Michelle Obama to See Army Fitness, Food in SC

Published January 27, 2011

FORT JACKSON, S.C. – First lady Michelle Obama is visiting the Army's largest training post to see how the military turns couch potato recruits into strong and nutrition-minded soldiers.

The first lady, who has taken on the cause of battling childhood obesity, was to speak Thursday to the latest crop of new soldiers at their graduation ceremony at Fort Jackson in central South Carolina.

Her battle against children's lack of fitness intersects with the nation's need to field fit troops for the Army.

Fort Jackson, which trains more than 60,000 soldiers annually and more than half the Army's female soldiers, is one of the service's five major posts for basic and advanced individual training.

Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, who recently overhauled the way the Army feeds its troops during training, also revamped the Army's physical training regimen.

Hertling was slated to brief the first lady on how new soldiers are given exercises for core body strength and stamina. Bayonet drills have been dropped in favor of zigzag sprints, pugil stick workouts and stepped up calisthenics to increase power, strength and agility for soldiers facing rigorous campaigns in places like Afghanistan.

Mess halls now feature dark greens, whole grains and no-fat milk instead of calorie-laden fried foods, sugary desserts and sodas.

Red, yellow and green markings above each food item tell soldiers which foods are good for their energy level, which ones will keep them full, and which should be eaten in moderation.

Drill sergeants now call out recruits who don't put enough fruits and veggies on their plates, and hold hour-long sessions on performance nutrition to help them understand the Army wants "soldier athletes."

Army officials worry the nation's security is at risk because fewer than one in four 17 to 24 year-olds are fully qualified to enter the military because of health, weight, or legal reasons.

Written by Associated Press

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