Survivalist Forum banner
1 - 9 of 9 Posts

· Founder
17,151 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
This article is "interesting" to say the least.

I have tried to find contact information for Lt. Scott C. Porter to ask him for permission to reprint this article, but have been unable to find any such information. During my research on this article, I found it posted in various places but no copyright information. This does not mean the article is not copyrighted, its just that I can not find any information as to who the owner is. From what I have seen, this article has been posted on different sites and mailing list since around 1996.

THE SOLDIER'S LOAD VS What a Survivalist Might Need?

Infantry Magazine May-June, 1992
During Operation Desert Shield, a brigade conducted a live fire training assault to seize a bridge. The brigade commander noticed that the equipment the soldiers carried was interfering with the accomplishment of their mission. At the after action review he directed the battalion commander to investigate the weight the soldiers carried in their battalions. At the briefback one commander indicated that the average soldier in his battalion carried more than 100 pounds.

At the beginning of Desert Storm, as this same brigade moved into Iraq, its load remained unchanged. The problem was that all of the items were indispensable, and the supply lines were stretched so tight that the soldiers had to carry large amounts of water and ammunition. The soldiers did not even carry sleeping bags, despite temperatures that approached freezing at night.

The Army has concerned itself with this problem repeatedly since the end of World War II. In 1948 and through the early 1950s, Field Forces Board #3 conducted some of the earliest official studies of the soldier's load. During the 1960s, the Infantry Combat Developments Agency met and made its recommendations on the subject. Most recently, the Army development and Employment Agency issued its report in 1987, and many of this agency's suggestions were incorporated into Field Manual 21-18, Foot Marches, dated June 1990.


Since, 1950, official studies such as these have relied extensively on S.L.A. Marshall's "The Soldier's Load and the Mobility of a Nation," which examined a man's physical load-bearing limitations and ways of overcoming them.

Marshall noted that the infantryman is "a beast of burden" but that his chief function in war does not begin until he delivers that burder to the appointed place. His load should therefore be light enough to enable him to fight unimpaired when he arrives at the field of battle. In the past, this has not always happened. Marshall contended, for example, that during the assault on Normandy, the troops were slow coming off the beaches because they were exhausted from their heavy loads.

John English, in "Perspectives on Infantry", agreed:

"Most infantry in the leading waves were, in fact, criminally overloaded.
The American soldier carried more than 80 pounds, and any careful examination of photographs of British and Canadian troops waddling ashore on that day will reveal that they, too, were weighted down with roughly the same load.

Leaders need to remember that weight often must be sacrificed in the interest of speed. A soldier must not only arrive at the battlefield capable of fighting but must also arrive early enough to influence the action. Any extra equipment he carries will be useless if it arrives too late. Leaders throughout history have demonstrated the advantages of fast-moving forces carrying as little equipment as possible.

The following rules of thumb apply:

** The distance marched in six hours decreases by one mile for every 10
pounds a soldier carries over 40 pounds.

The time of an assault course increases by 15 percent for every 10
pounds over 40 pounds.

** The distances traveled are reduced by half when moving over average
gradients of ten percent.

Marshall said that the Army must "break away from the stubborn idea, dating from the Medes and the Perians, that what a soldier can carry on a hard road march during training is a fair measure of the load that he can manage efficiently when under fire." Interestingly, he had observed during World War I that troops could hardly carry their loads when marching to the front but had no trouble with the same loads when marching to the rear. Another important consideration during combat operations is that fear burns the same energy stores as physical work.

To reduce the load on a soldier's back, leaders must use their available transportation effectively and must develop a unit's ability to carry what it must through load planning and training.

Although load planning is a critical task for all leaders, senior commanders should limit their guidance and allow the sub-unit commander who must carry out a mission to decide what his soldiers will carry for each operation. Load planning consists of tailoring the load to the mission and then dividing it into echelons (combat load, sustainment load, and contingency load), calculating its weight, and arranging for its transport.

The first step in this process is analyzing the mission to determine the packing list. A leader should base his list on guidance from higher headquarters and on the minimum-load concept, which lays out certain items that are common to all missions.

Any additions to or deletions from this minimum load configuration will be based on the estimate of the situation. FM21-18 (Table 5-3) contains a list of factors that should be assigned priorities as part of that estimate. A leader can examine the factors on this list and then tailor his soldiers' loads for each specific mission. Once the leader has determined what the soldier needs for his mission, he can begin to divide the load into the three echelons.

Providing transportation for the combat load is the responsibility of the company, and this load is split into the fighting load and the approach march load. The items that go into each of these loads depends upon where in the operation the items will be needed. Both of these loads should be kept as light as possible.

The fighting load includes weapon, load-bearing equipment (LBE), helmet,
and a reduced amount of ammunition. (Clothing worn is not considered part of the load because the body is accustomed to carrying that weight.) If heavy items such as radios, crew-served weapon ammunition, and mortar rounds are carried, they must be cross-loaded. This cross-loading will make the fighting load too heavy for quick maneuver during combat, and the items not essential to the immediate operation should be dropped before, or upon, enemy contact.

The approach march load-- the load a soldier carries as he moves toward the battle-- contains the items needed for slightly more extended operations against the enemy. It consists of weapon, basic load of ammunition, and LBE, plus a small assault pack or lightly loaded rucksack, which the soldier drops as soon as he begins to close with the enemy. Once the pack is dropped, it should be cached or otherwise secured during the fight.

As many items as possible should be put in the sustainment load instead of being carried in the combat load. This echelon of the load is left with the battalion S-4 to be securde and transported. It contains spare clothing and equipment, protective items for specific threats, limited personal effects, and anything the commander deems necessary for extended operations. This load should be stored in a forward operations base or field trains to be delivered by the S-4 as the commander requests.

Another echelon of the load is the contingency load, which contains items that will not be needed immediately-- personal effects and items for threats that are not imminent. This load, stored and maintained at division level, allows a unit to change its mission once it has been deployed.

The operations of 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborn Division, during Operation DESERT SHIELD/STORM provide an example of the relationship between these loads. At Christmas 1990 the brigade was conducting training far to the south of the front. During this relatively peaceful time, and especially as a result of the holiday, the soldiers had accumulated many items they could not take into combat.

When the order came for the brigade to spearhead the French 6th Light Armored Division's attack into Iraq, the chain of command took steps to care for the soldier's personal effects and excess baggage. They made lists of what a soldier would carry on his person (fighting load), what he would carry in his rucksack (approach march load), what he would pack in his A-Bag (sustainment load), and what would go in his B-Bag (contingency load). Items that did not fit in these categories, the soldier shipped home. In this way, the leaders ensured that the soldiers properly accounted for all of their belongings and equipment.

As a commander tailors and echelons his load, he should be conscious of how much the load weighs. The goal is for the soldiers to carry as little as possible.

In July 1991, the Commander of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) amended the guidance in FM 21-18 concerning the total weight of the combat load. the fighting load should not xceed 35 pounds, and the approach march load should not exceed 25 pounds,, keeping the total to no more than 60 pounds (Figure 3). These weights apply to the basic rifleman. Soldiers who carry other weapon systems may have their heavier loads that are based on the additional weight of those systems.


Fighting Load--

Helmet, ballistic = 3.4 lbs.
Pistol belt, suspenders, and first aid pounch = 1.6 lbs.
Canteen, 1 quart, and cover with water (2 each) = 5.6 lbs.
Case, small arms (2 each) = 1.8 lbs.
Bayonet, with scabbard = 1.3 lbs.
Protective mask w/decontamination kit = 3.0 lbs.
Rifle, M16A2 w. 30 rds 5.56mm in magazine = 8.8 lbs.
Magazines (6) with 180 rounds 5.56mm = 5.4 lbs.
Grenade, Fragmentation (4) = 4.0 lbs.


Approach March Load:

ALICE, medium with frame = 6.3 lbs.
Rations, MRE (2 each) = 2.6 lbs.
Canteen, 2-quart and cover with water = 2.6 lbs.
Toilet articles = 2.0 lbs.
Towel = 0.2 lbs
Bag, waterproof = 0.8 lbs.
E-tool with carrier: 2.5 lbs.
Poncho, nylon = 1.3 lbs.
Liner, poncho = 1.6 lbs.



Once the company commander has tailored and echeloned his load, he must arrange transport for the various echelons. He needs to coordinate with the S-4 for the delivery of the contingency and sustainment loads at the appropriate time. He must also ensure that the soldiers in the company supply system understand their responsibility for delivering the combat load.

While load planning is entirely the province of the commander, each soldier is responsible for executing the various types of training that prepare him for carrying the unit's load in combat.

The most obvious aspect of training is probably physical conditioning, which is vital to the unit's ability to carry it's load. But physical training will not condition a man to carry more than a certain amount of weight. Marshall talks of tests in which men were given 69 pounds to carry on a 15-mile march. Regardless of the amount of training, the men always exhibited the same amount of fatigue. Training is vital, but it cannot raise men above their physical capabilities.

What physical training can do is bring a unit to its maximum-load-bearing ability. To accomplish this, the leader must institute a program that prepares his men for load carrying.

FM 21-18 contains a training program that is designed to keep a unit prepared for its Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) as well as to exercise its load-bearing ability. The program suggests that aerobic conditioning not be done more than three times a week, because excessive aerobic conditioning could interfere with other types of conditioning. The progressive resistance training to strengthen muscles should also be done two to three times a week. This part of the program will sustain a soldier's ability to perform well on the AFPT.

Specific, progressive road marches should be scheduled to develop a soldier's ability to march well. The weight carried and the distance marched should be increased systematically but not at the same time.

The final type of training done in conjunction with march training is leader training. This may well be the most important aspect of training, because leaders must properly plan loads if a unit is to succeed in combat.

Leader training must be conducted at all levels. Company commanders must practice planning loads and handling the combat load through the company trains. Echelons above company must practice accounting for, securing and, when necessary, delivering the higher echelons of the load. Junior leaders should also be taught to assess the risks involved in load planning. This enables them to understand the concept of load planning and also to make sensible load planning decisions when necessary.

Training and planning are the essential ingredients of successful load bearing. These underlying principles, as well as specific programs for both training and planning, are found in FM21-18. Chapter 5 of the manual is dedicated to a complete discussion of the soldier's load problem and solutions to it.

The battalions that netered the Euphrates River Valley had learned a valuable lesson as a result of their earlier training attack on the bridge. Although their fighting and approach march loads were still as heavy, they knew better how to manage them. When units arrived at their landing zones, the battalions secured their rucksacks (approach march load) with a minimal guard force while the rest of the soldiers occupied their positions. As soon as practicable, soldiers went back, a few at a time, to retrieve the rucksacks. In at least one instance, a unit placed excess ammunition and water in kick-out bundles that could be then taken forward and stored in a central location for further distribution.

This was load planning in action. By using this technique, commanders ensured that their soldiers arrived in the right place at the right time with the right equipment, and that they were ready and able to fight.
This is one of the many points that caught my eye:

The most obvious aspect of training is probably physical conditioning, which is vital to the unit's ability to carry it's load. But physical training will not condition a man to carry more than a certain amount of weight. Marshall talks of tests in which men were given 69 pounds to carry on a 15-mile march. Regardless of the amount of training, the men always exhibited the same amount of fatigue. Training is vital, but it cannot raise men above their physical capabilities.
Regardless of the amount of training, a person can carry X amount of weight for so long.

8,244 Posts
Very useful Kev. Thanks! I am surprised that the Army is jsut figuring it out for the entire Army. When I was in the 25th Inf Div (light) this was our standard load breakdown--just not itemized like that.

As a combat medic, I fighting load that included an aid bag that was at least 50 pounds along with my LBE load and Alice pack--plus double the water.

For the fighting load, I also carried a buttpack with my personal items and snivel gear.

· Hubris begets Nemesis
7,756 Posts
Interesting post.

I've had several conservations with my Dad on this subject. He is a US Army WW2 vet and was a forward observer, seeing action in Africa, Sicily and Normandy to Germany.

(Interesting side note... in Africa, he was involved in the first use of the TOT strategy for artillery bombardment. Stopped Rommel's tanks dead in their tracks. defeating him without the use of infantry.)

He ALWAYS traveled as light as possible, dumping all his gear except for rifle (M1 carbine), a few extra magazines and a single canteen. Since he seldom had to stay put and fight, the ability to disengage from a superior force was as important to his survival as being stealthy and silent. Gear and food, he says, could always be scavenged, so don't get bogged down with it. Its amazing how little you REALLY need.

As a result of his advice, I try to keep my kit as light and noise free as possible.

· Good Bye
1,807 Posts
I will tell you that my personal experience in Iraq was one of carrying waaaaaaaay too much weight. My standard combat load was as follows,

Interceptor Body armor with front and back sapi plates.
3 mag pouches with and 7 30 round magazines
2 grenades
2 - 1 qt canteens
k pot
M-4 with M-68, Pac-4, and Surefire tac-light
Blackhawk bag with M-122 tripod, T&E, and Pintle (44lbs) 500 rds 7.62 attached to bottom of pack. (about 52 lbs)
I also carried a loose ammo bag with about 600 rds of 7.62 (another 55-57 lbs)

all told, that meant that I was generally carrying a average of 150lbs or greater. Since I was in weapons squad, and we had to carry much more that the other joes, we were carrying about 75lbs more than the average guy. The Interceptor body armor w/plates and all your gear attached ran about 45 lbs in itself.

That stuff gets really heavy really quickly.

Great article kev!
  • Like
Reactions: joes and coolmax

· Information is Ammunition
22,087 Posts
Bravo on this post Kev.

the military has commissioned study after study and has tried every concievable way to shrink, lighten or do away with less that unexpendable equipment- and create items with more than one purpose. Personally- I think the russians are much better at this than we are, as we are far more technically driven.

The problem is, as soon as Natick or whoever shrinks a soldier/marine's carry load to acceptable levels- some new whizbang item comes out that simply cannot be done away with. Interceptor vests, motorola personal radios, GPS dillies, and coming soon, the Landwarrior system, which is basically a wearable PC and satelite router and battery pack.

I like the Navy SEAL doctrine- which uses MASSIVE amounts of modern technology- but has the mindset that 'give them a Kbar and a rifle and consider the job done'. In a world or rechargeable battery powered M3 weapons lights and targeting cameras- that kind of thinking is rather refreshing.

· Registered
774 Posts
I have no intention of fighting a war. I'll be on the move away from danger, not towards danger. If danger isn't chasing after me, then I'm not in a race. I can take rest breaks. If danger is chasing after me, then it's probably not doing so on foot, and it's going to catch me anyways unless I'm not on foot either.

· Good Bye
1,807 Posts
dangit Dwind.. that pic has me rolling laughing here.... THANKS for the laugh. the only thing that could make that more frightening is if there was circus clown in there... shudder.
  • Like
Reactions: joes
1 - 9 of 9 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.