The Soldier’s Load

I’m no SLA Marshall, but I do recall what it was like to carry a rucksack. Of course, back in my day, my load would have been instantly reduced by about 28 pounds, as we didn’t wear body armor.*

The recent decision by outgoinig SecDef Pannetta to open ground combat roles to women is touted by some as a great victory for equality.  While I have great esteem for the women I served with, and who serve today, and recognize they can be just as good soldiers as men,  I do not recognize that they can be effective infantrymen. Why? Men and women are different. Men are on average taller, heavier, have more muscle mass as a percentage of their body weight, denser bones, stronger connective tissue, and greater lung capacity.  And while I have an infantry centric view of the issue, that doesn’t mean that these physiological differences won’t have an impact on armor crewman and cannon crewman positions. Both place great strains on the upper body strength of soldiers.  In the Infantry, particularly light infantry, a good portion of the job is simply being a pack mule.  Let’s take a look at one unit’s typical loadout in Afghanistan:


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Mind you, this OEF XII deployment loadout is trimmed down as a result of lessons learned in OEF III.


*As a Mech Infantryman in Desert Storm, yes, I wore the PASGT vest, but it was quite a bit less than 28 pounds, and the general thought was it was insane to burden light infantry with bulky, heavy body armor, and sacrifice the foot mobility that gives light infantry its versatility.