An added 15 pounds can be a killer for troops

Task and Purpose:
Fifteen pounds.

That seems to be what separates a high-performing Marine from eventually becoming a combat casualty, according to new research carried out by a Marine captain at the Naval Postgraduate School.

In her award-winning master's thesis, titled Paying For Weight In Blood: An Analysis of Weight and Protection Level of a Combat Load During Tactical Operations, Capt. Courtney Thompson argues that being able to move faster is more important against near-peer enemies in combat, and the all-too-common trend of burdening troops with heavier loads can lead to an increase in casualties.

"I was pretty shocked that 15 pounds of gear on top of 43 pounds of gear was already enough," said Thompson, referencing the typical 43-pound fighting load of flak jacket, kevlar helmet, and other personal protective gear.

Thompson, a combat engineer, based her research off a variety of data, including an Australian study that looked into the effects of combat loads on physical mobility, historical research, and a Government Accountability Office report, which found that the average ground combat soldier or Marine in 2016 was typically carrying a staggering 120 pounds of gear.

She also plugged data into a computer simulation pitting a 13-Marine rifle squad against a small insurgent force armed with AK-47 rifles. After factoring in individual weapons, physical fitness levels, marksmanship, and the squad member's billet, she found that troops fighting under heavier loads were more likely to become casualties, while Marines that were able to move faster — and thus, were harder to hit — brought about a 60% reduction in casualties.
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When I was XO of a rifle company of Marines in Vietnam I carried significantly less weight than today's Marines are carrying.  My Marines tended to opt for more ammo over things that did not add to combat effectiveness.  I think the flak jackets were probably not as heavy back then too altho helmets may have been heavier than the modern kevlar ones. C-rations may have been heavier than the current MRE's.  But overall the load was substantially less.

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