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Thread: Special Forces Use of Pack Animals

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Special Forces Use of Pack Animals

    Posted at Secrecy News (FAS Blog) - Special Forces Use of Pack Animals.

    U.S. special operations forces typically make use of some of the most sophisticated military and intelligence gear available. But sometimes a "no tech" solution is the right one.

    So, for example, Special Forces "may find themselves involved in operations in rural or remote environments... using pack animals," including horses, donkeys and mules.

    "Pack animal operations are ideally suited for, but not limited to, conducting various missions in high mountain terrain, deserts, and dense jungle terrain."

    An Army Special Forces manual (large pdf) provides instruction and doctrinal guidance for using pack animals in training and combat missions.

    "This manual provides the techniques of animal pack transport and for organizing and operating pack animal units. It captures some of the expertise and techniques that have been lost in the United States Army over the last 50 years."...

    The 225 page manual provides a basic introduction to the characteristics of each of the various pack animals, some rudiments of veterinary care, and miscellaneous lore....

    The Special Forces manual has not been approved for public release, but a copy was obtained by Secrecy News.
    Also see Chapter VII - Mounted Detachments of the Small Wars Manual.

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    In the late '80s and early '90s some SF personel attended packing clinics in the Rocky Mountain states instructed by civilian outfitters and guides. I guess it was an attempt to relearn things that the Army had let slip from it's institutional memory.

    I used to work for a Wyoming outfitter who had instructed some SF. He was kind of a crotchety old drunk, although he knew his way around pack stock. I don't think SF sent teams to him more than a couple of times, for obvious reasons. I believe the teams were from 7th SFG (A).

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    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
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    It is still taught from time to time.

    SFC W

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    Default Burros and Dogs

    You'd be surprised how much stuff a dog can pack. Burros are darn agile critters too and can carry a tremendous load. The best thing about them is they can both be eaten too. A husky mutt could come in darn handy in rough terrain I tell you. Let's say you've got a base camp at a lower elevation and an OP up higher, well all you have do is load Fido up with chow or canteens or clips and whistle him up then he can be whistled back down or kept up there at night for sentry duty. A dog's ears and nose can come in darn handy to alert you to movement on the perimeter. Dogs are pretty good morale boosters too. Maybe some burros and dogs could be drafted - the Public wouldn't complain too much about that....

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Don't the Marines still have a pack animal program? When I was working for an organization in Kansas we got a request for copies of that 1944 FM jed linked to for a Marine course. All I remember now is that it was on the West Coast somewhere. This would have been in 1998 or 1999.

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default Pack Mules

    Historically this was of course more the norm than the exception. That the former Sec Def chose to seize on such ops in Afghanistan just shows a lack of historical understanding.

    Despite its fearsome reputation for mechanized warfare, the Wehrmacht was largely horse drawn, especially in the Infantry and Armored Infantry.

    The Burma theater was a donkey's paradise: look at the 5307th Composite Unit "Merrills Marauders".

    6th Ranger Battalion was originally a mule/donkey unit. They converted to Rangers because they had been handpicked as strapping farm boys.

    Same thing in the ETO--especially Italy.

    Besides I felt like a pack mule in Ranger school. Does that count?

    Tom

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    Default Great legacy

    Tom,

    On the lighter side thanks for the historical reference to the Rangers legacy tied to a much of asses. I'm going to use that one for a few of my buddies down the road. Bill

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    Default MWTC Bridgeport

    The Marine Corps still runs an animal packing course at Bridgeport.

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default Marines Plan on More Horsing Around

    Quote Originally Posted by El Machetazo View Post
    The Marine Corps still runs an animal packing course at Bridgeport.
    Thanks for the post...Indeed interesting !

    Marines practice their horse packing skills at the base stables. Using animals to carry gear has been used since the beginning of warfare, but fell out of military use with the advent of all-terrain vehicles.

    CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- With plans for a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan in the near future, the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, are honing their mountaineering skills in order to be ready for combat in any clime or place.

    Reverting to a less technological means of maneuver warfare, these Marines are preparing for service with horses and mules to ensure success on the battlefield.

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    If I remember correctly, when Crook was chasing the Apaches around in the 1880's, his mules were hauling loads of up to 400 pounds. Indian Army elephants, at the time, were only able to carry 500 pounds.

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    When I was still teaching in the SOF Element, CGSOC, one of the DJMO instructors (an ADA LTC who was a real, no BS cowboy--grew up on a Montana ranch) would run a weekend class for SOF Advanced Track students out of the stables on Ft. Leavenworth. Subject: packing and riding horses.

    I believe it was offered 2 or 3 times in the two years I was there.
    ATW....

    Mike

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    Default North American Goat Packing Association

    The Manual makes mention of the daily food and water requirements for pack goats, but offers no more information on these beasts of burden.

    The following link has a lot of information. I do not know if it is the best source of information on pack goats; I read the manual mostly because it was titled for Special Forces and not regular Army, which made me curious. The resourcefulness of using old "technologies" was interesting as well.

    <http://www.napga.org/>

    What piques my interest the most is that for CENTCOM and SOUTHCOM, goats could be procured in country and disposed of locally and beneficially at end of mission. While pack goats may not have "taken off" as the next yuppie pursuit in suburban Kabul or Bogota, I'm sure there is a lot of local expertise. Basically, I think the option of using pack animals is much more feasible when the using US unit is not shipping livestock half way around the world, but sourcing the muscle locally (not necessarily the supplies and nutrition). Also, it seems a string of goats is a lot less conspicuos than mammoth stock jack mules.

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    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    If I remember correctly, when Crook was chasing the Apaches around in the 1880's, his mules were hauling loads of up to 400 pounds. Indian Army elephants, at the time, were only able to carry 500 pounds.
    That doesn't sound right to me. Could you find a source for that?

    The cavalry used 25% as a rule of thumb for the amount a saddle horse should carry for sustained operations. That means 1000lbs of horse carries 250lbs of trooper and gear. Some Arabs can sustain 1/3 bodyweight.

    So, using that rule of thumb, a 1000 - 1200lbs mule should have a 250 - 300lbs load, maximum. If anything, pack stock should carry less proportionately, not more; dead weight is actually harder on an animal than a good rider.

    Having said that, both animals and men were pushed past exaustion on campaigns when the tactical situation required it.
    "Pick up a rifle and you change instantly from a subject to a citizen." - Jeff Cooper

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rifleman
    ....So, using that rule of thumb, a 1000 - 1200lbs mule should have a 250 - 300lbs load, maximum. If anything, pack stock should carry less proportionately, not more; dead weight is actually harder on an animal than a good rider.
    It appears that you're pretty much on target. The '44 Pack Transportation FM states that, Over terrain which is not mountainous, the pack mule may be expected to travel 20 miles or more per day carrying 250 pounds of pay load. (Pay load does not include weight of the saddle and its accessories.) As long as the mule receives proper care and feed, this expectancy of his capability continues indefinitely. In mountainous terrain, the mule is capable of carrying 250 pounds, but the distance should be reduced to 10 or 15 miles per day. Loaded pack mules usually are able to travel anywhere a man can walk without the use of his hands for support.


    BBC, 4 Aug 07: Venezuela's four-legged mobile libraries
    ....As the project grows, it is using the latest technology.

    Somehow there is already a limited mobile phone signal here, so the organisers are taking advantage of that and equipping the mules with laptops and projectors.

    The book mules are becoming cyber mules and cine mules.

    "We want to install wireless modems under the banana plants so the villagers can use the internet," says Robert Ramirez, the co-ordinator of the university's Network of Enterprising Rural Schools.

    "Imagine if people in the poor towns in the valley can e-mail saying how many tomatoes they'll need next week, or how much celery.

    "The farmers can reply telling them how much they can produce. It's blending localisation and globalisation."....

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Default Combat Llamas

    As as has been reported in various press sources, the Lebanon war saw the first IDF "combat" use of Llamas for transporting supplies. Over the weekend I met one of the guys who had operated with them. The activity is actually more "classified" than I imagined, but here are a few pointers:-

    a. Llamas are better behaved than donkeys. They are also much quieter. They never really say anything and they walk almost silently compare to a donkey.
    b. Llamas will go places donkeys will not.
    c. Llamas can be made to "sit" in a Humvee. Donkeys can't even get into a Humvee.
    e. They eat and drink less than donkeys.
    f. Their coats are excellent camouflage and the even "white" Llamas can be "toned down" using camouflage while doing the animal no harm at all. It's just hair.

    on the down side,

    e. Opinion was that Llamas can't carry as much as Donkeys, (you can't really ride them) and are far more expensive to buy. This apparently is a problem!!
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
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    Just so you know Wilf is serious (really)...


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    Default I thought it was a wind-up but apparently not...


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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen
    As as has been reported in various press sources, the Lebanon war saw the first IDF "combat" use of Llamas for transporting supplies. Over the weekend I met one of the guys who had operated with them. The activity is actually more "classified" than I imagined, but here are a few pointers:-

    a. Llamas are better behaved than donkeys. They are also much quieter. They never really say anything and they walk almost silently compare to a donkey.
    b. Llamas will go places donkeys will not.
    c. Llamas can be made to "sit" in a Humvee. Donkeys can't even get into a Humvee.
    e. They eat and drink less than donkeys.
    f. Their coats are excellent camouflage and the even "white" Llamas can be "toned down" using camouflage while doing the animal no harm at all. It's just hair.

    on the down side,

    e. Opinion was that Llamas can't carry as much as Donkeys, (you can't really ride them) and are far more expensive to buy. This apparently is a problem!!
    ....just as an FYI, Llamas are covered in the first section of Chapter 10, Llamas and Other Animals of the field manual mentioned in the first post in this thread.

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    Default UDVs

    That would be Unmanned Donkey Vehicles *g*

    Tragic end for smuggling donkeys
    By Mohamed Arezki Himeur
    BBC, Algiers
    Thursday, 13 November, 2003, 15:36 GMT

    Smugglers in Algeria have reportedly come up with a novel way to get their contraband into Morocco - donkeys, with tape recorders on their backs.

    A taped message is repeated, saying "Err", Arabic for "walk", so that the donkeys do not stop as they follow the smugglers' tracks unaccompanied.

    However, the customs service learnt of the ruse and has killed 200 of the donkeys, says the El Khabar newspaper.

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