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article imageChris Christie tells NJ National Guard leader to shed weight

By Megan Hamilton     Sep 23, 2015 in Politics
Trenton - New Jersey governor Chris Christie is shaping up — the leader of the National Guard, that is.
Christie, who's struggled with his own weight problems over the years, has given Air Force Brigadier General Michael L. Cunniff 90 days to slim down.
The word from on high came after Christie learned the general was reprimanded by the Pentagon last year for being overweight and for missing physical fitness tests, ABC News reports.
Christie is commander and chief of the New Jersey National Guard, and is in charge of 8,400 soldiers and airmen, and that means he can throw his weight around.
Christie spokesperson Kevin Roberts said the governor was told about the issue last week and is urging Cunniff to meet the military requirements.
"The Governor has expressed directly to the General that his failure to meet that standard or to provide notification of his formal reprimand is both unacceptable and disappointing," Roberts said in a statement. "The Governor has directed General Cunniff to meet his obligations in the next 90 days."
Christie issued the order after his staff told The Washington Post that he wasn't aware that the general was not meeting Air Force fitness standards.
Pot, meet kettle
Failure to meet and maintain physical-fitness regulations is considered a serious infraction in the military and can result in dismissal. In New Jersey, where Christie underwent weight-loss surgery two years ago, it's a touchy subject.
Cunniff declined an interview request with the Post. In a statement released by the Guard, he acknowledged he hadn't met the Air Force's fitness requirements in recent years.
"Many people struggle with weight control — I am not immune from this," he said. "However, I do recognize that military members and leaders, like myself, are held to a higher standard. I take this matter seriously and am taking the necessary steps to remedy this issue."
An investigation conducted by the Post revealed that in 2014, Cunniff was cited by the Air Force Inspector General for consistently skipping the evaluations.
According to The New York Daily News, Pentagon documents obtained by the Post show that when Cunniff was asked why he didn't take the required fitness tests for three straight years, he responded:
"I had gained a lot of weight, and I talked to my supervisor about it...I felt, uh, since I couldn't pass it because of my weight/waist size, that, um, she was okay with my continuing to lose weight ant try to pass it."
Cunniff said that he didn't take the test in 2011, when he assumed interim command of the New Jersey National Guard because he was taking over an organization with plenty of problems and was "overcome by events...I took the job under some pretty difficult conditions...I was faced with trying to put the department back on track."
Christie appointed Cunniff to head the troubled Guard in January 2012, following the resignation of Army Maj. General Glenn Reith, a childhood friend of Christie's. Reith resigned in December 2011 when reports surfaced about an affair between Reith and a civilian aide.
The Guard, pivotal in helping New Jersey residents after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, has been plagued by a spate of scandals.
Late last spring, the state Division of Equal Employment Opportunity hired former federal prosecutor and state comptroller Matthew Boxer to investigate discrimination allegations within the guard, the Daily News reports.
MediaIte reports that Christie's office has not commented on what the consequences will be if the general doesn't lose the appropriate amount of weight within 90 days.
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