Infantry: July 15, 2005

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The combat troops are still carrying too much weight in combat. This is a matter of life and death. Even the most fit troops are slowed down by trying to fight while carrying over a hundred pounds of gear. Consider what the troops have to carry. OK, the boots and basic clothing are less than ten pounds. This includes goggles, knee pads and the like. But then you have 24 pounds for armor (protective vest and helmet), another 4-5 pounds of water and food. At this point, you are carrying nearly 40 pounds. Not too bad, but you need weapons, equipment and ammo. Ammunition is heavy. Each trooper usually carries seven magazines, thats nearly twenty pounds, plus another 12-15 pounds for the rifle, bayonet, flashlight, first aid kit and some grenades. The fire teams, of four troops, are based on a light machinegun carried by one of the men, which goes into action with about a thousand rounds of ammo (70 pounds worth for a 7.62mm, half that weight for 5.56mm.) This load is split between other members of the team. So everyone is carrying 30-40 pounds worth of munitions. Now were up to over 80 pounds, and were not finished yet. Then theres the night vision equipment and other weapons, like rocket launchers (for blasting buildings the enemy is holed up in), mortar rounds (if there is a mortar attached to your unit), a tripod for a machine-gun, a night sight for a machine-gun, spare barrel for the machine-gun, breeching tools, and so on. You might also be carrying a radio, GPS. If youre going to be at it for a while, not just a raid, youll have some food with you. We are now over a hundred pounds and climbing. Or not climbing. Even a well conditioned young guy has a hard time jumping around, much less climbing, with that load. People in vehicles have it a little easier, as they dont have to carry all the ammo and extra weapons. But they are still going to be jumping out of a truck wearing fifty or more pounds of stuff. 

To the troops running around and fighting with all this weight, every ounce counts. Their opponents are carrying 30 pounds of stuff (clothing weapons and ammo) at most, and are more nimble as a result. While the armor is a lifesaver, the Department of Defense is buying new stuff that saves a few pounds. New assault rifles will be a little lighter. But theres not much you can do about ammo, for theres often not enough when the going gets rough. The weight problem is an old one, and only gets a lot of attention when theres a war on. This time around its worse, because there is finally body armor that will stop rifle bullets. But this armor is heavier, and the troops dont mind that kind of weight. Whats also different this time is that the troops have the Internet, and they are making lots more noise, in lots of places where it has an impact. Who knows, something might even happen this time. 

 


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