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LIPOSUCTION - Surgery not an option for airmen looking to pass pt test

A popular shortcut to a leaner body, might turn into a shortcut to a leaner paycheck, loss of rank or a career-ender for Airmen. The cosmetic procedure is not an acceptable solution to trimming inches or weight to meet physical requirements for the Air Force Fitness Program. (Illustration by Sammie W. King)

LIPOSUCTION - A popular shortcut to a leaner body, might turn into a shortcut to a leaner paycheck, loss of rank or a career-ender for Airmen. The cosmetic procedure is not an acceptable solution to trimming inches or weight to meet physical requirements for the Air Force Fitness Program. (Illustration by Sammie W. King)

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Liposuction, a popular shortcut to a leaner body, might turn into a shortcut to a leaner paycheck, loss of rank or a career-ender for Airmen.

The cosmetic procedure is not an acceptable solution to trimming inches or weight to meet physical requirements, said Lt. Col. (Dr.) Dave Simon, chief of the medical staff for the 6th Air Mobility Wing. In short, because of the health and safety risks, trying to make tape via liposuction is not something the Air Force will ever sign off on, the doctor said. And "sneaking" off to have the procedure done could not only lead to a ding on one's Air Force career, it could hamper readiness, health and safety, or otherwise interfere with the duties of Airmen and jeopardize the mission.

"I can't foresee any situation in which it would be approved," said Lt. Col. (Dr.) Terry Haag, chief of Aerospace Medicine at MacDill. "It's cosmetic and elective, and not something you have to have done."

The primary concern for Air Force leadership is that with physical fitness requirements becoming more stringent and the emphasis on being "fit to fight," Airmen worried about that little extra around the middle will be tempted by the promises of liposuction.

The bottom line, however, is liposuction is a surgical procedure, which has risks, requires a recovery period and potentially renders an Airman-patient unable to perform at peak level.

"Infection is the biggest concern," Haag said.

Additionally, liposuction doesn't make a person more fit, the doctor said. Unless a lifestyle change is made, such as adjusting the diet or exercising more or more effectively, the weight removed with liposuction is bound to return in short order, he added.

"There are no shortcuts to physical fitness and better health," Haag said. "It's something that requires work and discipline."

From an Air Force standpoint, a ready force able to deploy in short order is a priority, which is why any elective surgery has to be approved by a unit commander and medical staff. It also is why there can be severe consequences for Airmen who have elective surgery done without prior clearance. Disciplinary action for Airmen who have surgery done without command or medical approval can lead to anything from a letter of reprimand to an Article 15 or even a court martial under Article 92, dereliction of duty, said Capt. Joey Smith, chief of Military Justice in the 6th AMW judge advocate office.

The action taken depends on the Airman's history, as well as the commander's discretion, Smith said. Among the options could be loss of pay, loss of rank and even discharge.