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Weight waivers help fill U.S. Army ranks

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- A waiver program for overweight teenagers is helping the U.S. Army meet its recruiting goals, but some critics are questioning its long-term wisdom.

The Christian Science Monitor said Tuesday while the Pentagon supports the program, some analysts fear the wrong kinds of recruits are getting into uniform.

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"The point is to get the football-player kind of kids. It's not to get the couch-potato kids," said Beth Asch, a senior economist at the Rand Corp. who studies military recruiting.

The waiver program allows overweight teens the opportunity to get themselves into fighting trim before reporting to basic training. At the same time, obesity is also the leading reason soldiers are turned down for re-enlistment.

Asch told the Monitor recruiters should resist the temptation to use the waiver to sign up unqualified prospects.

The Monitor noted the current U.S. recession could increase the pool of potential military recruits and do away with the need to enlist soldiers using weight waivers, at least for the time being.

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