Goodbye Tape Test? Coast Guard Reviews Body Fat Policy

James Schena, a physical fitness instructor at U.S. Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, instructs recruits in the proper way to ride a stationary bike, Sept. 10, 2014. (U.S. Coast Guard/Chief Warrant Officer John Edwards)
James Schena, a physical fitness instructor at U.S. Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, instructs recruits in the proper way to ride a stationary bike, Sept. 10, 2014. (U.S. Coast Guard/Chief Warrant Officer John Edwards)

The Coast Guard has temporarily halted discharges for members who don't meet current body fat or weight standards as it reviews its fitness and appearance policies.

According to a Coast Guard-wide message released Tuesday, the service has brought together members from various internal human resources groups and subject matter experts to study personal readiness and make recommendations on weight, body mass and physical fitness to ensure that they support readiness.

The group is expected to provide recommendations to Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray in July.

While the group is deliberating, no members will be discharged for being out of regulation, according to the message, ALCOAST Command Notice 039/19. Standards will continue to be enforced, and those who didn't meet them during the April weigh-in period will be counseled and expected to work toward compliance. But if they are recommended for discharge, their paperwork will not be finalized until an updated policy is announced.

Related: Coast Guard Eyes Changes to Physical Standards, Tattoo Policy, to Retain Troops

The move follows an announcement in March by Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz that the service is reviewing several other personnel policies to make sure they support recruiting and retention of "a workforce reflective of the nation we serve."

Schultz said during his annual State of the Coast Guard speech March 21 that current weight standards disproportionately affect women.

"These actions are the first steps in a dedicated campaign to identify barriers to inclusion, and to help frame solutions that challenge the status quo," he said.

A study on women's retention released this year found that some Coasties experience significant stress over the twice-a-year tape measures required by current policy. They said they thought the standards are inequitable and tape tests aren't an accurate measure of fitness or capability.

Coast Guard personnel must pass a physical fitness test during boot camp or officers' training, and units with physically demanding missions, such as rescue swimmers and law enforcement personnel, require fitness tests.

But the service does not have an annual personal fitness test requirement. Instead, members are assessed twice a year, in April and October, on weight and body mass index.

According to the service-wide message, the panel will look at the standards themselves, the effectiveness of the current program and the needs of the Coast Guard.

"This team will make recommendations to modernize Coast Guard policy with an eye toward mission readiness, personnel wellness and processes that preserve the dignity of our members," the message states.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @patriciakime.

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