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While the requirement that personnel adhere to such standards is mandated by the Department of Defense (DoDD 1308.1, 1981, 1995), each branch of service is permitted to set its own standards and to test compliance with these standards in a way that is compatible with the mission of that branch.
The use of body composition, physical fitness, and task performance standards to evaluate personnel, as well as the assessment methods used, are issues of utmost interest to the scientific community and constitute active areas of investigation. At the same time, many questions have been raised by military personnel, researchers, and advisory groups such as the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) regarding the particular standards and assessment methods used by the Armed Forces, the differences among the branches of service, and the implications for personnel readiness. The purpose of this report, prepared under a grant from the Defense Women's Health Research Program, is to examine whether current standards for body composition, physical fitness, and appearance, and the methods used to assess compliance with those standards, support military readiness by ensuring optimal health and job performance of active-duty servicewomen.
The Committee's Task
In 1992, the Committee on Military Nutrition Research (CMNR) of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) was asked by the U.S. Army to evaluate the body composition and fitness standards for personnel accession (recruitment) into and retention in all branches of active service, with regard to the impact of these standards on recruitment, physical fitness, and task performance in the Armed Forces. After conducting a workshop to investigate these issues, the CMNR released a report concluding that the standards of body composition that appeared to be required for women to achieve the desired appearance goal (low fat-free mass [FFM] and percent body fat) seemed to conflict with those necessary for performance of many types of military tasks (higher FFM often accompanied by increased body fat) (IOM, 1992). The committee recommended that body composition standards be based primarily on considerations of task performance and health and that they be validated with regard to the ethnic diversity of the military population. In addition, the committee recommended the development of task-specific performance tests; development of objective appearance standards, if these could be deemed necessary; and continuation of research on the relationships among body composition, health, and physical
smart," one of the two goals of weight control. The regulation goes on to qualify the standard by emphasizing that enlarged waistlines, "potbellies," detract from good military appearance. No objective criteria (rating scales) have been associated with the appearance standard as it is enforced. (This is discussed further in Chapters 2 and 3). Only a small number of studies have examined how the appearance standard as enforced is linked to body composition. Although appearance is slightly associated with body fat, it is associated more significantly with abdominal circumference (AR 600-9, 1986; Hodgdon et al., 1990; Vogel and Friedl, 1992). Although Army, Navy, and Marine Corps personnel must supply recent photos of themselves to their selection (promotion) boards (this practice has been eliminated by the Air Force and de-emphasized by the Navy), appearance judgments can be rendered at any time. When these involve a suspicion of overweight (as opposed to untidy uniforms or other details of appearance), the individual must be weighed and may be required to have a body fat determination, and if necessary, to enter the weight management program (with attendant career consequences).