Obesity and Lack of Physical Education Obstacles to Military Readiness

A recently released report, "Ready, Willing and Unable to Serve," states that the military had one of its best recruiting years since the draft ended in 1973. This is especially surprising since about 75 percent of the country's 17- to 24-year-olds are ineligible for military service, largely because they are poorly educated, overweight and have physical ailments that make them unfit for the armed forces, according to the report issued Thursday.

"When you get kids who can't do push-ups, pull-ups or run, this is a fundamental problem not just for the military but for the country," said Curtis Gilroy, the Pentagon's director of accessions policy. Many kids are not "taking physical education in school; they're more interested in sedentary activities such as the computer or television. And we have a fast-food mentality in this country."

So how did the military hit its recruiting goals? Military officials say their recent success is due to increased spending on recruiting and bonuses, which in the Army went from an average of less than $8,000 in 2000 to more than $18,000 in 2008. A dismal economy, which drove up civilian unemployment, helped fill the ranks as well.