NORFOLK, Va. ―The Navy has the highest proportion of overweight personnel, according to a Defense Department report released in September.
After completing an early morning workout with a group of local sailors, Defense Secretary Mark Esper isn’t ready to single the service out, but he plans to have a conversation about the state of the Navy’s physical fitness program.
Esper visited Norfolk sailors on Thursday, which included a pre-dawn workout on the bow of the battleship Wisconsin, now a waterside museum. When asked if he thought the Navy could use an occupational fitness test similar to evaluations used by the Army and Marine Corps to measure combat readiness, he hesitated to issue any suggestions to the sea service.
“My view has been that there are things that the services should do, and I would leave it up to the services to determine if there’s an occupational test, if you will,” he told Military Times.
22 percent of personnel in one branch are reportedly obese.
Navy leaders have mulled a new fitness test to more closely mirror the tasks sailors must do while manning a ship, but their deliberations progressed in fits and starts before officials eventually abandoned the idea.
They failed to find a way to conduct a shipboard test that could involve the entire crew, with multiple stations requiring bulky equipment in tight spaces.
Although Esper said he was unfamiliar with the study pegging the Navy as the most obese service, he said he plans to talk about PT with the service’s top civilian.
“But that is one of the things, when I go back and sit down with Secretary of the Navy [Richard] Spencer, and I share what I’ve learned, from sailors’ questions,” he said.
The Military Health System’s August 2019 Medical Monthly Surveillance Report revealed that obesity rates are rising in the other services, too.
As the Army works to field two new occupation combat readiness tests, the discussion has increased over the legacy PT test and whether the Army needs gendered fitness standards at all.
While serving last year as the Army secretary, Esper greenlighted a second occupational fitness test, which is on track to be incorporated throughout the service next fall.
Both the Occupational Physical Assessment Test given to recruits and the forthcoming Army Combat Fitness Test have gender-neutral standards and test five domains of fitness: Speed/agility, muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance, explosive power and strength.
The Marines — least obese of the armed forces — implemented their occupational Combat Fitness Test in 2008 as an annual adjunct to the standard PFT conducted during the other half of the year.