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Thread: Weight of Combat Gear Is Taking Toll

  1. #21
    Council Member politicsbyothermeans's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Methods for doing that have existed for nearly 100 years, yet the US Army does not employ them. Each time I brief a solution, there's the old "Oh we can't do that." - "too dangerous, too risky, we'll get sued etc etc etc."

    Everything I see, says the situation is set to get worse.
    Agreed.

    If only we could remember to worry less about our OERs and more about our dudes, we might not be having this discussion right now.
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  2. #22
    Council Member bismark17's Avatar
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    Default re:

    It reminds me of the Ranger telling me about how he jumped into Grenada with 100 pounds of light weight gear.

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    Default On The Endless Cycle of Armourising

    Must feel that the process has now reached certain logical conclusions.

    Wish to address armour on men & trucks.

    (not tanks since I feel armour belongs on them...seperate issue)

    The flak vest and gun shield have evolved into quite obtuse systems which constrict movement severely.

    In the nature of adaptation the counter to Coalition vehicular plate overcastings has been the implementation of penetrating devices, commonly called EFPs , which essentially render all vehicle armor useless.

    I expect that armour penetrating rounds could be improvised for sniper rifles, etc. that would place dismounts in the same over-dressed, unprotected state.

    Change is continuous in all conflict.

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    I remember a Pentagon briefing, several years ago, when the MOLLE gear was first being introduced and the latest ruck was being modeled. A spokesman on the podium said something to the effect of, "this new ruck will allow Soldiers to carry 150 pound loads comfortably." And, to demonstrate, a short, older woman wearing spit-shined jumpboots was standing proudly on the podium, sporting the full ruck, apparently quite comfortable with it bearing down on her shoulders (I have no idea whether it was full of ammo or pillows).

    While I do not miss the lackluster training or garrison-minded madness of the pre-9/11 force, I have to admit that spectacles like that did provide for an occasional good laugh.

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    For the guys at PEO-Soldier, I wish to offer this nugget, from a guy who's schlepped many a bag on his back over the years (military and civilian) -

    There is no comfortable way to carry 150 pounds of gear. There are varying ranges of discomfort, but it'll never feel as good as when you take the pack off.
    Brant
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    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    Lastly, I talked to a guy once who was in the South African Army when they used to run long patrols in Namibia and Angola. The troops were given very wide latitude in deciding what they did and didn't want to carry. Would this be an option for our troops?
    Sadly, no. Because those South African commanders never appeared before a hearing full of never-been-in-the-military Congressional reps being beseiged by letter-writers from back home demanding to know why their sons/daughters weren't weighed down with every single potential life-saving gizmo we could possibly buy.
    No commander wants to have to face the klieg lights of C-SPAN and try to explain to people (who are proud of the fact that they don't understand) what life's like when you're chasing targets up the side of a mountain with 150 pounds of lightweight gear nestled comfortably in your MOLLE ruck...
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    Council Member politicsbyothermeans's Avatar
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    I was looking at some pictures of my grandfather and great uncles in WWII (and, my great grandfather in WWI) and I was pretty well struck by them wearing ties... into combat. I do not doubt that the ties were quickly discarded but it does serve to remind us that soldiers have been doing this whole war thing for quite some time and armor is hardly new. The apt pupil will note that even though armor has shifted the balance towards "safe" war for some, it has invariably been sidelined by some advance in weaponry.

    Apart from that, I do wonder if the answer to our question lies more in the realm of the logistician and the UAV crowd than at PEO Soldier. Afterall, if we could reliably (and I admit therein lies the rub) provide the correct classes of supply in a very timely manner, why would we need to hump everything? Only certain items would really need to be carried while other classes of supply could easily be either air dropped or brought forward after the fight. Anyone that has done long range movement to the objective understands the concept of the cache. What say those with the large pulsing veins in their foreheads to an aerial cache system? Something that allows our guys to put everything important on it and then meet us at a predesignated point... say that mountain we're trying to climb?
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  8. #28
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BayonetBrant View Post
    Sadly, no. Because those South African commanders never appeared before a hearing full of never-been-in-the-military Congressional reps being beseiged by letter-writers from back home demanding to know why their sons/daughters weren't weighed down with every single potential life-saving gizmo we could possibly buy.
    .
    ...and there you have it. Until your Army is an institution that accepts risk taking, and does not have a culture of risk mitigation, you are screwed.

    Certain armies and certain units, just do not have a load carrying problem, because they leaders and manpower prepared to make the choices.

    Sorry to sound harsh, but there it is.
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    Council Member BayonetBrant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by politicsbyothermeans View Post
    Afterall, if we could reliably (and I admit therein lies the rub) provide the correct classes of supply in a very timely manner, why would we need to hump everything? Only certain items would really need to be carried while other classes of supply could easily be either air dropped or brought forward after the fight.

    Just remember that rucks come in one size: full.

    If you build it, they will fill it.
    Brant
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  10. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by politicsbyothermeans View Post
    Only certain items would really need to be carried while other classes of supply could easily be either air dropped or brought forward after the fight. Anyone that has done long range movement to the objective understands the concept of the cache. What say those with the large pulsing veins in their foreheads to an aerial cache system? Something that allows our guys to put everything important on it and then meet us at a predesignated point... say that mountain we're trying to climb?
    This was tried by some units in Vietnam, and it was discovered that it required a fair amount of aviation support. To the best of my knowledge only the 1st Cav was able to pull it off on a regular basis, and even then it was criticized by some company-level officers as making their units too dependent on available LZs and compromising unit location each time the log birds came in. It's also rather terrain focused. The Cav could pull it off in the III CTZ because it was reasonably flat, but units like the 101st in I CTZ had problems due to the mountains (and this was especially true for the 4th ID in II CTZ), and the Americal found it almost impossible due to an extended AO and limited aviation support. The Marines had issues similar to those experienced by the Americal, although it did ease somewhat in 1969 when some organizational changes were made.
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  11. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    This was tried by some units in Vietnam, and it was discovered that it required a fair amount of aviation support. To the best of my knowledge only the 1st Cav was able to pull it off on a regular basis, and even then it was criticized by some company-level officers as making their units too dependent on available LZs and compromising unit location each time the log birds came in. It's also rather terrain focused. The Cav could pull it off in the III CTZ because it was reasonably flat, but units like the 101st in I CTZ had problems due to the mountains (and this was especially true for the 4th ID in II CTZ), and the Americal found it almost impossible due to an extended AO and limited aviation support. The Marines had issues similar to those experienced by the Americal, although it did ease somewhat in 1969 when some organizational changes were made.
    I'm completely with you and hope I don't sound the least bit snotty when I say that I hope that our logistical/technical skills have increased sufficiently in the last four decades that we could relook this issue.

    Perhaps this problem will receive more attention as we shift focus away from the vehicle centric movements in Iraq to more dismounted operations in A'Stan.
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  12. #32
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    Default Astan log

    This is very much how we conducted operations on my last rotation to Northeast Afghanistan. On overnight operations, platoons would leave the Firebase dismounted with a light load enroute to support-by-fire positions or a village for a cordon and search. At one of the hub FOBs, prepo packages of water, MREs and other supplies usually contained in body bags nicknamed "speedballs" would be air-assaulted to resupply positions during the operation. These packages were designed to quickly and easily resupply elements while keeping excess low and their fighting load light. I'm not a logistician, but the system seemed to work well and certainly prolonged our small unit endurance in the extraordinarily difficult terrain of Kunar, Laghman and Nuristan Provinces.

  13. #33
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default A summary thus far, perhapos...

    Bayonet Brant:
    "No commander wants to have to face the klieg lights of C-SPAN and try to explain to people (who are proud of the fact that they don't understand) what life's like when you're chasing targets up the side of a mountain with 150 pounds of lightweight gear nestled comfortably in your MOLLE ruck..."
    Wilf:
    "Until your Army is an institution that accepts risk taking, and does not have a culture of risk mitigation, you are screwed."
    Steve Blair:
    "This (aerial resupply) was tried by some units in Vietnam,"
    It does require a fair amount of aviation support but the key is decentralization. The 1st Bde of the 101st in 65-67 was able to do it regularly in all three northern Corps areas; the 101st Div over organized it and it did not work. It also works best if you resupply platoons (best) or companies (achievable) and not battalions (almost impossible); It's totally do-able today(but see Wilf's comment).

    Meinertzhagen:
    This is very much how we conducted operations on my last rotation to Northeast Afghanistan.
    As did 1/82 on OEF6. To include vehicle borne patrols as well as Platoons/Companies on foot.

    Bottom line is that Commanders today can reduce the weight carried -- but at a cost of reducing the protection and lethality of their troops. That should be a tactical decision allowed to Company commanders. Period.

    Bayonet Brant's comment is true now -- but only because DoD has allowed that to happen; the media is terribly ignorant about the military and Congress has not been educated by DoD. Realistically, I see little chance for change, unfortunately. Though there is one thing that might be considered; if we go to war in another sub tropical jungle, there will be either no armor -- or a whole lot of heat casualties...

  14. #34
    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Meinertzhagen View Post
    This is very much how we conducted operations on my last rotation to Northeast Afghanistan. On overnight operations, platoons would leave the Firebase dismounted with a light load enroute to support-by-fire positions or a village for a cordon and search. At one of the hub FOBs, prepo packages of water, MREs and other supplies usually contained in body bags nicknamed "speedballs" would be air-assaulted to resupply positions during the operation. These packages were designed to quickly and easily resupply elements while keeping excess low and their fighting load light. I'm not a logistician, but the system seemed to work well and certainly prolonged our small unit endurance in the extraordinarily difficult terrain of Kunar, Laghman and Nuristan Provinces.
    At least one step closer to that dream I have of ADDCLM's

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    Today there was this headline about a hearing in Washington, DC

    Military: Improved body armor is too heavy

    By Richard Lardner - The Associated Press
    Posted : Wednesday Feb 4, 2009 20:02:39 EST

    It is long and many quotes Army Brass and statements about the weight and some deficient plates for the new body armor.

    It ends the story with these comments;

    “Over time, the body armor, it does wear on your body,” said Army Staff Sgt. Fred Rowe, who has done two combat tours in Iraq. “I couldn’t imagine doing what I did, carrying what I carried, in Afghanistan.”

    Rowe appeared at the hearing along with several senior Army officers, including Maj. Gen. Robert Lennox, who oversees operations and training.

    Brig. Gen. Michael Brogan, head of the Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va., agreed with Army leaders who said that the vast majority of requests from commanders in the field, especially those in Afghanistan, ask that the troops’ load be lightened.

    “We must balance levels of protection in order to maintain the agility, mobility and lethality of our Marines,” according to Brogan’s written testimony.

    I hope the powers that be read Gen. Brogan's written testimony. But have the nagging feeling they didn't.

  16. #36
    Council Member politicsbyothermeans's Avatar
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    I shall not name the GO but I know of a GO that decided that he and his staff would wear their IBAs (with the Division standard loadout) while in the HQ for one week so that they could experience what their folks were dealing with. This was despite the Div CSM pointing out that office operations were not combat operations.

    For those of you with the sickened feeling in your stomach area, you will be pleased to know that, after a few days, the GO declared the experiment a success and told his folks they could return their IBAs to the bottom of their duffle bags, or wherever Fobgoblins keep their crap.
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    Default There is a thread discussing this already

    I haven't the time to look/link it.

    As for those who feel 85 lbs is an acceptable combat load, I applaud you and say your nuts.

    Been both places, can attest that the MOLLE I absolutely will not carry 150 lbs, the frame will break about 30% of the time with just 80 lbs in it.

    Old women can't climb the Hindu Kush, I know, I watch the young women fail to do with just an IBA, forget the ruck.

    We are over what every study has shown to be the ideal fighting load (about 35-45 lbs) by exactly the weight of the IBA. My last fighting load was 73 lbs. Don't tell me to leave the snivel at home, I have evaced soldiers for hypothermia and burned my C4 to keep others alive. We had no snivel, unless one bivy sack per two men counts, and my emergency approach march load was weighed at 143 when I came back! Extra? Water, batteries, 1 UBL, C4. I drank a quart a day for 11 days and ate a 2 power bars and an MRE every day. I lost over 25 lbs (from 143 lb).

    How do I know these weights? Because they had a study group weighing us and all our gear at departure and return. Because the study (in 2003) said we were carrying too much. Because they have only added more to our mandatory kit, and I take a deep and abiding interest in its weight.

    10 lbs for every size larger in the IBA. I now wear a small, not a medium. Those of you with a large IBA are carrying 20 lbs more armor than I do. Weight has changed our tactics. We used to walk those mountains, now we drive the valleys.

    Those of you who are commanders and have decided that an 80 lbs fighting load is acceptable are part of the problem, plain and simple. It is not. Try some simple tests. Conduct a combat assault course or any O course in full kit (with ammo). Your unit will not meet your expectations. My platoon had a PT average in the 280s and were studs, plain and simple. We did the A course regularly. Full kit broke it off. After we had done 6 months walking in Astan. The loads are simply too much. Since the Hoplites, we have found that the army standard 35-45 lbs is the most weight one can carry and still fight effectively for a long period.
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    If combat were long periods of intense physical activity such as that engaged in on an obstacle/assault course, punctuated by brief periods of inactivity, then I think that performance on such a course would be a useful metric. But combat is the opposite - long periods of inactivity, punctuated by intensity.

    Like most others on the board, I've spent a fair amount of time patrolling, fighting, and doing other random tasks in Iraq, for long periods of time, in ridiculously hot temperatures, in around 85 pounds of gear. It's not ideal, but it's acceptable. There were days where we were involved in some sphincter-puckering situations and we, too, felt like someone had broken it off in us - probably very similar to how folks felt after the assault course. I don't think the determination of the ideal weight has anything to do with whether you feel refreshed immediately following a firefight. I think it has more to do with whether you had the gear you needed and whether you're the guy consolidating and reorganizing on the objective, rather than the guy who's lying motionless on it. Unfortunately, "need" is determined by more than tactical considerations. Dead American Soldiers undermine public support. So long as the load does not get so heavy as to prevent us from prevailing in a firefight, I don't see the weak political will of the American people allowing us to go sans SAPI.

    I suspect that my views on the weight of our gear would differ if I were in Afghanistan's steep terrain - perhaps that's a relevant variable - though the reality of public opinion wouldn't change.

    Loads of 140 pounds or more - yeah, I'd say that would suck just about anywhere.

    One other thought - perhaps it's not the number of pounds, but the percentage of one's body weight that matters. All of our machine gunners were tall guys. Long legs seem to make carrying the gun easier. Taller guys were generally heavier folks. I recall one guy in the unit who weighed about 120 or 130, soaking wet, and there was no talk of making him a machine gunner.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    One other thought - perhaps it's not the number of pounds, but the percentage of one's body weight that matters. All of our machine gunners were tall guys. Long legs seem to make carrying the gun easier. Taller guys were generally heavier folks. I recall one guy in the unit who weighed about 120 or 130, soaking wet, and there was no talk of making him a machine gunner.
    What unit was that!! I weighed between 120 and 145 while in service and I was a mortarman or RTO on active and both a 240B and and SAW gunner in the guard. I remember one night patrol when I had both the SAW and the singars and my SL saw an Iraqi out past curfew and yelled for me to chase him. I was like "yeah right" but I did anyway.
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    This truly is the bike helmet generation.

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