Some soldiers who are muscular are astonished to fail the height-weight standard. The first time he took the test, Staff Sgt. Ammiel Banayat was surprised to find that he was over the limit. He is 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs just more than 160 pounds. To override the standard, he was subjected to a body-fat index test that takes into account tape measurements of the neck and waistlines.
“The first time it happened, I was petrified,” the Arizona National Guardsman said. “Even though I still passed the test, just the fact that I didn’t pass the height and weight test was terrifying.”
Smith, the former Navy SEAL, said the bulk of people struggling with weight issues are simply the product of a generation that has become increasingly sedentary and accustomed to large food portions. Some of the soldiers fighting for their jobs, however, have gained weight at least in part as a result of injuries, he said.
On blogs and forums, military personnel and spouses have been critical of the dismissals, arguing that soldiers who put their lives on the line in combat are being treated as expendable.
A writer using the screen name Army Mom complained on a court-martial defense lawyer’s blog that her son was being kicked out for being overweight despite having suffered a knee injury in Iraq. “My son fought for this country and has a wife and 3 young children, the youngest a month old and they are now homeless,” she wrote in September.
A soldier, writing anonymously in the comments section of the blog, sought advice, saying he was being dismissed for putting on weight after surgery. A second soldier posted a comment saying he gained weight after 19 years in the service when he started taking medicine for depression.
“The Army doctor swears that the medicine does not make [me] gain weight and it is the depression that made me get careless and gain the weight,” the soldier wrote. “The company commander wants to separate me and really there is nothing I can do — just to lose the weight.”