PW: A lot has been written about the modern Soldier's combat load. Despite modern lightweight materials, helicopter resupply etc Soldiers are now carrying far more weight than the men of the 1940s and 50s. Equipment such as body armour and NBC gear are partially responsible, but the main reason is that troops are carrying everything they might need rather what they are most likely to need.
Best selling military author Ralph Zumbro has served in every branch of the US Army and started his career in the 50s carrying a Garand. He's commented that modern Soldiers seem to be Nickel and Dime-ing themselves to death and carry enough extra gear to equip a platoon of indigs. Below is Ralph's recollection of a 1950's combat load, with some comments from myself as to how this might be updated.
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In order to get us all in the same ballpark, we have to have several givens, especially in the AirMobile business where gravity is the bottom line. For instance, we need to know, just exactly what some basic items weigh. Mike says for instance, that a basic, vanilla M113 with fuel and tool bag on board weighs 20,900 lbs, or just a hair over 10 tons. Our ex-Chinook Crew chief friend says that on a good day, a good condition CH-47 will move 13 tons 100 miles, out and back. OK, with that we can start to calculate. The people we met at AUSA told us that the new J-series Herkybird will take a 13 ton load, that's M113 and trailer, loaded, 2000 miles and put it down on a dirt road. That also, we can figure with.
The problem we now face is that 200 lb trooper with his 85-120lb load. OK, having 5 yrs ABN experience, I decided to re-create from memory a 1950s base load and we can go from there. This is what I KNOW was in that 45 lb WWII basic infantry load.
WITH THIS LOAD, IT WAS A COMMANDER'S GIVEN THAT AN INFANTRY COMPANY COULD BE DEPENDED ON FOR 20 MILES/DAY, AND BE READY FOR AN ASSAULT AT THE END OF IT.
HORSESHOE ROLL. Shelter half, tent pegs, tent pole sections, either a sleeping bag or two wool blankets, one extra set of fatigues. One hank of tent rope, ground cloth or air mattress.
Comment: We could and did modify this into a Civil War style patrol roll on occasion and they were all different. Mine was usually a shelter half, blanket, patrol munchies (nuts&dried fruit), one or two wet rations..(wetpack, canned C-rat, and ONE would run me for 24 hours, and still will) medkit, socks, skivvies, toothbrush & powder, foot-powder, weapon kit, toilet paper..??? That's about it. Need to take modern troops and send the buggers out with that load...Get them used to travelling light. There's nothing there that needs to be dropped.
Note, When I was between tanks and running ammo/POL in Vietnam I was based in our field LZ and used to do the morning patrol with our resident infantry. Went on several two/three day runs with them....The guys went NUTS over my light load and Grease gun while they chugged along with them damrucks.
I can go out on a 24 hour patrol with what's in my stomach and on the webbing....A little pogy bait or nuts 'n fruit wouldn't hurt. Feed the apes before you send them out, and give them a packet of toilet paper and a full canteen. Period....Worked for us. I STILL only eat ONE hot meal every 24 hours, sometimes go 48 without a formal meal. Can live on cheese, sausage, and dried corn, and sprout beans in the toilet kit.
I'd better clarify that roll a bit. It wasn't a short fat sleeping bag in the small of the back. We rolled the shelter half LENGTHWISE...Blankets too,into a LONG sausage, and then slung it over the left shoulder with the ends tied together over the right hip. Stayed out of the way of everything, been around since forever....Drops easy.
PW: In a modern kit the Shelter half can be replaced by a lighter Basha sheet, brown coloured to act in conjunction with the Woodland poncho roll. Sleeping bag should be of the Lightweight Ecotat form. EVAC panel from the Log-Pack can be used as a ground cloth. A suit of thermal underwear might be carried instead of the spare fatigues.
HAVERSACK. A pack has been described as a bag full of bags, this was ours. Toilet kit, First aid kit, survival kit, sewing kit, gear repair kit (rivets, glue, awl, 550 cord, light wire, a coat hanger etc) One spare set fatigues or thermal underwear, (opt) 3 days meat cans out of the C-rat packages. Assorted goodies from C-rats, selected for personal preference. Spare underwear and socks and soap for same. One towel and one washcloth. Foot repair kit, to include blister patches, foot powder, and anti-fungal medicine. Mess kit, usually full of socks, and many of us carried the Boy Scout version with its little pot, cup and frying pan. Spoon. Pogy bait. Ration heating tablets or balls of C-4 for the same purpose. Usually one Garand 6 clip bandoleer hung on side. GI entrenching tool usually hung on back, but could go to belt.
PW: This could possibly be a Log-Pack, supplied ready packed with ammo, MREs and water, and a few other consumables such as an EVAC panel, toggle rope, 100mph tape and string. More individual items fit in a smaller pack that fits in or on the Log-pack and can be rapidly transferred as a new Log-pack is issued. The Log-pack will also contain a folded kip-mat that can also serve as a hammock or stretcher.
Only half of a toilet kit is needed, since certain items can be shared between buddies. Soap is multipurpose and can be used for washing, shaving and laundry. Personal items would include a toothbrush and a pack of razor heads that will fit onto an MRE spork (Mike's design eliminates the need for the toothbrush too). A sachet of footpowder should be included with each MRE, along with a sachet of multi-purpose soap. A pertex stowaway shirt can be used as both a towel and extra insulation.
Survival kit is better carried in the trousers, since it is most likely to be needed should equipment like the pack be lost.
C-rats would be replaced by MREs with heating pouches in a modern kit, removing the need for the Mess-kit and stove. Freeze dried rations and sufficient water are another option, and may prove lighter than the MREs. Socks are sealed in plastic and semi-disposable. Underwear is either Coolmax or thermal. Spare ammo is carried as Stripper clips. A claymore bag may be used instead of a bandoleer. In certain situations only one entrenching tool will be carried between two.
PISTOL BELT. Belt, 3-4 Garand clip double pouches, Canteen, cup, cover, small first aid pouch with dressing, another pouch with water treatment items.
Poncho. NOTE: the snaps on the poncho will mate up with the ones on the shelter half, giving a complete shelter, and the rifle becomes the extra support. When we were called out in the night, we just grabbed the weapon and that action collapsed the hooch. We were, even back then, experimenting with the butt pack with the poncho lashed under it, as a basic assault pack and reserving the haversack for longer missions. Squad tool -either Machete, Entrenching tool, small pick, mattock, axe, or real shovel (opt) or simply a K-Bar, as we all carried a small hunting knife.
PW: Canteen cup is also provided with Natick stove should any cooking need to be done. Many of the personal items listed above for the pack may instead be carried in the butt-pack.
SUSPENDERS. More Garand clips, flashlight, compass, and a knife. When the M-14 came out, the suspenders and the belt became one, being connected through the ammo pouches -also carried grenades.
When the poncho liner came out, it became the subject of intense experimentation, which continues to this day.
PW: Pouches should be multifunctional, and sized so that they can carry either magazines or waterbottles. The suspenders and belt should be designed so that they can also function as a STABO rig.
Shirt left: notebook stuff.
Shirt right: Usually some sort of pogy bait, like nuts or a candy bar.
Pants right front: Swiss army knife and bandanna.
Pants left front: sharpening stone and fishing roll. Pants left rear. Smoking items, in my case, stub pipe and tobacco and lighter. Opt was chewing tobacco, although it didn't taste good until it had ridden there a while and soaked up a weeks worth of C-rat farts.
Pants right rear: Wallet and other paper stuff in plastic battery bag scrounged from PRC batteries.
I did not use cargo pockets as they don't fit my legs right.
Normal evening drill for us, assuming no resupply by truck or chopper, was to set up hooches, find fire items, and heat C-rats and water for toilet duties.
We shaved and washed in the evening, due to the possibility of unpleasant surprises in the night.
Foot care was to wash and dry them, apply foot powder, and anti-fungal, if necessary, and put on clean socks. We could sleep with boots on but unlaced, clothes (clean underwear) on but unbuttoned, and weapons handy.
William Owen, former Soldier, Military Author and Novelist, writes:-
Infantry carry too much because they don't understand their basic task or mission, so they carry everything they might need. If you want to reduce risk, you increase your load. If you increase your load you reduce your capability. It's that simple.
If a soldier's load is too much for him to carry effectively it's because he has poor leadership and poor training. It's that simple.
If you deliberately limit your ability to carry stuff, you refine your load to great degree. Today, no one needs a pack over 50 liters in capacity. If you need more than that, then your CoC is screwed. If you're carrying "one day's ammo", you don't need 2 days rations! Re-supply is re-supply and no one operates without it!
This is the current UK SF vest, now used by everyone. It carries all you ever need to carry.
Here is the NI Patrol Pack. It's about all you need.
Basic Vest Load
First line scales of ammunition. - (6 magazines, section weapons load as in 100 x 7.62mm link etc.)Soft, lightweight armour -anti-frag vestWater-proof drop liner or water-proof jacket.HelmetNight vision system - Googles or sightWeapons cleaning kit - stripped down.Personal Role radioWater bottle.Small personal medical kit.Gloves, torch, multi-tool.Patrol Pack
I spent 90% of my infantry career carrying WAY TOO MUCH.
- Balance of any ammunition carried
- Mission kit (as required)
- Spare batteries for PRR/Torch/GPS kit.
- 24 hour's rations
- Water bladder, and filter kit
- Cooking set.
- Warm item (softie jacket plus thermal under wear, if required)
- Sleeping bag / Bivvy bag
- Cut down (18 inch x 36 inch) kip mat.
- Shelter cover and bungees.
- Balance of the weapons cleaning kit (rods, flannelette etc.)
- Admin kit (socks, powder, shaving gear)
- Folding shovel (ONLY IF REQUIRED) - may be only 1 per fireteam. Now this is not exhaustive, or complete or for every situation, or very appointment, but you don't need much if you are properly supported and understand you mission.
A military pack must not be so big that its height interferes with the Soldier's ability to shoot when prone. Nor must it be so wide that the wearer has problems moving down narrow paths or through doorways. Another reason for limiting size is that packs always tend to get filled. A larger the capacity the greater the temptation to fill it with unnecessary items. Self-discipline must be exercised and Soldier loads policed by NCOs and officers.
A Military Pack should, however, be capable of comfortably carrying dense loads such as ammunition and other munitions. For this reason I think that the pack should have an external frame. Internally framed packs are great if you have to place your baggage at the mercy of airport handlers and baggage carousels but for carrying a heavy load the external frame is more effective. It allows a better circulation of air around the back, greater comfort and is more easily repaired under field conditions. A correctly designed frame can also be used alone to carry items such as mortar ammunition or Javelin ATGWs.
The sort of rucksac that I propose would have a main compartment of between 30 and 40 litres capacity. There would be provision for carrying a three litre water bladder with drinking tube. The flap would have at least one pocket and there may be a pocket on the front for small items. An equatorial zip would allow direct access to the lower part of the main compartment. The pack would have an external frame. There would be provision to fit two detachable side pockets of the same design as currently used on the larger models of British army Bergen. These have a combined capacity of between 15 and 20 litres and can be joined together to form a “Patrol pack”. Some versions have a separate compartment for a water bladder and there is also a specialist variant for medics.
Buttpacks that can either be worn on the belt or carried as a small pack or shoulder bag already exist. The latter option are doubtless more appealing to troops who sit in vehicles for any time. My inclination would be to make the Buttpack a little more like the British '44 pattern Small Pack, which has two side pouches. Fixed side pouches would actually be lighter and more secure than clipping ALICE pouches to the side of the buttpack. If the pockets are not wanted they take up little room if empty.
Suggested distribution of gear:-
The Soldier's basic webbing and pockets will carry ammo, a small first aid kit, shell-dressings, bayonet, flashlight and water as has been suggested above and here. The poncho will also be carried on the webbing if the butt pack is not being worn. The rest of the Soldier's kit will consist of :--
An externally framed Rucksac with a 30-40 litre main compartment and detachable side pockets. This Rucksac will carry:-
The folding kipmat is based on a German issue item that folds into five sections and can therefore be carried inside the main compartment, acting as padding and maintaining the pack shape.
- Toggle rope (or worn around waist)
- EVAC panel
- Folded kip-mat
- Minimal washkit
- General repair and sewing kit
A Shelter Roll containing:-
The Shelter roll can be carried inside the main compartment of the pack when there is room, or fixed to the outside of the pack. It may also be carried instead of the pack, either with the buttpack and/or the patrol pack or on its own.
- Basha sheet
- Poles and pegs
- Sleeping bag
- EVAC panel, AW blanket, or cut-open trashbag to serve as a groundcloth when the kipmat is not available.
- Spare/ Dry clothes for sleeping in.
The Buttpack can supplement or substitute for the Patrol Pack. It's basic contents will include:-
A compact sleeping bag or certain items of clothing or mission gear may be added.
- Weapon cleaning kit
Side Pockets when used as a Patrol Pack:-
“Mission Gear” includes items such as carabineers, electronic equipment, special munitions etc.
- First aid kit
- Mission gear
- Water bladder(s)
- Clothing items such as gloves, hat, stowaway shirt.
The pack described above should meet most military needs, but there will doubtless be situations when there is a legitimate need for a larger capacity. The two most obvious that spring to mind are long range/long duration reconnaissance missions and certain operations under polar/mountain conditions. A merit of the external frame is that it can be fitted with a larger capacity main compartment if necessary.
Thought also needs to be given to alternate means of carrying equipment.
In winter conditions military units use Pulks or sleds to transport heavy loads of gear. There is no reason why loads cannot be pulled rather than carried under other conditions. Many indigenous peoples transported heavy loads by means of the Travois. There is no reason why a unit operating in wooded or jungle terrain might not try the same approach. A man pulled Travois can transport at least a pair of rucksacs. One man pulls while the other acts as security, and they alternate. If the ground is rough it can be lifted like a stretcher. If necessary the travois can be dropped more easily than a rucksac.
The carrying pole is another time proven method of carrying a heavy load. As a friend of mine once put it, “two men can move a piano, but one man can't move half a piano”. A pole carried between two men can carry several rucksacs, yet easily be dropped in an emergency. If the terrain is very steep the packs can be worn on the back and the long pole used to assist in the assent/descent until easier ground is used. Such a “pole” might also be a lightweight stretcher
A logical extension of the Travois is to fit wheels onto it to form a simple handcart as has been frequently proposed by Mike Sparks. A narrow lightweight cart could be easily moved down jungle trails and can carry several hundred pounds of load. It can also be designed to carry an injured comrade. Such a cart should be fitted with a T-handle so it can be pulled by either one or two men. Provision should also be made so that it can be towed behind bicycles or other vehicles when possible.
The bicycle is another device that has been used to good effect, particularly in the Vietnam conflict. The frame and crossbar of a bike were heavily loaded with bags and a bamboo pole lashed to the handlebars so the porter could walk beside. It is possible that the pedals were removed since they were not needed and might foul the load. An advantage of the bicycle over the handcart is that it can quickly be laid flat on the ground for better concealment.
When not on the march bicycles, poles and handcarts can all be used as supports for shelters.
In certain situations such as mountainous terrain there may be no other option but to carry the load on backs. In the past military units made use of mules in for mountain and jungle warfare, but these are a system that has been abandoned without any alternate being introduced, other than making the infantryman take up the burden.
Possibly the best system for carrying a heavy load by back is the Korean A-frame or “Chige”. This resembles such packs as the Alaskan Packboard but is distinguished by its long side-pieces. By bending his knees the wearer can rest his load when stationary. Wearers of Chige are often seen with a staff. This can be used to prop the frame up allowing the wearer to take the pack on and off without needing to lift a heavy load off the ground. When not carried the frame also makes a useful shelter support.
Experimentation also needs to be made with resupply. If a cache or patrol harbour can be established in the area of operations less needs to be carried by the field unit.
There will be less need for heavy burdens if the Soldier can be more confident of support and resupply. Carlton Meyer's concept of using attack planes to accurately deliver supply canisters needs consideration.
Walter Eisin writes:-
"I researched Chige (pr Chee-Gay) on the net and found this site:
It says that they used 100 porters using Chige to carry 10 Tons of equipment some 10 miles up 4,000 feet using Chige. Some of the Chige carried up to 400 pounds. This were assigned two men to spell each other. The Chige has 4 legs so that it is a packframe quadapod with a shelf. It it loaded set up to go. The porter slips under it and lifts it up to get going. The trick is, the porter never has to lift from more then a 1/2 or 1/4 squat. And he doesn't need help to put the Chige on or stand up. Very clever. Could be an excellent way to work out!"