Petty Officer 1st Class Bince Bucaneg, a company commander for recruit company Golf-197, assists a recruit in meeting the Coast Guard physical fitness standards, March 15, 2019. (Official U.S. Coast Guard photos by Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Brahm)

Coast Guard to Try Tape Measure Around the Middle Instead of Height-Weight Ratio

After temporarily put the brakes on discharges based on body fat or weight standards to review the guidelines, the Coast Guard is beginning a one-year pilot program Oct. 1 to “meet the service’s operational needs and challenges while also maintaining healthy weights and body fat percentages.”

(U.S. Coast Guard)

That means measuring around one’s midsection instead of relying on a height-and-weight ratio, officials said Tuesday, noting that “recent studies show abdominal circumference is a more accurate measurement of overall health risk than the standard taping methods.”

For the yearlong trial, the maximum waist measurement for men will be 39 inches while the maximum allowed for women will be 35.5 inches.

“The Coast Guard’s greatest strength resides in our people, and it is incumbent that our leadership ensures alignment of policy to recruiting, training, and retaining the modern military workforce required to perform today’s challenging missions,” said Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz. “The Body Composition Pilot Program is the result of proactively listening to our service members, addressing potential inequities, and seeking solutions to ensure the health and wellness of our workforce.”

Schultz had announced in this year’s State of the Coast Guard address that he would utilize a recently established “diverse, cross-enterprise team” to “comprehensively review CG Weight and Body Fat standards and the effectiveness of the current weight program.” Those recommendations were due to Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray last month.

With the most recent update to the Coast Guard Weight and Body Fat Standards Program Manual in June 2017, the Coast Guard has used a combination of weight and body measurements to determine BMI (Body Mass Index) and based on that determined whether someone was “fit” enough to serve. The circumference of your neck could give you leeway to carry a few extra pounds.

Officials noted when the review was launched that the recently released Women’s Retention Study (WRS) cited perceived “inequities with current standards” and concerns over using a tape to measure body fat.

USCG cited the RAND study in this week’s announcement of the Body Composition Pilot Program, stressing that “this imbalance in body composition standards ultimately disproportionately impacted women at a rate three times higher than men.”

“Per the diagram, abdominal circumference or the legacy body fat assessment (standard taping) are methods for compliance if a member exceeds Maximum Allowable Weight (MAW),” the guidance continues. “If neither taping standard is met, a Physical Fitness Test (PFT) is another opportunity to achieve compliance if the member is determined to be medically fit. The goals of the policy are designed to ensure that all Coast Guard personnel are maintaining a healthy weight and body fat percentage, capable of meeting the organization’s operational needs and challenges, present a sharp professional military appearance.”

Physical Fitness Test (PFT or PT) requirements and guidelines are outlined in U.S Coast Guard Boat Operations and Training (BOAT) Manual Volume 1, COMDTINST M16114.32 (series) or Boat Crew Fitness Test excerpt.

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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