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Thread: Light infantry foot mobility standards?

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    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Question Light infantry foot mobility standards?

    With my interest in the protohistoric and Contact periods in eastern North America I often consult primary documents whose authors use “a day’s travel” as the primary unit of measure. As far as I can tell scholars have no agreed upon benchmark for a typical day’s pedestrian travel. Replies to individual inquiries I have made tend to be in the range of fifteen to thirty miles (fifteen seems overly modest to me and thirty seems brisk but realistic). Just curious as to whether any formal—as in “written down somewhere”—expectation exists of what sort of distance a day’s worth of foot-borne travel for a contemporary light infantryman on a training exercise would entail, as well as what sort of load he would be expected to bear? (I realize there are a number of other variables that could be factored in, but I am thinking of movement undertaken over fairly flat terrain in non-inclement weather.) Even if no formal expectations exist I am also of course interested in learning whatever anyone cares to share regarding the de facto standard.

    My thanks in advance,
    MTB

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    I'm on the road for the next couple of weeks so don't have access to the library but for a down under perspectrive, I think the old Manual of Land Warfare (MLW) The Rifle Platoon or The Rifle Company had tables for infantry movement across a variety of terrain types.

    Uncontested movement over relatively flat or undulating firm ground with no signification foliage obstacles would probably be midway in that 15-30 mile range.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Foot moibility doesn't change much...

    Quote Originally Posted by ganulv View Post
    Just curious as to whether any formal—as in “written down somewhere”—expectation exists of what sort of distance a day’s worth of foot-borne travel for a contemporary light infantryman on a training exercise would entail, as well as what sort of load he would be expected to bear? (I realize there are a number of other variables that could be factored in, but I am thinking of movement undertaken over fairly flat terrain in non-inclement weather.) Even if no formal expectations exist I am also of course interested in learning whatever anyone cares to share regarding the de facto standard.
    I'll dig around and see if I can find some references in my books and will get back here either way.

    In the interim, see the attched graphic. It's from US Army Field Manual 21-18, Foot Marches (LINK) It's a rough guide.

    Anecdotally, a good Infantry Unit decently trained (all are not...) and in good physical condition (same remark applies...) can reliably do a little over 5 MPH/8Km cross country for about 3-6 hours, terrain dependent, they can average around 4 MPH/6-7 Km for about 6 to 10 hours, terrain dependent. The 3.2 figure below is for day in-day out or continuous foot movement. Note also that a good unit can beat the Night figure given depending on ambient light and their equipment. All those figure assume no enemy contact and minimal security concerns.

    As I'm sure you know, years ago, those figures were often exceeded mostly due to more experience walking, they walked almost everywhere as do few today. Also consider that the North American Indians were not the only ones to use the alternating pace of run a while, walk a while -- that method can eat up a lot of miles and a good unit using the technique today can easily do 6 or 7 miles an hour in rolling terrain. Back in the day, units and individuals with a long trip used that technique and knocked out 30-40 miles a day, equaling Cavalry in many cases.
    Last edited by Ken White; 10-27-2011 at 01:20 AM.

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    Terrain is the big factor here, along with the load bearing issue. In the mountains with full kit, pace goes way down. 2mph would be a ballpark figure there. I would take that down to 1mph or less if you're not on switchbacks and trails and trying to go uphill.

    Rolling grassland is very different than rolling terrain with bushes and trees that are about 6ft in height. You lose a lot of straight line distance by veering around objects, so that hurts the pace.

    Standard pace on roads is 4mph. Not too bad. Not easy, not hard. For me, being shorter, after the first 6 miles I have to start the run a bit, walk a bit in order to stay at 4mph. My stride isn't that long and I don't have that ability to move in short but quick strides. Ken White is on the money about training. If I go out walking / hiking / rucking and I haven't done it in a while I'll move about 3.5mph and feel ok. After I do it a time or two, my pace goes to 3.8mph. I then have to remind myself to pick it up a bit to get to 4 or higher. With conditioning and practice it gets easier. There is definitely some skill factor to go along with the conditioning factor. Units that train for it will do much better, as Ken White stated.

    Load plan is a big deal too. Weight on my hips makes mountain movement a bit easier than having it top-loaded on vest and pack. Keeps my COG where it should be. Feels much more efficient and biomechanically I believe adding 1lb on your feet is equivalent to adding 6lbs at the waist. More reason to pick your boots wisely. So, hip loads are more efficient. However, in complex terrain they can interfere a bit with moving your legs and feet over obstacles.

    Bottom line, these days, if you want to get somewhere on foot and do it tactically you'd better plan to do it slowly. Tactical movement plus heavy loads equals slow movement. You can go quickly but it won't be tactical. It'll be loud, the dispersion will be awful, overwatch will disappear, and your guys are likely to be combat-ineffective at RP. Look at pictures of squads/plts in AFG. Many times you see them on a switchback or narrow trail, just walking. Probably making decent time but you can tell the security isn't there, they're spaced about 3m apart and the overwatch is not present. Again, they are making decent time from A to B, but tactically moving takes time and in AFG most of that should be tactical with overwatch, not a traveling movement.

    Finally, if you track the studs that do the Bataan Memorial Death March in the heavy category (min 35lbs) you'll see some people out there do the full 26.2 miles in 6hrs. I've done it a few times now and my range is 7:45 to 8:15. When I finish I'm tired and certainly am glad to finish. However, if I wanted to stretch it out to a 12 hour active period (dawn to dusk, roughly) I could foresee getting in 30 miles per day for well conditioned individuals, with 8 hours or so of rest, and the other 4 in prep time, camp set up, security, gather food, water, etc.

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Kearny's Army of the West averaged about 20 miles a day on the trek from Fort Leavenworth to Bent's fort.

    It occurs to me that the various American forces fighting in the Mexican-American war all had to walk to work over many types of terrain, mountains, deserts, forests and plains. It might be useful to look at their rates of travel.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Wink Lewis and Clark

    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    Kearny's Army of the West averaged about 20 miles a day on the trek from Fort Leavenworth to Bent's fort.

    It occurs to me that the various American forces fighting in the Mexican-American war all had to walk to work over many types of terrain, mountains, deserts, forests and plains. It might be useful to look at their rates of travel.
    Standard US Marine requirement is a battalion to move 24 miles in eight hours with field marching pack, flak jacket, helmet, T/O weapon...approximately 55- 60 lbs and no ammo. Many foot sore Marines the next day...basic load of ammo and you can hit 75 lbs real quick. If I were you I would look at Lewis and Clark...different terrain, different modes, water, foot, horse...and google maps has it all layed out by journal entry.
    http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UT...570313&t=h&z=4
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    New user,

    read this post in my RSS feed and couldn't help but add some insights.

    I have completed a 22-25 mile in what I believe was around 7 hours. I ran about 50% of the time, and carried 65-70 pounds dry (without water), over unimproved roads, and limited cross country (low vegetation). All I remember is I left at midnight and arrived at the destination just after full day break.

    US Army infantry standard is 12 miles in 3 hours with around 35-40 pounds. Most will have to run a little, or at least full hard striding the whole way.

    4 miles an hour with hardened troops is a reasonable pace to arrive at the destination in fighting shape. However, the aforementioned 22 mile march left me unable to do much for a day or so at completion.

    Average patrolling speed for a deliberate foot patrol is 1 kilometer an hour cross country. This speed is planned when the element is moving slowly and deliberately.

    Full cross country I have completed 20 kilometers in rough terrain, vegetation, and water crossings, in about 10 hours.

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Finally, if you track the studs that do the Bataan Memorial Death March in the heavy category (min 35lbs) you'll see some people out there do the full 26.2 miles in 6hrs.
    Is it true that a SAS heavy team ran the entire route?

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    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    Is it true that a SAS heavy team ran the entire route?
    I don't know who...but I do remember a couple times coming to the fork, around mile 9 or so?....where you go right onto the hardball. About that time the marathon runners are headed back. I have seen a couple people trot by in boots with a ruck on. No idea of their affiliation. It's impressive.

    I've heard the rumors about the SAS team (heard SEAL and SF too). I don't think it takes a SAS team to do that. If I remember correctly, in the past few years, a team from the medical center at Ft. Bliss has won the team competition. That event is tailored to those that have the ability to train for it. That said - I could not do that, and it wouldn't surprise me if some cyborgs from SAS or CAG showed up and ran the thing, just for fun.

    The studs that power through that event are impressive. However, it's more moving to see the survivors and then when going through the pit, to see wounded warriors going through there, with two prosthetic limbs, etc. Puts things in perspective for sure.

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    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Default Many thanks.

    I am much obliged to everyone for sharing your knowledge. Anyone interested in colonial-era travel might find Paul A. W. Wallace’s essay about the travel network in 18th century Pennsylvania worthwhile; it is preliminary to a later book.

    Kearny's Army of the West averaged about 20 miles a day on the trek from Fort Leavenworth to Bent's fort.
    This figure might bear some scrutiny. Surely anyone given the opportunity to leave Fort Leavenworth behind them would do so at a faster clip.
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    I'll dig around and see if I can find some references in my books and will get back here either way.

    In the interim, see the attched graphic. It's from US Army Field Manual 21-18, Foot Marches (LINK) It's a rough guide.
    Ken, thanks for that manual.

    I understand and have some experience of how these marches become "games" or a sport when the aim is lost.

    I quote from the manual you provided a link to:

    1-3. MARCH MISSION
    A successful foot march is when troops arrive at their destination
    at the prescribed time. They are also physically able to execute
    their tactical mission.

    a. Troops must execute the mission immediately upon
    completing the march. Normally, this is done through
    conditioning and acclimatization of troops to the area of
    operations. This includes physiological and psychological
    adjustment by the individual soldier.

    b. Commanders must ensure that the amount and type of
    equipment carried, the rate of march, and the length and number
    of rests equates with the physical endurance of the men. Good
    planning and command leadership are required to move troops
    to the right place at the right time. The commander also ensures
    troops arrive in good condition to accomplish their mission.
    30 years on my opinion has not changed that the performance of a small team of carefully selected soldiers from a unit involved in a loaded march competition against small teams from other units is a waste of time and resources.

    I suggest that one of the tests of unit/company/platoon operational readiness is for all the members to partake in a march in compliance with the above quote being that the company leaves together, marches together, arrives together and are able to conduct an operation together as a unit on arrival. To allow this aspect of soldiering to become a race is part of the insanity that grows in armies in peacetime. There is no doubt such a test laid down somewhere.

    That valuable manual provides historical examples, like this one:

    A good example of a successful march occurred during World War II. It was the grueling foot march during the Sicilian campaign from 20 to 21 July 1943. The 3d Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3d Infantry Division performed this march. The battalion was directed to move on foot across mountains from Aragona to San Stefano to enter into a coordinated attack on enemy forces in San Stefano. The battalion made this record-breaking, 54-mile, cross-country march in only 33 hours due to continuous marching. Two hours after arrival, the battalion was committed in the attack on San Stefano, which resulted in its capture.
    Outstanding effort. I suggest that this is what the training should be aimed at preparing a unit to achieve and units should avoid or be forced to avoid getting involved in side shows where non representative "teams" from units battle it out in militarily pointless races of the insane kind.
    Last edited by JMA; 06-01-2011 at 03:39 AM.

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    I understand and have some experience of how these marches become "games" or a sport when the aim is lost.
    Before WWII Fairbairn and Sykes made the same observation about police qualifying with pistols. They stopped keeping score at 50% hits on the target to avoid qualifications becoming sporting events.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Quote Originally Posted by Polarbear1605 View Post
    Standard US Marine requirement is a battalion to move 24 miles in eight hours with field marching pack, flak jacket, helmet, T/O weapon...approximately 55- 60 lbs and no ammo. Many foot sore Marines the next day...
    Agreed. I'd be curious to see what percentage of our combat arms units (even infantry) would be able to conduct ongoing, high-intensity combat operations after covering 20-30 miles a day on foot for a couple weeks. I strongly suspect it would be a much lower percentage than in armies of a century ago, due to lack of real acclimatization/foot hardening.

    Based on two weeks training with Royal Marines, I will say they do a lot more of that than we do, at least during entry-level training. And Patrick Hennessey's book mentions how all Sandhurst cadets conduct Exercise Long Reach, a 36 hour, 80 km march over hilly terrain.

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    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    Before WWII Fairbairn and Sykes made the same observation about police qualifying with pistols. They stopped keeping score at 50% hits on the target to avoid qualifications becoming sporting events.
    Carl, they must have been wise men. I don't know the police equivalent but for the infantry their role is to close with and kill the enemy (not destroy them that's what the air force does, what the artillery does, what armour does)... the infantry gets up close and personal.

    The question must always be asked of training... "how does this training prepare my soldiers for their infantry role?" If it fails the - it helps them hone their skills to close with and kill the enemy - test then don't do it.

    In the military peacetime is the curse. In peacetime it is when the garrison soldiers come to the fore and the warriors leave through boredom. It is like a cancer and the symptoms must be dealt with severely when the display themselves.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Carl, they must have been wise men. I don't know the police equivalent but for the infantry their role is to close with and kill the enemy (not destroy them that's what the air force does, what the artillery does, what armour does)... the infantry gets up close and personal.
    Close with and arrest,kill if necessary. They were wise men, they were brought out of retirement to train the OSS in WW2. And to this day they still influence LE and the military but not as much as they used to.

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    PDF for Shooting to Live by Fairbairn and Sykes.

    www.safeism.com/texts/ShootingToLive.pdf
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    PDF for Shooting to Live by Fairbairn and Sykes.

    www.safeism.com/texts/ShootingToLive.pdf
    They had to run a small obstacle course first and then go straight into qualifying with their weapon.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    .....units should avoid or be forced to avoid getting involved in side shows where non representative "teams" from units battle it out in militarily pointless races of the insane kind.
    Oh, you heretic!

    You just trashed the Best Ranger Competition!
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    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    Before WWII Fairbairn and Sykes made the same observation about police qualifying with pistols. They stopped keeping score at 50% hits on the target to avoid qualifications becoming sporting events.
    I can see their point but other top cops have disagreed.

    For instance, some members of the now defunct NYPD Stakeout Squad used to shoot competition and thought it helpful for stress inoculation.

    Now, how did we get here from foot mobility?
    Last edited by Rifleman; 06-01-2011 at 07:17 PM.
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    Back to subject of sustained marching with loads or going straight into a fight after a hard march: I think the best 20th Century historical examples would probably be the Chindits and Marauders from WWII's CBI and the Mobile Guerilla Forces (Blackjack Projects) from Vietnam.

    Don't know what they averaged but I imagine the info is out there.
    "Pick up a rifle and you change instantly from a subject to a citizen." - Jeff Cooper

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