As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported. Fail­ing the test just once can halt pro­mo­tions. Fail­ing three times can be grounds for dis­charge, mil­i­tary of­fi­cials say.

Al­though fit­ness stan­dards have not changed in re­cent years, en­force­ment of the stan­dards ap­pears to be stricter. The num­ber of en­listed sol­diers be­ing sep­a­rated from ser­vice for not meet­ing phys­i­cal fit­ness stan­dards has al­most quadru­pled in the past three years.

In 2010, 460 sol­diers were sep­a­rated for not meet­ing weight stan­dards. In 2012, that num­ber grew to 1,815.

The Ma­rine Corps re­ported a slight in­crease, with 102 Marines sep­a­rated be­cause of weight con­trol fail­ure in 2010 and 132 in 2012.

An Army spokes­woman said that while sol­diers who ex­ceed body fat stan­dards can per­form well on phys­i­cal fit­ness tests, higher body fat is as­so­ci­ated with higher risks for other med­i­cal con­di­tions such as heart disease and can­cer.

“The Army does not in­tend to make any changes to body fat stan­dards at this time,” the spokes­woman said.

Stud­ies have shown a cor­re­la­tion among waist size, body fat and phys­i­cal en­durance, mil­i­tary of­fi­cials said, and the tape test is the best, most cost-ef­fec­tive tool avail­able, with a mar­gin of er­ror of less than 1 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the AP.

Dr. Miller is one of sev­eral physi­cians who say the tape test is not an ap­pro­pri­ate way to mea­sure fit­ness be­cause of ge­net­ics and peo­ple with ex­ces­sive mus­cles who are not obese.

He said many of the ser­vice­men who come to his clinic have served as many as seven tours of duty and some are near­ing re­tire­ment age.

“They put their lives on the line,” he said. “I think this is an at­tempt by the mil­i­tary to cut back on the cost of ben­e­fits.”

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