MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - America's weight problem is putting massive pressure on our national security.
Teenage obesity is having a major impact on our own military's ability to recruit soldiers, sailors and marines. Too many can't handle the physical requirements. They're too fat.
WMBF News Anchor David Klugh found one young Myrtle Beach man who was turned away when he tried to enlist. The military defined him as morbidly obese. What a difference a year can make, because now he's headed to his first duty assignment as a full fledged US Marine.
Boot camp for a Marine recruit is, by design, a physical and mental transformation. When the sign here at Parris Island says "we make marines", what it really means is we tear people down and completely rebuild them. You can't do that to someone who walks in with a "massive" disadvantage.
A few months back you might recall we brought you an investigation that talked about the difficulty all branches of the military were having when it came to finding qualified recruits. Quite frankly too many were too fat to fight.
Every so often a recruit arrives here at Parris Island to go through his or her Marine transformation. But not before going through their own transformation before they ever arrive here.
That is Phillip Hutchins' story. By the time Phillip reached his senior year in high school he had also reached a whopping 270 pounds. He was fat, unmotivated, and in no hurry to get anywhere.
Phillip's mother, Lori Campbell, describes what she saw every time he walked into a room. "That he's gonna have health issues, that he would have continued to gain weight, that he would, you know, he was just in a dead end career. he was just going nowhere."
Then, at the age of 26, something clicked in Phillip Hutchins. It was, for lack of a better term, an epiphany.
"Actually the day we went to Parris Island to see his little brother Jacob graduate," says Campbell. "That was the day. That did it for him."
Standing next to his brother at a Marine Corps graduation convinced Phillip it was time. But he was 26. Quickly approaching the age limit for enlisted marines. And he had a massive challenge ahead of him.
"His whole way of thinking, his whole eating habits. his motivation just went through the roof," says his mother.
"He started preparing his own meals separately. He started running, swimming, riding his bike. Just determined everyday, rain, no rain."
By the time Phillip went back to try enlisting a second time, less that a year later, he was nearly 100 pounds lighter, in peek physical condition and ready for anything.
The Marine Corps might see this kind of transformation in one out of a thousand recruits.
Phillip Hutchins is thrilled to get the attention for his accomplishment, on behave of those who will come after him. "It would really be an honor if I could inspire anyone who had been in the position I was in before that had poor lifestyle habits, poor choices that lead to poor health. to be able to turn that around and do something with your life sir. it means more that just one person could inspire others. it would be an honor and a privilege if I could inspire anyone sir."
His brother, Jacob Campbell sees his brother as nothing shy of a role model. "It's all about the mindset. you can turn your life around if you want to and he is proof. living breathing proof right now that you can go from bad habits, bad conditions and completely do a 180."
Given the challenge of finding qualified recruits, the Marine Corps can only hope more young men and women can find this same brand of motivation.
"A lot of pride right now," says Lori Campbell. "No words really. Amazing. Outstanding. Standing here, I never would have believed it. I wouldn't. They both are true success stories. Not enough words to describe how proud I am."
The criteria for enlistees in all branches of the military have changed very little in the last 40-years. Yet, based on the kinds of individuals entering recruitment offices today, consideration is now being given to relax some physical and academic mandates.
Very few recruit candidates can accomplish what Phillip Hutchins did. And in our culture of fast food and video games, the Marines are convinced fewer still can find the motivation to ever try.