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MANY IN GUARD, RESERVE MAY BE UNFIT TO FIGHT

SHARE MANY IN GUARD, RESERVE MAY BE UNFIT TO FIGHT

Lax training has led to National Guard and military reserve troops who are not physically fit to fight, a government report says.

At one Navy unit, eight reservists failed a recent fitness test, but three failures were changed to passing scores on paperwork, says a General Accounting Office report cited Sunday in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.At a National Guard unit, 16 percent of the members failed the fitness test repeatedly and were kept on. One soldier failed 12 times in a three-year period, the newspaper reported.

The March 23 study of 35 reserve and National Guard units also said there was nothing to prevent cheating on test scores.

"We believe that the DOD (Department of Defense) can no longer afford to continue lax oversight, permitting the retention of reservists who repeatedly fail fitness tests, allowing large numbers of reservists to go untested and creating a testing environment that allows failing scores to be changed to passing ones," said the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress.

In response to the report, the Pentagon said it will ask the services to provide annual reports on physical fitness and weight control.

Earlier in March, a GAO investigator told a House subcommittee that National Guard and reserve forces may be undertrained for emergency combat duty at a time when the Pentagon relies increasingly on them.

"It became apparent during the gulf war that Army National Guard combat brigades had significant training-related problems," said Mark Gebicke, a military operations expert.

Guard and reserve units typically train 39 days a year, and much of that time is taken up by travel and administrative matters, according to Gebicke.