Scenes from Operation Khanjar II

BY Herschel Smith
7 years ago

U.S. Marine Cpl. Brian Knight, of Cincinnati, Ohio, with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, 1st Battalion 5th Marines, pauses briefly in the heat to rest with his heavy pack filled with mortar equipment, ammunition, food, and water in the Nawa district in Afghanistan’s Helmand province Saturday, July 4, 2009.

This Marine is carrying his backpack filled with food, hydration system, clothing, etc., and is also carrying ammunition, weapon, body armor, and other equipment.  He is likely going “across the line” at 120 to 130 pounds.  He is suffering in heat and with heavy battle space weight.  For weight lifters like me, let’s put this in terms we can understand.  This is like putting three York 45 pound plates in a backpack and humping it for ten or fifteen miles in 100+ degree Fahrenheit weather.

Battle space weight is a recurring theme at The Captain’s Journal, and will remain so.  Money should be devoted to the weight reduction of SAPI plates in body armor and other low and even high hanging fruit.  The weight of water is decided by God and cannot be altered.

Another salient point bears down on us.  This is why women are not allowed in Marine infantry (or Army Special Forces), and why women suffered an inordinately high number of lower extremity injuries (leading to ineffective Russian units) when they deployed with the Russian Army in their losing campaign in Afghanistan.  Just like God decides the weight of water, He also decides the physiques of men and women.

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  • TSAlfabet

    Whatever happened to the Marine Corps’ “Gladiator”, unmanned ground vehicle that was in development as far back as 2005?

    Apart from its scouting and direct fire capabilities, you would think that most of the equipment being slugged around by the Marine in the photo above could be carried on the Gladiator instead, greatly reducing fatigue and injury to our most valuable asset: the marine. Not to mention its uses in mine-detection and ambush prevention.

    Also, nitpick on your point about water, Captain. There are excellent, compact pumps and filters that weigh alot less than jugs or skins of water and can be used to turn just about any available watersource no matter how polluted into fresh water. Couldn’t our recon of a pending operation include the availability of local water supplies that could be filtered by our troops for at least their personal use and thereby reduce even further the necessary weight?

  • selil

    I don’t understand how my civilian hiking gear from two decades ago has become a quarter of the weight today and the packs we humped in the Marine Corps are heavier. I think the problem is TO MUCH mandatory stuff. And about those lady’s hiking weight. Walk around the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Rim trail and see all the petite young women carrying substantial weight. The gear is the difference. It isn’t about physique or gender it is about the appropriate equipment.

  • Herschel Smith


    It has always been this way for the infantry. See Ernie Pyle’s columns:

    And also see:

    I too am a backpacker, and while the weight of equipment has gotten better, there are also changes with which modern warriors have to deal, e.g., body armor (which whether the MTV or the IBA, is around 32 pounds).

    I know something about the newer equipment, and it is indeed lighter than it was years ago. The Marine equipment is some of the best. Heavy old rain coats have been replaced with light GoreTex parkas, and so forth. But equipment changes can only account for so much. I have worn the MTV with SAPI plates. Have you? Heavy stuff.

    As I pointed out, with body armor, hydration system, weapon and ammunition, most infantry leaves the line at around 80 pounds. Then add the backpack. It adds up, and it is indeed all about physique and gender.

    If it wasn’t about physique and gender, Marines wouldn’t prepare for this sort of thing by putting on full body armor, backpack and other equipment, and humping 20 miles on a hot day at Camp Lejeune or Camp Pendleton.

    Facts are facts, and it remains that women cannot lift the same weight I can in the gym, women are not allowed in Marine infantry, women are not allowed in Army SF, female PTs requirements are different than male PT requirements, and women suffered a high number of lower extremity injuries compared to men in the Russian campaign in Afghanistan.

    Why would we want it to be different than it is? I like the fact that God made men and women differently. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    TSAlfabet, I agree about the water issue, but I think water is a high demand commodity in Afghanistan. Also, the Marines are mobile, and must carry their water with them on patrols. At 80 – 140 pounds weight on a 100 degree day, that amounts to what – two liters of water per hour to avoid dehydration. And … you and I both have done similar things on hot days. You can’t make up for the water loss at the end of the day. The body deals with its own inertia. You gotta drink it when you lose it, or you’re in trouble (up to and including heat stroke and brain damage).

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You are currently reading "Scenes from Operation Khanjar II", entry #3279 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Marine Corps,Marines in Helmand,Operation Khanjar,Women in Combat and was published July 4th, 2009 by Herschel Smith.

If you're interested in what else the The Captain's Journal has to say, you might try thumbing through the archives and visiting the main index, or; perhaps you would like to learn more about TCJ.

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