We’ve talked before about the issue of the soldier’s load. You just cannot expect a young man to climb hills like a billy goat when he’s burdened with 100 pounds of gear. On of the reasons why the Taliban so often are able to scurry away from our troops is that you just can not pursue them.
Struggling with enormous loads is not a new problem. You’ll find commanders lamenting the stunning burden our troops carry going back as far as you care to look in our history. Right now, the Army is pursuing several paths to lighten the grunts burden. Commercial off the shelf items, making machine guns out of titanium to shave off a couple pounds, or even coming up with exotic robots to follow them in the field to carry extra equipment.
Eventually, Raibert said such robots will be able to climb over a 4-foot wall, wade streams and handle other obstacles that soldiers routinely face on patrol.
Still, skeptics question the costs and practicality of robots. They say soldiers and their commanders need to realize the risks of too much weight, and strive to travel light.
“If I have to have a robot to carry my gear, maybe there is another problem,” Roels said. “Too much gear.”
When I was a wee youngster, the light infantry divisions had a saying- “Fight light, freeze at night.” There is a practical limit to the amount of weight a dismounted infantry soldier can carry. Something has to give. For us, it was warm weather gear.
But we weren’t even burdened with body armor. Or the bewildering array of electronics that soldiers today operate with. I accept that as a practical matter, troops will pretty much always wear body armor now. But we need to take a very hard, long look at just how much value is added by so much of the other equipment that we insist our troops carry with them. We need to determine if the addition of technology is worth the sacrifice of tactical mobility on foot. And just how much ammunition does a patrol really need to take with it?