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April 13, 2006

Forces in opposition

I don't know how the Pysical Readiness Tests (PRT) work in other branches of the military but Navy's PRT program is truly a joke. I have to say that sailors, when compared to Army or Marines, are grossly out of shape. If you have any doubts just look at how many overweight Chiefs there are. Even Hollywood captured the true image of a lot of sailors. In Crimson Tide the Chief of the Boat (COB) was a fat fuck that could barely fit in his seat on the bus as he barked out orders for some seaman do start doing pushups in the aisle, which by the way is a load of crap. In the real submarine force that seaman would have told the COB to go shit in a hat and that is only if the COB was gay enough to pull something like that in the first place. But I digress.

On submarines, the PRT program is pitted against the healthy lifestyle required to pass its minimum requirements. These requirements are a function of age and the older you get the less you have to do.

I have talked to many an Army soldier and Marine and they are all in concurrence that our PRT program is for little girls (and that is a slam on the girls). I am 68 inches tall and weigh 155 lbs. According to the Navy’s chart I could weigh up to 181 lbs before I am out of standards!

I fall in the 35-39 year category so the bare minimum I would have to do to pass this test is 33 push ups, 40 sit ups, and run 1.5 miles in 14:45. I can almost walk it. It was only 4 years ago that I started to really get in shape by running 3 times a week and doing some light lifting. Before that time I belonged to the “3 Mile a Year” group and it took its toll on me each time I ran. But really, all you have to do is jut keep running no matter what the pace and you will make your time. I proved that time and time again.

But I didn’t come here to trash the Navy’s PRT program but rather how the submariner lifestyle just doesn’t seem to cooperate with the Navy’s push for healthier and fitter sailors.

Everywhere you turn the Navy has some kind of poster up or articles to read on the Navy’s web portal about physical fitness and nutrition. After you are through reading this information you can then proceed to any one of the many fast food restaurants scattered throughout every Naval installation in the world. As I walked back from the gym today my olfactory was bombarded by the grilled goodness of Burger King, then by the wave of delight from a Woody’s Hotdog stand until that was drowned out by that awesome smell of baking bread from Subway. Granted Subway sandwiches are probably the healthiest thing our base has. We even have the huli-huli chicken stands not too far from where I work.

Sadly, I am in charge of stocking our office refrigerator full of garbage. I tried to buy healthy stuff but I got death threats from people in my office. So, I have to stock up on frozen chimichangas, White Castles, egg rolls, pizzas and breakfast biscuits. If you aren’t into these 400+ calorie delights then just look on top of the fridge for snickers, Mrs Fields, beef jerky, granola bars and popcorn. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy then you can also have string cheese and wash it down with one of the many sodas, ice tea, or Red Bull. I do keep bottled water and tuna pouches for people who are at least trying to watch what they eat. Hell, I even buy fruit every once in a while but it goes bad before it gets eaten.

So, it appears I am contributing to the very thing I am protesting against. The underlying issue with our little office snack shack is that the money goes back to us in the form of office parties. We can have bigger and better parties with the quick cash form junk food than with the meager proceeds from healthy food.

It all comes down to that much debated gift of free will. Whether it be to resist the temptations of Satan to mow down the entire DMV department with an Uzi or select an apple instead of a Hot Pocket, free will, will power, choice, or whatever form of the word you want to use rests with the person. But the ability to blame the person for their poor diet habits is as far as that gift can be towed. It cannot be used to hold a person accountable for other social faux pas such as being a shitty parent, spilling hot coffee on your crotch, getting shot for breaking into someone else’s house or, in many examples I’ve seen in my 18 year Naval career, be held responsible for a pesky DUI.

It is ultimately up to the individual to pass up the junk food, eat the shitty food on the boat, and pass up an extra hour of otherwise deprived sleep to get in some time on a treadmill (tied down next to reduction gears that put out 120 degrees of heat) or on a bicycle that is a borderline safety hazard.

The lifestyle aboard a submarine can be compared to a criminally negligent endentured service program run by the Germans. Instead of possessing a great military mind and gift of free speech, the submarine force is plagued with leaders (I use that term loosely) who are socially inept, clueless and outright dangerous. Don’t get too hung up on my Navy bashing so far because I have had outstanding leaders and supervisors that cared about their guys and procedures be damned!

It is always the few in charge that make it miserable for the masses. One shitty Commanding Officer and Chief of the Boat can drive the crew morale into the dirt. What does this have to do with physical readiness, you ask? Inept, inefficient, and ineffective leaders make more work for everyone under them which then translates into less time off the boat, less time in the rack, and just a general pissed off attitude. Who wants to go run in the engine room when, during the 12 hours you have off underway, each hour is whittled away with training, cleaning, training, maintenance, drills and then training? Bottom line, we get fat. We get stressed. Both of these factors are detrimental to good health.

So, in opposition, life on shore duty should promote a healthier lifestyle, right? It should, and for me it does, but I see people take the 2-3 year shore duty time when they aren’t going to sea and get complacent. The 2-3 months of taking it easy after being on a submarine for 4 years turns into an entire tour of sitting on their ass.
But as the Navy’s PRT program becomes more stringent its lifestyle becomes more demanding. Three PRT failures in 4 years will get you kicked out of the Navy. They don’t even have to be consecutive. There are a lot people concerned about the retention numbers since this new program came out.

Everything goes in cycles in the Navy and this too will subside. But the one tacit that hasn’t changed in Navy policy is the fact that it is alright to be a shit bag or suck a dick- as long as your aren’t fat.

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