Friday, March 25, 2011

It Ain't Heavy, It's My Ass Coverage

American troops struggle through war with all the gadgets that we can think of, but must lug them around (and stay aware and fight) with those Mark I bones and muscles. It's too much weight but nobody in charge will risk removing anything:

The weight problem has reached crises proportions within the U.S. Army infantry. No, not the weight of the troops. Infantry soldiers are rarely overweight. But they are carrying more and more weight, and it's having an adverse effect on performance, morale and physical fitness. Troops are frequently carrying 50-60 kg (110-132 pounds). That means they cannot move as fast as the enemy, and when they try to they tire faster and get frustrated, and often injured (by the enemy or by the sheer physical stress of hustling with all that weight on them.) Long term, troops are developing the kind of physical stress injuries athletes are prone to (eventually) when they overdo it.

The problem has been around for a long time, and the senior commanders, and the various procurement bureaucracies that supply essential equipment, have not been able to make the kind of effort that would solve the problem. The procurement bureaucrats all see their items as essential, and making them lighter is not a high priority. The brass insist on a lot of stuff being carried mainly so there will be no media blowback if someone, somewhere, complains that troops died because they lacked a particular item.

I can only imagine the problem. My only experience with lugging around gear on my back was in basic training, and the load didn't approach what our troops have to bear. Nor was I required to be particularly alert while trudging along on a military base. And obviously, I wasn't fighting. Sure, my near-civilian status at the time meant that I wasn't in shape yet, so maybe that balanced out to get a relative feel for the burden, but it isn't the same. So let's just say that I have enough experience to have an inkling of reality and it causes me to have great sympathy for what our troops are going through.

Unless we give our troops powered exo-skeletons that support legs and back, let's reduce the weight the troops carry, eh? You may say we're winning in combat anyway, so why worry; but it is in the slower-paced counter-insurgency type of war. What happens in high-intensity combat? Will that weight kill a lot of our troops?