The Infantryman's Combat Load CSC 1985 SUBJECT AREA Operations EXECUTIVE SUMMARY TITLE: THE INFANTRYMAN'S COMBAT LOAD I. Purpose: To examine the difficulty the military has encountered throughout its history in arriving at a proper combat load for the infantryman and to review several solutions to this problem. II. Problem: Although many studies have been conducted that demonstrate the routine overloading of the infantryman, very little progress has been made in significantly reducing his burden. The military acknowledges the problem, but actually has expended little effort in resolving it. III. Data: S.L.A. Marshall in 1950 lucidly developed the fact that unit commanders were requiring their soldiers and marines to pack too much equipment while going into combat. During the early Twentieth Century several nations had conducted studies that illustrated that fact. The results of these studies produced many and diverse conclusions, but a general constancy was gleaned from this research. The foot-mobile combatant should not be expected to carry more than one-third of his normal body weight into battle. This fact has not only been ignored, but as recently as the campaigns in The Falkland Islands and Grenada, marines and soldiers have entered combat carrying well over 100 pounds. There is an effort in progress that is reducing the weight of the equipment that is carried, and many small unit leaders have advanced ideas that would reduce the amount of the combat load. However, the more significant part of the solution seems to lie elsewhere. IV. Conclusion: Commanders of units higher than the company have perpetuated the problem by not being dedicated to the concept of reducing the infantryman's combat load. V. Recomendations: The battalion, regimental and division commanders must demand that their logisticians provide means to reduce the load carried by the infantryman. Further- more these senior commanders must constantly educate the junior officers in the design of only burdening their men with a combat load that is absolutely necessary. THE INFANTRYMAN'S COMBAT LOAD Outline Thesis Statement: From the beginning of recorded history, the combat infantryman has been overloaded, because unit commanders will neither reduce the weight of the equipment nor reduce the amount of equipment that they require their men to carry. I. The Problem II. Historical Studies A. German 1896 B. British 1920 C. British 1931 D. Russian 1945 III. Historical Examples A. Falklands B. Grenada IV. Workable Solutions A. United States Army Infantry School B. Selected Commanders' Initiatives THE INFANTRYMAN'S COMBAT LOAD In February 1974 the Third Battalion, Fourth Marines of the Third Marine Division planned and executed an amphibious assault on the northeastern coast of South Korea. The operation was conducted in conjunction with a South Korean Marine Brigade and the temperature varied from 40oF during the day, to below OoF at night. One of the objectives of the landing was to test the battalion's capability to operate in cold weather. The battalion was issued cold weather clothing to include the following: long underwear, both top and bottom, cold weather parkas and liners, cold weather trousers and liners, cold weather mittens and liners, cold weather caps, scarves, vapor barrier (insulated) boots and sleeping bags. These items of clothing were to be carried in addition to the marine's normal equipment, and six c-ration meals, or two days' rations. The headquarters' staff planning this exercise realized the awkwardness of the load and therefore additionally issued each marine a packboard on which to carry the burden. Without describing in detail the maneuver of the battalion in the exercise, it should be sufficient to say that each marine was carrying almost 100 pounds. Those equipped with radios and crew-served weapons were carrying in excess of that weight. Movement was slow, limited in distance and the units usually worn down physically. I was the platoon commander for the first platoon of Company M and while it was difficult to shoulder that load and conduct a movement to contact on level ground, it was virtually impossible to do so while climbing the high, steep hills of South Korea. My marines were so fatigued from simply packing their equipment from position to position, that the enemy was not a major concern. Had this operation not been a peacetime exercise with controlled aggressors, I am certain we would have had serious problems fighting and defeating even a small enemy force. Now there are those who would argue that this was merely an exercise and that had this been an actual live combat operation, we would have accomplished the logistics differently. These idealists say that certainly the infantrymen would not have been carrying as much equipment, or that vehicles would have been provided to transport some of the burden, thereby making the individual's load manageable. I strongly disagree. I contend that the perennial problem of overloading the footmobile marine or soldier will be even worse in combat. The old sports adage of "what you do in practice is what you do in the game," is very apropos. We must learn to conduct exercises or rehearsals with only the bare minimum of equipment, for at the last minute there always seem to be reasons for taking additional equipment or supplies, but never for reducing the burden to be carried. In February 1980 as a captain and company commander with the Third Battalion, Eighth Marines of the Second Marine Division, I was again conducting a landing exercise with my company, this time in Portugal. The battalion was to conduct a tactical landing, simulate actual operations for several days and then establish an administrative biv- ovac to commence cross-training exercises with the Portu- guese. The weather was cool and rainy, so while we were not carrying cold weather gear, the battalion was well-ladened with sleeping bags, pneumatic mattresses, field jackets and liners, ponchos and poncho liners, shelter halves and their accessories, long underwear, gloves, and extra utilities. Each marine of course was also wearing or carrying his combat equipment, to include flack jacket and weapon, and any other essential items such as underwear and socks and toilet articles. In addition we had been issued three c-rations and what was estimated to be one day's worth of ammunition. My company was to execute a heliborne assault and attack inland to seize several pieces of high ground. The terrain according to the map was hilly and I knew it would be extremely difficult to carry our heavy packs during the operation. I was attempting to devise a method to lighten our load when the logistics officer arrived and stated that he recommended the company carry another day's worth of rations, double the amount of ammunition issued, and take several five gallon water cans per platoon, because he could not guarantee a resupply the first or second day. I was appalled! However, this is not unusual. Before we require the logistics system to function properly and provide the needed provisions at the prescribed time and place, we will force the infantryman to carry it with him. The issue is clear, from the beginning of recorded history, the combat infantryman has been overloaded, because unit commanders will neither reduce the weight of the equipment nor reduce the amount of the equipment that they require their men to carry. This issue, the overloading of the combat marine or soldier, is certainly not a new revelation, for in the last two centuries in this country alone several hundred million men have gone into combat on foot carrying an excessive amount of weight on their backs. However, what is unusual is that while during this same period many individuals have complained about the problem, or pointed out that there was a problem with overloading the infantryman, only one book has been written, that I could find, that examined the issue and possible solutions in any depth. In 1950 Colonel S.L.A. Marshall wrote a book entitled The Soldier's Load and the Mobility of A Nation. He listed many examples of nations and armies, to include the Romans, that excessively ladened its soldiers and discussed in detail the problems these armies experienced. I will not reiterate the examples he used, for there are many to be selected otherwise, but I have incorporated many of Marshall's ideas which are just as pertinent today as they were thirty-five years ago. I also am indebted to him for his research whereby he located several studies regarding the load carrying capabilities of the foot soldier. In each case these studies appear to have been conclusive, but the results or actions taken have been ineffective or ephemeral. One of the studies was conducted by Institute William Frederick in Germany in the last few years of the Nineteenth Century. The Institute was particularly interested in measuring the effect on infantrymen who were carrying different loads under varying conditions of temperature. The research demonstrated that in cool weather a load of forty-eight pounds could be carried on a fifteen mile march by acclimatized soldiers that were in good physical condition. However, in warm weather the same load produced an impairment of physical strength, and the soldiers did not return to a normal state until some time during the next day following the march. (7:48) The Germans then increased the weight of the load to sixty-nine pounds and discovered that even during cool weather the soldiers in the experiment had obvious physical distress. During this phase of the study the Institute attempted to determine if physical condi- tioning with the same amount of weight would make a difference in the individual's reaction. The results were very interesting, demonstrating that he continued to show physical distress in an equal amount regardless of the degree of physical conditioning. "The conclusion was therefore drawn that it is impossible to condition the average soldier to marching with this much weight no matter how much training he is given." (7:49) That conclusion is in direct conflict with most infantry and special unit training philosophy today. It is generally accepted that if a well-conditioned person is routinely exercised with a seventy pound burden, that figure selected at random, he will soon become physically accustomed to this load and be able to perform his required activity with facility. This study continued with the subjects carrying a sixty pound load in warm weather. Those being tested began to show a loss of physical strength almost immediately, and the loss of physical strength resulting from this training was evident and measurable for several days thereafter. The Germans subsequently determined after experimenting with varying weight amounts on force marches, that the absolute limit under the pressure and fatigue of combat was forty-eight pounds per man. (7:49) The British in 1920 did not conduct any experiments, but instead researched history to determine how soldiers had been loaded through the centuries. The commission pursuing the research for the British Army expended most of its effort in determining physical ailments resulting from the infantryman being heavily burdened on long marches. In general it discovered that armies in the past had on the average issued the soldier between fifty-five and sixty pounds, and by means of training marches tried to condition him. The commission finally reached the conclusion that..."not in excess of forty to forty-five pounds was a tolerable load for an average-sized man on a road march. More specifically, it stated that on the march, for training purposes, the optimum load, including clothing and personal belongings, is one-third of body weight. Above that figure the cost of carrying the load rises disproportionately to the actual increment of weight."(7:25-26) Another serious attempt by the British Army to lighten the infantryman's load began in the middle 1920's, but did not really produce any official results until the early 1930's. B.H. Liddell Hart was the impetus behind this study and many experiments and demonstrations were conducted in conjunction with the British Army's Small Arms School. Despite early enthusiasm, the effort was almost abandoned as the development of armor seemed to dwarf the significance of the mobility of infantry. Hart was persistent and eventually there was a revival of interest in not only lightening the load of the infantry but all units within the division. Naturally the conclusions indicated that not just the infantry, but all specialties within the division were being required to carry too much. The experiments actually became quite detailed and specific and the final recommendation stated that the..."total weight of the soldier's clothing, arms, ammunition and equipment (including rations and water) be reduced to 31 lbs., 10 oz." (7:29) Toward the end of World War II the Russian Army also began to concentrate on the amount of equipment its soldiers were carrying. This may not seem quite so significant, for the Russian soldier was generally expected to live off the land and endure great privation and discomfort. However the Russians developed a new doctrine, whether out of concern or necessity, that made every effort to take the weight off the back of the infantryman and transport it on any type of vehicle or beast that could carry it. Although the means of arriving at their conclusions was not discussed nor made clear, the Russians' operational theory reduced the combat soldiers' pack weight to forty pounds and all training exercises were conducted with this restriction in mind. (7:63) All of these studies seem to arrive at the same basic conclusions. Firstly, the combat infantryman was overloaded. Secondly, the amount that an individual should be required to carry on his back is less than fifty pounds. However, there is no evidence that these conclusions were ever applied either during World War II or afterwards. Although great strides have been made in developing lightweight clothing and equipment, the total weight still continues to climb over sixty pounds, and in some cases over 100 pounds. S.L.A. Marshall supplies several World War II examples, but I will discuss two occasions in more recent years that illustrate my point. Both examples are actual combat incidents, not exercises, one is British, the other American. In April 1982 an Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands brought a British Naval Task Force to the South Atlantic to forceably expel the invaders. The weather in the South Atlantic at that time of year is cold, damp and windy. Logistic operations throughout the campaign were extremely difficult not only because of the weather, but also because the Argentine Air Force applied great pressure on the British at sea and ashore. After the landing forces went ashore the navy found it extremely difficult to move supplies ashore and the marines and paratroopers experienced problems moving provisions overland. Almost any report of this conflict describes the exhaustion and fatigue of the infantry from being so heavily ladened by equipment that had to be manpacked. During the marine's march across the East Falkland Island, Port San Carlos to Stanley, each man carried an average of 120 pounds. (5:233) The loads carried by the paratroopers were not much less. When the unit commanders found that their forces would not be flown across the island, securing locations in leapfrog fashion, they were astonished. The unanimous feeling was that the units would exhaust themselves on the marches long before they could reach the battlefields. The helicopters were simply not available to transport the units nor supplies. Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Whitehead of 45 Commando wrote in his diary that they had to fight and win..."against the enemy; against the appalling terrain and weather; and against our own logistic inadequacies." (5:233) I was unable to procure a list of equipment that the British carried during the Falkland Operation, but much of the load included rations and ammunition, not an abundance of personal comfort items. Because the logistics system was so "inadequate," the individual fighting man became a beast of burden and was almost too exhausted to engage the enemy in combat. In October 1983 the United States invaded tbe island of Grenada. Although the island was small, and enemy capability considered to be minimal, the soldiers in the assault carried enormous loads. Now when I say that the enemy's capability was minimal, that is precisely what I mean. The opposition on the island was not considered to be numerically strong, nor well-organized. While we found Castro's claim to be false, that the Cuban personnel there were merely civilian laborers, these individuals were not first rate soldiers. However, when the rangers jumped onto the runway at Salinas airfield, the average load carried by each man was 167 pounds. (1) If the operation plan had required the rangers to seize the airfield and fight from an isolated position for several days, then the need for such a load might be justified. This was not the case; the 82nd Airborne Division was flying in units within hours of the ranger's paradrop. One of the platoon leaders who parachuted into the Salinas airfield carried fifteen 30-round magazines of 5.56 ammunition. If that 450 rounds was not enough, he also packed two bandoliers of 5.56 ammuinition, which is an additional 140 rounds. He also carried ten high explosive fragmentation grenades, two claymore mines, two LAAW's, and three high-explosive 60mm mortar rounds. Presumably he felt this burden was sufficient, for the report reflected that he carried no rations. A radioman who airlanded at Calvigney was as equally well prepared with eighteen 30-round magazines of 5.56 ammunition, nine high explosive fragmentation grenades and thirty-six 40mm high explosive grenades for his M-16/203. (1) It is quite well understood throughout the military that a combat load for any one particular operation is dependent on the mission. It is also generally accepted that special units on special operations will require a tailored load that might exceed that of the normal infantryman. However, it becomes almost inconceivable that a footmobile soldier must transport a combat load, that in some cases equals or exceeds his own weight, to fight for less than a day in a very conventional mode. It should be stated at this point, that the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps recognized that there was a problem with overloading the individual infantryman. Nevertheless, acknowledging the existence of a problem and finding a workable solution are two very distinctly different things. At the outset we must realize that while many people have labored over this problem and made proposals for resolving it, these solutions were not workable or feasible. Also, even if the Army or Marine Corps should determine a feasible solution, it does not necessarily follow that the unit commanders at the implementation level will accept, agree upon, employ or enforce that solution. As we all know, almost every unit commander has his own distinct opinion about what his men need to carry, However, some progress is being made at both the level of the institution, and the level of the unit commander. The Army and the Marine Corps have been jointly working on a program called the Integrated Individual Fighting System (IIFSP). Most of the actual machinations have been conducted at the United States Army Infantry School (USAIS) located at Ft. Benning, Georgia. This program is a systemic approach to address the infantryman, his clothing and equipment. It includes a series of innovative field tests comparing commercial items of clothing and equipment to standard issue items, and also attempts to determine the amount of equipment needed to be carried. To begin with, a category of loads with their definitions was established. The fighting load consisted of essential items of individual clothing, equipment, weapons and ammunition to complete the immediate mission. The existence load, which may be necessary to accomplish the mission, included items necessary to sustain or protect over a period of approximately seventy-two hours. The preferred method of transporting this load is by methods other than the soldier, but if carried, dropped when enemy contact is made. The mission load contained items not found in the fighting or existence load, yet required for mission accomplishment, i.e., radio, claymore mine, binoculars, etc. This load varies according to mission, and commander's preference, but must be man-carried. Every individual would not carry mission load items, but it would be spread-loaded throughout the unit. The total weight of the fighting load was approximately sixty-three pounds. The total weight of the existence load was approximately fifty pounds. The average weight of the mission load per individual was approximately seven pounds. Therefore if a unit was preparing for a normal operation, the best estimate of the total weight the infantryman would be carrying would be approximately 120 pounds. (10:4-13) The USAIS knew this was too much, so revisions, improvements or reductions had to be made. The USAIS proceeded with its research based on the following data. Firstly, studies indicated that the fiftieth percentile soldier weighed 160 pounds. Secondly, field tests demonstrated that the ideal soldier's load was thirty percent of his body weight, or forty-eight pounds, and that the maximum load a soldier could carry should not exceed forty-five percent of his body weight, or seventy-two pounds. (11:12) The USAIS's main objective of the integrated individual fighting system program was to provide a system in which the total weight of the fighting mission and existence loads did not exceed seventy-two pounds. The goal was also to increase the soldier's ability to accomplish the mission, and to maximize his survivability and sustainability on the battlefield. The goal was established to eliminate unnecessary items, develop clothing and equipment that was lighter in weight, and improve the load bearing system to reduce stress and encumbrances. The portion of this goal that could be accomplished in a somewhat timely manner was the elimination of unnecesssary items. Developing the lightweight clothing and equipment will take much longer. The specific goals reduce the load weight breakdown to the following: the fighting load to approximately forty-eight pounds; the existence load to approximately sixteen pounds; with the mission load remaining at approximately seven pounds. This total weight would be approximately seventy-one pounds. (10:18-19) The goal for the majority of the reduced weight clothing and equipment is FY 90, with FY 95 established as the year the goal will be achieved. If the research and development programs are successful, and the goals are attained by FY 95, then we will have systemically approached a technical solution to the problem. However, realizing a solution ten years from now is not satisfactory and certainly does not ensure that each unit commander will strictly adhere to it. I hope that technology will continue to assist the infantry in reducing its load, but the very essence of the problem lies with the infantry itself. How can we immediately, yet feasibly, lighten the burden? Captain Don Langley, USMC, Commanding Officer, Company I, Third Battalion, Ninth Marines, after twenty-two months as a company commander recommended a basic load as follows: cartridge belt with two canteens, a first aid kit, two 30- round magazine pouches, a K-bar or bayonet, the ALICE pack with poncho, poncho liner, long underwear top or field jacket liner, rain suit, watch cap, flashlight, two pairs of socks, shaving gear and two MRE meals per day. (He allowed for limited exceptions for cold weather environments). (6:2) He discarded sleeping bags, ground mats, shelter halves, field jackets and extra utilities. He felt the field jacket liner under the camouflage jacket was effective, and the rain suit could double as a windproof outer layer. His company carried the field protective mask, one E-tool for every two marines and wore helmets, although he would probably recommend a bush hat. Finally, Captain Langley armed everyone in the company with M-16's, except the machine gunners and mortarmen, and these sections disposed of the machine gun tripod and T&E mechanism, and the mortar bipod. The personnel simply are not there to carry them. (6:3-4) Captain George P. Fenton, USMC, recommended not wearing the flack jacket and considering taking only two mortars. He proposed leaving the ALICE pack for the logistics train and incorporating the ass-pack as a capacity reducing substitute. He called for a return to the Marine marksman who delivered well-aimed fire, and therefore cut the rifleman's basic allowance from 350 to 140 rounds. (2:5-7) As a company commander in the Mediterranean, after watching my marines labor under their heavy loads, I decided to leave the sleeping bags, pneumatic mattresses and shelter halves on board the ship, even though at night it was rather cold. We experienced some discomfort, but were much more mobile. This decision produced two additional benefits. The company demonstrated an increased enthusiasm for night training, and if we were in a defensive position, the marines along the perimeter were always alert. This is only a sampling of the many examples of unit commanders who have attempted to increase the mobility of their men by reducing their burdens. If we can continue to be blessed with company and battalion commanders who will dedicate themselves to paring the excesses of the combat load, we will begin to approach a solution to overloading. However, as is often the case, the combat load of small units, platoons and companies, is significantly influenced by their senior commanders. The problem is not that battalion, regimental and division commanders dictate enormous amounts of equipment to be man-packed, but that they do not require their logistics officers to relentlessly pursue a policy of taking the weight off the infantry. It is my opinion, therefore, that the preponderance of culpability lies with the battalion, regimental and division commanders. This is not to say that we do not need lighter weight equipment, or that company commanders are without blame, for the burden some company commanders place on their marines or soldiers is reprehensible. However, if the high level commanders demand that the logisticians make every effort to transport the foot soldier's load, the problem would be reduced by eighty percent. This means that resupplies of water, ammunition and rations would take place so frequently that never more than a minimum amount of these items would need to be carried. This might require several helicopter sortees per day, or dedicating an additional vehicle to each company, or using helicopters to lift packs and equipment from a staging or bivouac site to the unit's objective area. But the commanders who control the means for mobile logistics must be the impetus for any resolution in this weight bearing problem. After this is accomplished, it is simple for the battalion commander to educate his company commanders in the art of controlling the amount of equipment the platoons are carrying. Therefore the issue is clear, the combat infantryman is overloaded simply because unit commanders will neither reduce the weight of the equipment nor reduce the amount of the equipment that they require their men to carry. Research and development is constantly trying to produce lighter combat equipment, but that effort will have little effect unless battalion, regimental and division commanders shoulder the burden of the problem, and remove the weight from the backs of their marines. BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. Arey, C. M., Maj, USMC. Marine Liaison Officer to the States Army Infantry School. Personal interview about Grenada Operation. Fort Benning, Georgia, February, 1985. 2. Fenton, G. P., Capt, USMC. "The Prescribed Load." Unpublished article held by Marine Corps Gazette, (January 1985). 3. Fox, W. L., LtCol, USMC. "Flackjackets - On or Off.- Unpublished article held by Marine Corps Gazette, (November 1984). 4. Hammes, T. X., Capt, USMC. "Reorganizing Weapons Company." Unpublished article held by Marine Corps Gazette, (October 1984). 5. Hastings, Max, and Simon Jenkins. The Battle for the Falklands. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1983. 6. Langley, Don, Capt, USMC. "Lighten up - Coping with the New Infantry T/O." Unpublished article held by Marine Corps Gazette, (December 1984). 7. Marshall, S. L. A., Col, USA. The Soldiers Load and the Mobility of a Nation. Quantico: The Marine Corps Association, 1980. 8. Officers of the Third Battalion Sixth Marines. "Infantry Battalion Structure for the 1980's. Marine Corps Gazette, (June 1983), 16-31. 9. Sullivan, P. H., Capt, USMC. "Pack Mule or Marine. Unpublished article held by Marine Corps Gazette, (April 1979). 10. United States Army Infantry School. "The Infantry Soldiers Load." Briefing Charts. Fort Benning, Georgia, February, 1985. 11. United States Army Infantry School. "Interim Infantry Load Problem Definition." Briefing Charts. Fort Benning, Georgia, February, 1985.
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