Iowa’s obesity rates causing limited pool for military recruiters

Iowa News

JOHNSTON, Iowa (WHO-TV) – As “Death to America” threats are hurled in Iran, another threat looms in America from within.

Col. Mike Wunn with Iowa National Guard says over two-thirds of Americans are unfit to serve their country.

“Nationally about 3 % of young adults between the ages of 17 to 24 fit into those categories where they can qualify for military service,” said Wunn.

One of the problems Wunn has seen is obesity.

“Certain groups of young people are very sedentary and not getting the physical exercise and fitness they need,” he said.

In a recent Trust for America’s Health report, 35.3% of Iowa adults in 2018 were obese. That number is tied for the fifth-highest obesity rate in the country and above all bordering states.

Wunn said, “We are not as active in our work as we used to be. We are not as active as young people.”

For nearly a decade, Iowa has been well above the American average, which is now at 30.9%.

“It is something that is not just a military concern. That’s a societal issue that all of us need to be concerned about,” said Wunn.

Aside from being physically unfit, other issues include a criminal background or not having a high school diploma. If not too egregious, some can earn a waiver.

“We can work with them so they can get the physical conditioning they need to be successful at basic training,” said Wunn.

Recruiters are more than earning their pay with a limited pool to choose from. They are also hoping a good payday for prospective soldiers can sweeten the deal with up to a $20,000 bonus for infantry recruits.

Wunn said, “We have a recruitment bonus right now specific to 15 different military occupational specialties.”

While the number on the scale may impact recruiting numbers, another number impacting it is low unemployment.

Iowa’s 2.6% is fifth-best in the nation, but recruiters still found a way to bring in one of the biggest classes in recent years.

“We have some of the best recruiters in the Army here in the Iowa Army National Guard,” said Wunn.

Getting people fit is all part of protecting America from enemies both foreign and domestic.

Wunn said, “Making sure they aren’t just playing video games, that they are out getting physical activity, not just for physical health but for their mental health as well.”

To learn more about the current $20,000 enlistment bonus, visit an Iowa National Guard office near you.

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