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The Individual Soldier's Combat Load

Section I. GENERAL

All equipment considered essential to mission completion should be carried by the individual at all times. Rucksacks should be packed in such a way that they can be dropped or hidden, for recovery later, to allow troops to move freely upon contact or on patrol. In an emergency, they may be discarded completely. Those essential items that must be placed in the rucksack, due to the extended nature of operations, should be removed when the situation dictates. Combat-essential items should not be left in rucksacks that are cached or dropped. Unit SOP should dictate the items that are re moved from rucksacks and included in equipment carried by each soldier when on short duration missions where rucksacks are left behind. Packing lists should also be designed for squads and platoons with careful attention given to balancing loads. (For example, machinegunners should not be given extra equipment to pack until the fighting and existence loads of the other members of the platoon are equal to that of the machinegunners.)



The problem of excessive weight in existence loads needs to be closely monitored by commanders at all levels. Specific company and platoon SOPs need to be reinforced with inspections prior to deployment, demanding strict adherence to packing lists. Unusable equipment should not be carried.


Water will constitute the second greatest part of each soldier's load. Jungle fighters must be issued more canteens than normal, and they may have to carry 5 to 10 quarts of water attached to their rucksacks, especially in the dry season. Water purification tablets should be carried so that stream water may be used.


Units should be told how long they can expect to operate without resupply. This figure becomes the basis for planning the equipment, supplies, and ammunition to be carried. Ammunition will normally make up the greatest part of each soldier's load, and ammunition supplies must be planned to last until troops can be resupplied. Rifle and machinegun ammunition and grenades should be loaded on pallets in a rear area so that units can easily be resupplied by helicopter, if required. Every soldier should carry colored smoke grenades and flares for signaling, and tripflares and Claymore mines for security. Special ammunition may be carried, if required by the mission. The most common types of special ammunition and C4 explosives, concussion grenades, and CS munitions.



  I. General

 II. Preparing the Load

III. Carrying the Load

The following description of a soldier's combat load should be used only as a guide in developing a unit SOP. Fighting and existence loads will vary according to each unit's special needs and missions.



Platoon- and company-sized units conducting offensive operations in jungle terrain must emphasize self-reliance. Units must carry rucksacks and be able to operate for extended periods of time with routine resupply being accomplished every 5 to 7 days. This will allow units to develop their operational areas, and preclude compromising their location for frequent resupply operations.

To minimize the weight of rucksacks, commanders must carefully analyze their missions, and allow nothing but mission essential equipment to be carried. Detailed packing lists and thorough inspection prior to a mission will insure nonessential items are not taken to the field.

When units must carry rucksacks, troops should not be expected to fight with this burden. Unit SOPS must be developed and practiced concerning the disposition of rucksacks in various situations. Rucksacks should contain nothing other than existence items, so the grounding or caching of them should have no effect on the combat effectiveness of an element or unit.

A unit moves from point to point with rucksacks on. After the movement phase of an operation is over, rucksacks should be removed and secured.


Techniques of handling rucksacks will vary according to the situation.


Rucksacks should not be carried. Rations can be placed in a sock and securely tied to the back straps on the load-bearing harness. This method will not restrict mobility and noise will be reduced. The poncho, tied to the back of the pistol belt, will be the only other item needed from the existence load. The balance of the equipment to be carried, in excess of a unit's standard fighting load, will be determined by the mission. Bulky items can be carried in rucksacks, but loads should be rotated frequently.


Rucksacks should be dropped immediately when contact is made, to allow rapid reaction and maneuverability. The mission to secure these rucksacks should be given to the squad or fire team that is providing rear security. The rucksacks need not be gathered or centralized in this situation, due to the usually short duration of this type of contact. If the unit must move because of enemy pressure, or in case of a need for reinforcements, all rucksacks must be left behind. Upon returning to retrieve dropped rucksacks, a unit must be alert for ambushes and care taken to avoid casualties from enemy boobytraps placed in and around the equipment.


Elements or squads moving out of patrol bases to conduct short-duration missions should consolidate and conceal rucksacks prior to moving out. The only time rucksacks should be carried is when the mission does not call for return to the patrol base. If the patrol base is forced to withdraw from its location, all rucksacks will probably be left behind in order to break contact and to move rapidly for linkup with the balance of the unit. Reinforcements to assist a squad or element in contact while away from their patrol base should not take rucksacks when moving to their assistance. If the situation is so critical that the entire unit must move to the assistance of an element or squad, rucksacks should be quickly consolidated, concealed, and left behind.


This technique is used as a last resort. It is a difficult mission to successfully accomplish. If a situation arises where a commander decides to cache, care must be taken in selecting a cache site. An easily identified area should be used as a reference point. From there, azimuth and pace count should be used to actual cache sites. Natural lines of drift should be avoided and care should be taken not to leave trails into cache sites. Security must be established 360 degrees around the proposed site, and must be far enough out to insure that enemy forces cannot observe the activity. Items that will be needed in the event a unit is unable to return to the cached items should be removed and included in the fighting load. (See short-duration missions.) Natural camouflage (deadfall, thickets, caves, etc.) should be used to conceal rucksacks. Pits can be dug if the area can be returned to its natural state when caching is completed. When returning to cache sites to recover rucksacks, unit leaders must consider the sites danger areas and act accordingly. Each cache site should have the equipment arranged in such a manner that it is easy to determine if anyone has tampered with the equipment. This helps in preventing casualties from boobytraps and mines. Soldiers should not group around the equipment when it is recovered and security must be maintained at all times while redistributing the rucksacks.

In all situations, the commander should remember that rucksacks are expendable. Leaders should tailor the fighting loads of their units to such a degree that the loss of all rucksacks would not hamper the unit's ability to continue the mission.

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