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Army Readiness Eroded By Increasing Numbers of Medically Unfit Soldiers Cont.
As an example of the system’s reliability, Stone noted that one unit was predicted to have a 40% musculoskeletal injury rate, and, in the first six months of that unit’s deployment, it had a 39.5% musculoskeletal injury rate.
“It is very accurate, and we have 10 different programs going on around the Army to look at this,” he said.
Over the next six to 12 months, Stone said, those programs will begin to show data that can point to ways to actually reduce these injuries.
“Simply by taking individuals with the wrong arch height and putting them in the correct boot, by identifying those soldiers who have weaknesses in various core strengths and to begin training them through various physical fitness programs, physical therapists and occupational therapists, we can change the dynamics and reduce from a 40% in an individual unit to much lower levels of injury,” he said.”
|Lt. Gen Eric Schoomaker, Army surgeon general (left), leads a panal discussion Monday at the 2011 Association of the U.S Army Annual Meeting and Exposition - (Army Photo)|
Army Scrutinizes Diet
Another problem is that, of the approximately 140,000 new recruits, about 25% come to the Army with low iron levels and high body masses, he added. In addition, female recruits are coming in with lower bone density and lower calcium levels than the Army has ever seen.
“We have seen in initial entrance training, a small but emerging and increasing numbers of pelvis and hip fractures in 18 to 24 year olds,” he said. “In fact, last year we sustained over 100 pelvis and hip fractures in [soldiers aged] 18 to 24 years.”
To address all these problems, the Army is reviewing how recruits are trained, including issues such as diet.
The Army’s “Go for Green,” program implemented in 2010, uses a system in which the food at the basic training dining halls is tagged with a red, yellow or green color to indicate how healthy the choices are, with green being the healthiest. It is hoped that recruits will choose to eat healthier with more information.
The question remains whether programs to improve eating habits during the 9½weeks of basic training can make a difference after recruits are assigned the regular duties or move on to additional training.
“We are about 12 months away from being able to provide some sort of data that will show whether this 9½ weeks of basic training makes a difference when they get to their first duty station or when they get to advanced individual training,” he said.
When Stone was asked by a member of the audience why the Army did not simply take away all unhealthy food options in the basic training dining halls, he responded that basic training is being used to educate the soldiers and influence their eating habits after they leave.
“We have taken a tack where we have put choices in front of them and then helped them make decisions by color-coding. The drill sergeant is standing right there in the line … the question will be, ‘What happens after the 9½ weeks, when they can make their own choices?’” he said.