Photo illustration by Paul Szoldra/Task & Purpose

Fifteen pounds.

That seems to be what separates a high-performing Marine from eventually becoming a combat casualty, according to new research carried out by a Marine captain at the Naval Postgraduate School.

In her award-winning master's thesis, titled Paying For Weight In Blood: An Analysis of Weight and Protection Level of a Combat Load During Tactical Operations, Capt. Courtney Thompson argues that being able to move faster is more important against near-peer enemies in combat, and the all-too-common trend of burdening troops with heavier loads can lead to an increase in casualties.

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(U.S. Navy/Petty Officer 1st Class RJ Stratchko)

Editor's Note: This article by Amy Bushatz originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

All Department of Veterans Affairs health care facilities will be completely smoke-free by October, with all forms of tobacco use, including e-cigarettes and vaping, banned from facility grounds, officials announced in a news release Monday.

The policy change, first published by the Veterans Health Administration in early March, ends the use of designated smoking areas or shelters at VA hospitals.

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After nearly two decades of grinding low-intensity conflict, the U.S. military is shifting to focus on near-peer competition — and tailoring its physical fitness requirements accordingly.

The Army is currently conducting a two-year assessment and rollout plan scheduled for 2020, with 470,205 soldiers who are currently racing to prepare and train for a dramatically different six-event Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), developed in reaction to both the demands of modern conflict and to the declining health and fitness standards of incoming recruits and soldiers. After all, overweight and physically unfit soldiers degrade readiness, take up time and resources, and burden others.

To meet this lofty goal, the Army must undertake the most significant changes to physical fitness testing since the beginning of the professionalized force in 1973 — one that, unfortunately, it is ill-equipped to tackle for a simple reason: it has no up-to-date training apparatus to support the transition. While the new standard may be important for lethality, the Army must consider innovative ways to prepare both recruits and soldiers to successfully implement this new standard — or else risk a significant impact on readiness as the military enters into strategic competition with China and Russia.

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(U.S. Army/ Sgt. Shawn Miller)

(Reuters Health) - U.S. soldiers are more likely to have poor heart health than civilians of similar ages, a new study finds.

Comparing more than 263,000 active duty Army personnel to nearly 5,000 civilians, researchers found that soldiers were more likely to have high blood pressure and just as likely to have a higher than ideal body mass index (BMI), according to the report in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

"We were surprised by the results," said lead author Loryana Vie, senior project director of a long-term collaboration between the U.S. Army and the University of Pennsylvania. "They were contrary to what we were expecting going into the study because of the Army's health screening and emphasis on physical fitness."

Ultimately, Vie said, the take-home message isn't just that soldiers have worse heart health than civilians, but rather that there is "so much room for improvement for everyone," she said. "There is an opportunity to improve the health of the whole country."

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(Marvel Studios)

The U.S. military is constantly using technology to build better ships, warplanes, guns and armor. Shouldn't it also use drugs to build better soldiers?

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