Posted on Sun, Jan. 01, 2006
Marines can avert battle of the bulge
Los Angeles Times Service

SAN DIEGO - The Marine Corps has decided that fighting one war at a time is enough.

A recent order from Marine headquarters at Quantico, Va., says Marines sent to Iraq can be exempt from the corps' rigid weight-loss program, which requires frequent weigh-ins, extra physical training and ''Semper Fit'' lectures about nutrition.

The rigors of being deployed in Iraq have made it difficult for Marines to comply with the fitness plan, known as the Body Composition Program, Marine Corps officials said. Under an order issued before Christmas, commanders are allowed to exempt their troops in Iraq from what is usually a six-month program.

''In combat, the priority is combat and getting home safely and completing the mission,'' said Lt. Col. Kristi VanGorder, head of the training section at the Training and Education Command at the base in Quantico.

Once a Marine leaves Iraq, he or she is required to resume the fight against fat. Failure to meet the corps' standards for body fat percentage can lead to an administrative discharge.

Every Marine undergoes an official weigh-in at least twice a year. If an individual is heavier than a set standard for his height, then body fat is calculated.

For men, the calculation involves measuring the abdomen and neck; for women, the waist, hips and neck are measured.

The maximum body fat for men is 18 percent; for women, it is 26 percent -- although the standard is looser if the Marine excels on an annual fitness test. If the body fat is below a prescribed maximum, the Marine is considered to meet the standards regardless of weight and height.