How Hollywood has skewed our idea of what war-fighters look like

Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a soldier of fortune, is hired by the U.S. government to secretly rescue a group of politicians trapped in Guatemala in the 1987 film, Predator. (20th Century Fox)

Body image is one of those things society as a whole seems to struggle with. From women’s magazines to the portrayal of men in action films, every demographic seems to be at odds with how they should look.

Interestingly enough, the military culture has its own “body issues” as well – Hollywood’s portrayal of what a war-fighter should look like is anything but realistic.

Standing almost universally over six feet tall and ripped to the point of popping seams on their t-shirts, characters portrayed by individuals such as The Rock or Arnold Schwarzenegger, who run around loaded with anything but body armor and extra equipment.

The Rock
Dwayne Johnson, aka “The Rock”, hip firing an M2 in “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” (Paramount Pictures)

By contrast, the average US Army Ranger stands just shy of 5’10 and 175 lbs. Add on armor, ammunition, water, food, shelter, medical supplies, electronics and personal effects and you have a pretty clear insight into why combat troops always seem to be rather lean- hauling your entire life around on your back burns a lot of calories.

Army Capt. Robert Killian, right, Colorado National Guard, and Staff Sgt. Erich Friedlein, Pennsylvania National Guard, move out to the next firing range during the Stress Shoot event at the 2016 all-Army Best Ranger Competition, April 15, 2016 at Fort Benning, Ga. The duo would go on to win the competition that left little time for rest and recovery during the three days that began April 15. (Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Darron Salzer, National Guard Bureau/Released)
Army Capt. Robert Killian, right, Colorado National Guard, and Staff Sgt. Erich Friedlein, Pennsylvania National Guard, move out to the next firing range during the Stress Shoot event at the 2016 all-Army Best Ranger Competition, April 15, 2016 at Fort Benning, Ga. The duo would go on to win the competition that left little time for rest and recovery during the three days that began April 15. (Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Darron Salzer, National Guard Bureau/Released)

So why isn’t the ideal grunt cut like a bodybuilder? Part of it has to do with the type of missions they perform, which requires more stamina than raw brawn. From moving long distances silently to enduring extensive periods of activity without rest, the US combat soldier is usually ill-rested, undernourished, dehydrated and overexerted- hardly a suitable living environment for lots of muscles.

While there are plenty of dedicated bodybuilders in combat arms, one in a combat zone always seems to notice that those who stay inside the FOB seem a little more ripped than those who live in the dirt outside the base’s protective walls.

In short, war-fighters that have the strongest mental and physical stamina – which is necessary to accomplish the toughest missions – don’t necessarily look like Channing Tatum.

This article originally appeared on Popular Military on April 22, 2016

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