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The Soldier's Load and the Immobility of a Nation

bick

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There were times in Afghanistan, yes, OTW, that we didn't wear body armor. It's not the norm, but does happen.
 

Fabius

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The debate regarding the use and misuse of body armour has been present it seems ever since the use of modern body armour really expanded in the early 2000s.
This debate is obviously quite vigorous in the US and not so much elsewhere it seems.  This is too bad as it is a rather important question, especially if we find ourselves in a tropical enviroment.  The use of body armour really seems to revolve around the issues of force protection and force mobility/effectiveness.

As indicated in the article linked above the force protection issue appears to be highly related to the desire to prevent any friendly casualties (nothing wrong with this in and of itself).  With the set of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan the number of friendly casualties being sustained was a consideration in the maintenance of political and social willingness to continue the prosecution of the conflicts.  Sadly this appears to have resulted in the various national militaries (Canada’s included) adding force protection measures such as rifle rated body armour with deltoid, throat, groin, etc protection and mandating their use irrespective of the operational tasks, weather, or threat.

While the overall weight of modern body armour is dropping, even light weight soft armour will have an impact on a soldiers ability to maneuver and will result in a larger sustainment requirement in regards to hydration and the amount of water that a soldier would need to carry or have available.

The biggest problem that I see for the future in terms of the use of body armour is that the various armies remain risk adverse and in order to be able to say that the organization did everything possible to prevent a casualty, they mandate that all armour will be worn at all times.  This in my opinion is the completely wrong approach rather we should be enabling our professional soldiers to practice mission command and based upon their assessments of the operational tasks, the weather, the most likely and most dangerous threats choose the tools required to complete the mission in the most effective manner.  Just as the tool box currently contains a number of different weapon systems a commander can choose the tool box should also contain different levels of armour ranging from a simple plate carrier for if the threat is primarily small arms or a soft armour vest if the threat is primarily fragmentation, all the way up to the full meal deal if you will with soft armour vest with deltoid, throat and groin protection and rifle rated plates with helmet and face shield.

Such a practice though would have to accept that we would on occasion take casualties that may have been prevented had they been wearing the full armour package vice only a plate carrier.  The chain of command would have to be willing to support the decisions made at a lower level and be able to defend and articulate why soldiers are not always wearing all the protection theoretically possible.
 

Tibbson

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Fabius said:
Sadly this appears to have resulted in the various national militaries (Canada’s included) adding force protection measures such as rifle rated body armour with deltoid, throat, groin, etc protection and mandating their use irrespective of the operational tasks, weather, or threat.

While the overall weight of modern body armour is dropping, even light weight soft armour will have an impact on a soldiers ability to maneuver and will result in a larger sustainment requirement in regards to hydration and the amount of water that a soldier would need to carry or have available.

The biggest problem that I see for the future in terms of the use of body armour is that the various armies remain risk adverse and in order to be able to say that the organization did everything possible to prevent a casualty, they mandate that all armour will be worn at all times.

Agreed.  Sadly its always going to be easier for Commanders (aand the press) to conclude a soldier became a casualty due to a lack of body armour easier then it will be to conclude he/she became a casualty due to a lack of mobility or the heat/weight of all that equipment.
 

Towards_the_gap

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During my last sojourn in the desert, our location was being hit multiple times daily from the same direction. I made the suggestion to the platoon commander one night that rather than have a cumbersome clearance patrol mounted at the end of the tic, fully dressed etc etc, why not have 6-8 of your fittest dudes, with 1 sgt/mcpl who is also 'fleet of foot', who, upon the initiation of a contact, would head out the gate with minimal equipment (think combat shirts with 6-8 mags and some frag, bayonets fixed too, that is all) to 'close with and destroy the enemy...

....I was looked at like I had 2 heads......
 

Mr. St-Cyr

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That variety of brazen offensive action would instill the fear of God into the heathen. However, with this political climate I would think the pl comd would be accused of taking unnecessary risks and relieved of command. Nowadays people are more concerned with not losing than winning a war.
 

GAP

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Gee...this was standard dress not so long ago....
 

daftandbarmy

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How do you win a counterinsurgency campaign, if you can’t catch the enemy?

Imagine, friends, four combatants in march order, as they march to, through and from history. One is a Macedonian phalangite, a pikeman, accompanying Alexander and trudging toward Herat. Then next is a Roman legionary of the middle Empire, on his way to drub some band of barbarians or rebels. Third is a Pashtun fighter in Afghanistan, whether he is fighting us or was fighting the Soviets makes little difference. Last, in more ways than one, comes an American soldier, also in Afghanistan.

What is the phalanglite lugging on his body? Sources for things like this are always a little iffy, with ancient military history, but modern scholarship, driven in good part by finds at Vergina, believes that the typical phalangite carried about 23.1 kilograms (about 51 pounds) of arms and armor, consisting of his Sarissa, shield, helmet, dagger, sword, torso armor and such. He may have also started his march, nine days prior, carrying some 30 pounds of food. Now he’s down to about three pounds and expecting the trains to keep him supplied from here on. Water, clothing, footwear, camp and cooking utensils, might have added 20 pounds or so to that (I’m swagging that, of course; we really don’t know). Call it a 73 pounds on our pikeman’s back, just before he settles into camp outside Herat.1 He goes into action with about 51 pounds, but nobody expects him to be all that mobile on the battlefield.


Read more: http://www.everyjoe.com/2014/06/23/politics/the-soldiers-load-the-immobility-of-a-nation/#ixzz37gC0HHnu


http://www.everyjoe.com/2014/06/23/politics/the-soldiers-load-the-immobility-of-a-nation/
 

Fabius

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Fragmentation vests did start being widely issued and used in WW2, primarily within RAF Bomber Command and then the US bomber forces as well.  In Korea and Vietnam the fragmentation vests started seeing a wider scale of issue to ground forces. The issuing of body armour with the capacity to stop rifle rounds did not really take off until the most recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Interestingly the fragmentation vests used by US forces in Vietnam were quite light in comparison to what we are seeing issued now.
The M69 vest used by the US Army in Vietnam weighed around 8-10lbs depending on size.  The M1955 vest used by the US Marines weighed a couple pounds more.

In about 1967 the US Army trialed something called the Variable Armour System. This was basically a modular armour system consisting of both hard rifle rated plates and soft armour vest. Its total weight was 20.5lbs. The US Army at the time found that that armour system was too heavy and restrictive for forces attempting to patrol or manoeuvre but that it was useful for troops operating in relatively static positions such as hill top firebases.

Contrast all those weights with the 30-35lb weight of the modern US Army IOTV with all of that systems deltoid, throat and groin protection in place.

Don't get me wrong. Modern body armour is very capable and is very useful and we do need it, just perhaps not in all situations at all times. 
 

a_majoor

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This may speak to culture or maybe something else, but the load of a heavy Infantry soldier in the Classical/Western tradition has always been in the range of 30+ kilos, from a Greek Hoplite to "Tommies" going over the top at the Somme, right until the present day.

Of course the heavy armed and armoured Infantryman of the Classical and Western tradition has also been virtually unbeatable in a straight up fight (ask the Persians), which may also explain why most of our opponents avoid straight up fights whenever possible.

I also think the article is coflating tactical mobility (or lack thereof) with operational and strategic mobility. Canada, a nation with a fairly small and modest military capability, can project a battle group halfway around the world and sustain it for as long as there is political will to do so, even if the dismounted infantry comes up a bit short running the enemy to ground.

As for fighting and winning a counterinsurgency using heavy Infantry, it is possible (to a certain extent). Both the Macedonians and the Romans fought and won what we might consider counterinsurgency campaigns; Alexander III in modern Afghanistan and the Romans in Spain.
 

x_para76

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IMO the Canadian armour system is a little OTT. The shoulder brassards, neck, and groin protection restrict movement too much for my liking.

In the Falklands war the Brits from my understanding wore no body armour. I can't imagine how my predecessors from 2 & 3 Para would've faired tabbing across the Falklands in full kit with the addition of body armour? Likely it's greatest benefit would've been as additional warm kit.
 

BC Old Guy

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An interesting take on this question has been set out in SLA Marshall's article/book "The Soldiers Load and the Mobility of a Nation", 1950.  I bought mine at the US Infantry School, and found that it posed some interesting questions, and offered suggestions for infantry leaders to consider.  Many disagree with his work, and question his research methods.  Despite this, it is an interesting departure from many other thoughts expressed about the issue of the infantry, the load carried, and how the infantry fights.

BCOG
 

Loachman

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"Ten years ago I had to carry a hundred pounds of really heavy shit. Now, I get to carry a hundred pounds of really light shit."
 

Kirkhill

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2002 Power Point on US Army Coy Loads

http://thedonovan.com/archives/CombatLoadPresentation.pdf
 

Kirkhill

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Here's an interesting Aussie study.

One suggested solution - add slaves as baggage carriers.  It worked for the Hoplites.  :)
 

daftandbarmy

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In Northern Ireland, in the 'cuds', we carried a day pack with scoff, brew kit, a rain jacket and a few other odds and ends, and wore a web belt with ammo and a water bottle.

Body armour/ helmets weren't even an option as they would slow us down and limit our 'sensing' abilities. The most likely cause of demise would be a big effing 1000lb ANFO bomb of some kind anyways, and body armour wouldn't even keep the pieces together, so why bother.

Maroon machine beret on melon, rifle in mitts, ready to rock an roll.

I am guessing that I carried no more than 30 lbs. Ever. We covered dozens of miles by day, and night, mostly on foot, across country, over hill and dale, through rivers/swamps/silage pits etc.

Once we got back to 'peacetime' soldiering, of course, the kit lists came out and the crap we carried increased into the 60-80lb range, at least. ::)
 

Rocky Mountains

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Looking at photos of Canadian patrols in Korea, one thing you rarely see is a helmet.  Ideas change a lot.
 

Shrek1985

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Could we do anything about this? Engender an attitude of flexibility and tolerance as pertains to what we carry and body armour?

Maybe i'm being overly optimistic.
 
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