Marines are upset over what they say are relaxed physical fitness standards for sailors that allow higher body fat percentages.
The changes are part of an initiative pushed by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to focus on “holistic health, curb risky weight-loss methods and stem an exodus of talented sailors.”
Navy officials say they wanted to move away from a system that punishes sailors for failing fitness tests and instead implement one that encourages year-round fitness. Mabus has also requested that the Marine Corps conduct its own review of fitness standards. Any changes that may result from that review are expected to be announced at the end of August, according to Marine Corps Times.
Some Marines do agree however that the much-reviled tape test is not an accurate way to measure body fat. Sailors will no longer be required to undergo a neck-and-torso test, which has been criticized for years for being completely inaccurate. They will now be transitioning to a waist-only tape test that “sets a maximum of 39 inches for men and 35.5 inches for women.”
Other changes to the Navy’s fitness regulations includes healthier food choices. For example, instead of fried foods being offered in their chow halls, sailors will now be introduced to color-coded dishes, with green labels indicating the healthiest choices. Vice Adm. Bill Moran, chief of naval personnel, said last month: “Fitness should truly be about being healthy and mission readiness — are you physically fit for times of combat and stress in the fleet?”
The Navy also plans to run a pilot program in the Pacific Fleet and Navy Reserve using fitness trackers that you can strap to the body, like Fitbits.
Former Marine Cpl. Joshua Naylor says, “I think that is a completely ridiculous way to approach it from a financial standpoint.” Another Marine, who is based in Kansas City, Missouri, said he often sacrifices performance to make weight. Both he and Naylor agreed that if service members want a Fitbit, they should purchase their own. If the goal is simply to maintain basic fitness, they say the device is “overkill.”
That Kansas City Marine, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Marines used to ask him for advice to cut weight since he is also a bodybuilder. “Once I start dropping weight, I lose a lot of strength to do a lot of stuff that I can [do] when I’m heavier,” he said.
Naylor said he didn’t think the physical fitness standards should change at all, but the method of measurement should. Naylor left the Marine Corps in 2014 and now works as a physical trainer. He said he’d like to see both sea services look into using skin calipers to measure body fat, which he says are far more accurate than the tape test.
Naylor despised the tape test system, but still is opposed to one that might allow out-of-shape Marines to remain in uniform without any consequences.