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Some cadets sweat the details of Army weight requirements

Norwich Guidon Staff Writer

Published: Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, April 3, 2012 12:04

Taping

The neck taping test can be a make or break moment for cadets, and some argue it’s unreliable and unfair. (Arielle Eaton Photo)


A $125 spa day during finals week would seem like a great way to shed some academic stress for most students.

But lying in an herbal tea wrap, one student’s only concern was dropping some pounds for an upcoming Army height and weight assessment.

“Making weight” has imposed far more than just a financial toll on “Carol,” a 21-year-old junior who has requested anonymity.

Carol is among many females on campus who are physically fit but still struggle fitting into the weight standards of army regulations, causing them to use expensive and extreme measures in order to drop excessive amounts of weight in a short period of time, which is often unhealthy

“The craziest thing I’ve done was when I got one of those huge rolls of saran wrap and I had my roommate saran wrap me every night for a couple weeks before the test to see if I could sweat it out,” Carol said. “That was miserable, I squeaked every time I rolled over.”

“I lost 19.5 pounds in 26 days, eating zero carbohydrates; I did not eat a single one,” said Sharon, a cadet who also has requested anonymity. “It was freshmen year and I didn’t eat anything more than a thing of ham and a thing of turkey everyday for lunch and then I would just eat celery.”

“It’s just crazy that the Army allows us to put ourselves through this. Even to this day I won’t eat two days before my weigh-in and I’ll do sweat workouts two days before my weigh-in and I will be dehydrated enough to make the weight,” Sharon said.

Many cadets in the Army are familiar with these weight loss tactics to keep their scholarship at any measure. “The only three requirements for keeping your Army scholarship are to maintain a 2.0 GPA, pass a PT (physical training) test, and to pass height and weight each semester.” Carol said. “The first two are no problem.”

The Army physical fitness test is designed to assess an individual’s level of physical capability which Carol, and other cadets, have no problem passing.

“There have been several times when I have actually maxed a PT test (score of 300) or come close to it with a 280 or above,” said Janet Roswell, a 22-year-old senior physical education major from New Hampton, N.H.

According to army regulation (AR) 600-9 which establishes the height and weight standards, some objectives of the Army weight control program (AWCP) are to “assist in establishing and maintaining discipline, operational readiness, optimal physical fitness, and health.”

“I am physically fit. I can score a 270 on a PT test but weigh 163 pounds and can still lose my scholarship,” said “Sharon” a 20-year-old junior. “The system is flawed.”

In order to maintain regulations for weight the Army reserve officer training corps (ROTC) conducts a height and weight measurement every semester for each cadet.

“Women and men who are very physically fit that carry a high amount of muscle mass are going to weigh more because muscle is more dense,” said Dr. Elizabeth Wuorinen, a specialist in exercise physiology and Norwich professor.

For this reason the Army provides a secondary test method, to determine body fat percentage, for people who do not pass the initial test requiring individuals to weigh a certain amount based on their height measurement.

“For the tape test they tape your neck, and then they tape the smallest part of your waist, and the largest part of your butt,” said “Helen” a 20-year-old sophomore who also requested anonymity.

According to AR 600-9, these measurements are put into an equation that is based on population samples to determine a person’s body fat percentage.

Dr. Wuorinen doesn’t think the taping tests are accurate or reliable. “It doesn’t correspond to anything that’s been done before in terms of the development of body composition measures,” Wuorinen said of the Army’s method.

There are many different methods for measuring an individual’s body fat percentage, according to Wuorinen.

“If they’re going to do body fat percentage, they’re better off doing a skin fold test which still has errors but it’s better than taking a circumference,” Wuorinen said. “Circumference measurements don’t measure fat, they’re just measuring different regions of the body.”

“It seems like they should look into perhaps changing over, and doing skin fold measurements where you’re actually measuring fat,” Wuorinen said. “What you do is just pull the subcutaneous fat off the muscle and you take calipers and you measure how many millimeters of fat are at the site.”

Wuorinen said this is a much more direct way ‘of measuring fat and is much more effective than circumference measurements.

“I don’t understand the significance of the neck measurement either,” said Wuorinen. “If somebody has a small neck, are we all supposed to go out and work our neck to pass the tape?”

Dr. Wuorinen turns out to be right on point, because that is the method some cadets have come up with to pass this body fat percentage calculation.

“That’s the key, it’s to build up your neck,” Helen said. “Right now my neck is a 15 inches and I’m two percent over, but if it was at 16 inches I would be perfect. I have a small skinny neck. I have to build up my neck to help me pass.”

Helen noted people who obviously have a much larger body fat percentage can still pass the tape test based on the Army’s body fat percentage calculations, because they have a really big neck.

“People who can’t even pass their PT test can still pass height and weight,” Helen said. “I work out so much, and I’ve seen people much bigger than me that still pass the tape test.”

The cadets have all noticed there is room for error in the circumference measurement itself as well.

“It all depends on who’s taping and how they think they should do it and that can drastically change just the measurement of it all,” Roswell said.

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