According to a U.S. Army major, America’s youth are living a sedentary life that makes them fragile, prone to injury, and harder to successfully and easily transition from civilian life to the military. The news comes from an official press release posted on the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service, a hub of official pictures, videos, and news published by the Pentagon
The article, titled “Why Today’s ‘Gen Z’ is at Risk for Boot Camp Injuries” interviewed Army Maj. Jon-Marc Thibodeau—a clinical coordinator in charge of medical readiness at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.
When asked about the youth of today, Maj. Thibodeau was straightforward. “The ‘Nintendo Generation’ soldier skeleton is not toughened by activity prior to arrival, so some of them break more easily,” he said.
Capt. Lydia Blondin, assistant chief of physical therapy at Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital, detailed the kind of injuries she’s seen in the so-called Nintendo Generation. “We see injuries ranging from acute fractures and falls, to tears in the ACL, to muscle strains and stress fractures, with the overwhelming majority of injuries related to overuse,” she said. The rest of the press release urged those looking to join the Army to do some basic fitness prep before coming to boot camp.
Injuries in basic training are nothing new and neither is the Pentagon or the U.S. Government shaming children into eating less and exercising more. In 1960, then President-elect John F. Kennedy penned an op-ed in Sports Illustrated where he opined about “The Soft American.”
“Nintendo Generation” is a new spin on “The Soft American,” but it’s also outdated. The generations of kids whose parents thought Nintendo was a stand-in for all video games were Generation X and the millennials, back in the days the Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Nintendo Entertainment System dominated popular culture conceptions of video games If Gen Z, which is far more likely to have grown up playing Minecraft, Call of Duty, or Fortnite, saw that Maj. Thibodeau was still thinking of them as the “Nintendo Generation,’ they’d probably think it’s really embarrassing for him. It’s cringe, as they would say.
Not everyone in the military thinks the younger generation is soft. Retired Navy Admiral William H. McRaven, former head of Special Operations Command, once said that anyone calling Millennials soft had never “seen them in a firefight in Afghanistan.”
Despite Maj. Thibodeau’s problems with the Nintendo Generation, the Pentagon has been actively courting them over the past few years by dropping millions of dollars on schemes to make Navy sailors and Army soldiers into esports stars on Twitch. The Nintendo Generation didn’t care for it much.