Amelioration of Battle Space Weight and Women in Combat

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 5 months ago

Do you recall what Tim Lynch said about battle space weight?

Many of their Marines are suffering chronic stress fractures, low back problems as well as hip problems caused by carrying loads in excess of 130 pounds daily.  ”We’re fighting the Mothers of America” said one; if we lose a Marine and he was not wearing everything in the inventory to protect him that becomes the issue.  Trying to explain that we have removed the body armor to reduce the chances of being shot is a losers game because you can’t produce data quantifying the reduction in gun shot wounds for troops who remain alert and are able to move fast due to a lighter load.

Do you recall what I said?

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.

And NPR weighs in.

Soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan routinely carry between 60 and 100 pounds of gear including body armor, weapons and batteries.

The heavy loads shouldered over months of duty contribute to the chronic pain suffered by soldiers like Spc. Joseph Chroniger, who deployed to Iraq in 2007.

Twenty-five years old, he has debilitating pain from a form of degenerative arthritis and bone spurs. “I mean my neck hurts every day. Every day,” he says. “You can’t concentrate on anything but that because it hurts that bad.”

Like many soldiers and Marines, Chroniger shouldered 70 to 80 pounds of gear daily.

A 2001 Army Science Board study recommended that no soldier carry more than 50 pounds for any length of time.

“We were doing three, four, five missions a night sometimes,” Chroniger says. “You’re jumping out. You’re running. I mean it hurts — it hurts.”

Muscle strain is usually a short-term condition that has always been prevalent among soldiers.

But after a decade of war, the number of acute injuries that have progressed to the level of chronic pain has grown significantly.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who retired with musculoskeletal conditions grew tenfold between 2003 and 2009.

Col. Stephen Bolt, chief of anesthesia at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash., says the Army has started deploying physical therapists to serve with some infantry brigades in combat areas.

“The faster you can address some of those issues at the clinic level, the less likely you are to see those injuries progress to a true chronic-pain state that’s going to require them to be evacuated from theater and replaced by someone else,” Bolt says.

But that’s a relatively new concept.

Col. Diane Flynn, chief of pain medicine at Madigan, says chronic pain is complex and challenging for the patient and the physician.

“Primary care providers who provide most of the pain management to patients have had very limited tools in their toolbox,” she says. “And it’s medications for the most part and maybe physical therapy — but very little to offer in addition to that.”

In an effort to provide more options for pain management and lessen the dependence on prescription drugs, the Army is starting to incorporate other forms of treatment including yoga, meditation and acupuncture.

Deploying physical therapists is a great idea.  But the best possible enhancement to warrior recovery hasn’t been floated, i.e., deployment of Chiropractors.  Reduction of battle space weight is one avenue of approach to maintain healthy skeletal and soft tissue systems, but immediate medical amelioration is possibly the best effect for the dollar that could be spent.  Chiropractors are our best bet.

On another front, we find repeated accounts of the duress that our warriors are under due to battle space weight, and this, interestingly enough, at the same time that we see silly and sophomoric advocacy for women in combat roles.  But Former Spook reminds us that:

Almost 20 years ago, columnist Fred Reed published results of an Army study, comparing fitness levels among male and female soldiers. The data reaffirms that most women simply lack the upper body strength and endurance required by an Army infantryman, a Marine rifleman, or most special forces MOS’s.

The average female Army recruit is 4.8 inches shorter, 31.7 pounds lighter, has 37.4 fewer pounds of muscle, and 5.7 more pounds of fat than the average male recruit. She has only 55 percent of the upper-body strength and 72 percent of the lower-body strength… An Army study of 124 men and 186 women done in 1988 found that women are more than twice as likely to suffer leg injuries and nearly five times as likely to suffer fractures as men.

The Commission heard an abundance of expert testimony about the physical differences between men and women that can be summarized as follows:

Women’s aerobic capacity is significantly lower, meaning they cannot carry as much as far as fast as men, and they are more susceptible to fatigue.

In terms of physical capability, the upper five percent of women are at the level of the male median. The average 20-to-30 year-old woman has the same aerobic capacity as a 50 year-old man.

The same report also cited a West Point study from the early 90s which discovered that, in terms of fitness, the upper quintile of female cadets achieved scores equal to the lowest quintile of their male counterparts (emphasis ours).

So, what’s a chief diversity officer supposed to do (don’t laugh–the commission recommends creation of that very post, reporting directly to the SecDef). Water down the standards so more women will qualify for combat service, removing that “barrier” to reaching the flag ranks? Or create some sort of double-standard, allowing females to punch their resumes in the right places and continue their climb to the stars.

Good data and perspective, but he equivocates by saying:

No one disputes the benefits of more flag officers who are women or members of minority groups. But the real emphasis should be on demanding excellence from all who aspire to flag rank, and promoting those who meet–and exceed–a very high bar. Some of the “remedies” outlined in the Lyles report seem closer to social engineering, particularly when you introduce the notions of “measurement” and “metrics.”

So that no one is confused and to ensure that I’m not misinterpreted, and just to make sure that we know that Former Spook is incorrect in this first assertion, let me state unequivocally and without reservation: I do dispute the benefits of more flag officers who are women or members of minority groups.

Note that this is from someone who would vote for a certain black man for president of the U.S. before any white man I know (and my co-blogger agrees).  I see no need to recruit the presumed “brightest” from Ivy League schools, and no one has offered me a compelling reason to believe that the principles of war and strategy and tactics in warfare are a function of race or gender, any more than, say, the sciences or engineering could benefit from a white, black, male or female presence.  Anyone who believes something like that doesn’t understand the sciences or engineering (or warfare).  That kind of thought is reserved for onlookers who want to do social engineering.  It’s for the land of make-believe, the domain of people who spent too much time and money learning from effeminate professors in college classrooms.

And so too the notion that women can handle loads of 120 pounds on ten miles humps when male bodies are breaking down doing it.  Long gone are the notions of winning hearts and minds by driving to the front in vehicles and drinking tea as a means to combat the insurgency.  This is an infantryman’s war, and it means fighting.

Finally, just to make sure that you know the stakes, let me make one thing clear.  If you claim that combat “roles” should be opened up to women but don’t clearly delineated that you mean infantryman (for the Marines that MOS 0311), you are hedging and not being honest.  At least be honest with what you say.  And finally, if you claim that the infantryman MOS should be opened up to women but exclude special operations forces, you are a liar.

Let me make it clear again.  If you want to open the infantryman billet to women but exclude SOF (SEAL, Ranger, Green Beret, Army Combat Diver, Marine Scout Sniper, Force Recon), you are a liar.  You are being disingenuous and dishonest, and it’s not even worth debating you.  You don’t really even believe what you are saying.  You want to believe that infantry is now only part of so-called “general purpose” forces, that they serve only as policemen in our new nation-building paradigm.  Leave it to SOF to do the kinetics.  But you know that this won’t last.  Your paradigm is a pipe dream, and Afghanistan and Iraq have shown that.

So if you care to debate the issue I am open to such a debate.  But let’s be clear that it doesn’t begin at opening “combat roles” to women (whatever combat roles means).  The debate will be an honest one, which means that in order to be consistent and honest, you must advocate that all billets, including SOF, be opened to women.  Otherwise, don’t even bother with the debate.



  • http://callofthepatriot.blogspot.com PatriotUSA

    Excellent and I am re-posting this with a link back and proper credits. I could not agree more and I do not care if pisses people off. Women do NOT belong in the front line of combat, period. Especially with the crappy ROE that the the first muslim potus has crippled our troops with.

  • http://bit.ly/FirstContact3 Warbucks

    I happen to rent small suites in a building oriented to women, 85%, who practice some of the pain reduction techniques mentioned above. Over the years I’ve studied their core educational backgrounds and find one new trend emerging in western pain management derived from the practitioner’s proprioceptive sensitivity, a willingness to work hands-on with their clients for 30 to 90 minutes. These techniques do not seem to be techniques that would be practical to transfer to the close proximity of the battlefield where they are needed.

    Meditation is another matter. Anyone who has fully developed an inner calm through the development of their own advanced meditative techniques brought back to the battlefield, would likely function at such a high level they would be “different” human beings that our command and control systems would need to learn to accommodate…. as silly as that may sound. Most command and control systems are accustomed to managing low level known fears and resultant subconscious turmoil. A soldier brought to meditative enlightenment, committed inside himself at a spiritual level to the mission and stated goals, would compose an army that can not be defeated as it would not know fear, nor would it act in thoughtless haste. But such enlightenment techniques usually take many months of dedicated training and often require non-violence as a precondition to learning.

    The typical rule for the type of chronic pain mostly being experienced on the batttlefield seems to be a rule that can not be implemented on the battlefield:

    THE RULE:
    “If it hurts when you do that, stop doing that.”

    Many of us who work out daily over several decades have learned that THE RULE is the best long term method of pain management, allowing our bodies to implement their own natural rehabilitation processes on muscle tissue.

    Jumping over to women in combat, the thought occurs that the definition of “front line” is sometimes often part of the issue. I consider a “sniper” as front line and ignorantly assume the logistics to bring him along for cover requires he carry his own supplies. Are those supplies the same as the other members of a fire team? I don’t know but I’m sure you do.

    If the supply weight of the sniper is say only 50lbs, perhaps women should be considered in this role: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRYwMrsaLxs if they qualify otherwise.

    Please advise.

  • http://federaleagent86.blogspot.com/ Federale

    Its the 21st Century and the Marines used to have MULES in the 20th. Why not deploy the old MULE? Why not deploy one of the Marines’ armoured cars with an infantry unit to carry extra gear? Are there no helicopters in Afghanistan to carry extra gear, like mortar base plates from place to place? Why not deploy the Marines themselves with helicopters? I heard they were used in Vietnam. It was called air mobility and used with good effect.

  • http://www.dallasmagpies.com El Rey

    re: Women in Combat
    I agree that female infantry should be off the table. No discussion needed on that one.
    Women have proved to be quite capable as combat pilots and should continue to be on the battlefield in that regard. (Hell, one of the best Apache pilots I have served with was a woman! She even proved it in an international competition amongst the world’s best male attack pilots.) I even think a female tank or artillery crew would be up to the task. Too many people are using ‘Women in Combat’ as a catch-all. Women are great in CS and CSS, and if the need arrises to perform a retreat in force or a hasty ambush, I think women would hold up for a short duration. Sustained infantry operations are simply beyond the physical capability of the majority of women in the service.

    In response to Federale:

    Routine patrols should not require the logistical support of airmobile assets in the AfPak theater. Walking around and talking to people is the best way to defeat the Taliban (especially while you have some guys in overwatch and some hunter-killers actively engaging the insurgents). Furthermore, an airmobile assault is loud and can be seen for miles, giving up any element of surprise. A platoon size (or smaller) element should not need mules to carry water and other kit for the group. An injured or dead mule would become the goal for the bad guys, creating a ‘combat pause’ that would allow them to organize an assault or ambush while the platoon is divying up supplies.

  • Joe

    That Jackwagon that suggested this idea should go to Camp LeJuene or Camp Pendleton and take a really good look at what the Infantry does. Then Shut his pie-hole and forever go away.

    Just a simple training exercise as going on a “Company Hump” with everything in the world packed into the pack plus some other nice items like..oh, Ammo, gernades, Water, extra ammo for crew served weapons, batteries for anything that goes beep or bop, maybe some food, personal protective gear and chit-paper…take a really good look while on those bases and see who is loaded down on the Humps and who aint. Not to dig on the WM’s but they generally are not carrying a combat load on anything longer than 10 milers…which is basically a condition hike to get your body prepared for that condition it’s gonna get into once you go live and there is no other means but blackcacilacs to get you are your gear there. Never trust in technology…always trust in your feet.

    The Human Mule has been around for thousands of years, and generally it ends up being a male whose hauling, if it’s hi-speed low drag and going to be some nasty work once they get to their final destination.

    The Infantry is not a job for the weak, and theres a Lot of males that can’t do it…why burden an already over burdened group with this kind of social experimentation.

  • http://cowboyjihad.blogspot.com Rick

    Lots of things need to be addressed here “fighting American mothers” is one while I all for better protection there comes a time that it causes more casualties than it prevents. As can been seen with all of the joint and bone injuries. What people looking on do not see is the injuries these young men are suffering after they get out of theatre. I have a friend that is drawing 50% disability because of this tore up both of his knees, shoulders, and back all of the symptoms described above. I agree with Herschel and all the other commentors this had turned into an infantryman’s fight (remember though we are drawing down the Marines and Army different topic for a different time). By infantry fight think WWII foot slogging. So there needs to be a compromise between the perceived security of walking around like a tank and getting guys hurt and getting hurt from by battlefield injury. I remember what it is like having to hump an 81mm baseplate and it sucks.

    Now on to the topic of women in Infantry I have another very close friend finishing a tour in Afghanistan who was/is in the some of the best shape I have every seen a person. She has been hanging out with an Army infatry unit doing hearts and minds stuff with the women and kids so she has been out and about. To use her words she cannot believe the amount of gear the grunts have to carry on a daily basis and that she could not do it. Another anecdotal story is my wife and I hike a great deal and she is in good shape and can go 6-10 miles a day with a ruck on. However her pack is 30 lbs and mine is 50lb simply because I can take the weight. Another topic no one speaks about is the need for female hygene that men do not need. The friend I spoke about above had to be medivaced for a short period of time do to such an issue. I hate to say it but infantry is the job of rough men.

    On the otherhand my brother’s squadron makes a big deal about their female pilots and has dropped leaflets reminding the Taliban they are being killed by female Angels of Death.

  • DirtyMick

    Good example: When I was in afghanistan last year we were doing gunner down drills for training one day and the females from our navy support element came out to do the training. Not a single one could charge the mark or .50 cal when they got in the turret. Case closed

  • Marc

    I agree that to allow women in combat is the most stupid idiotic idea i have ever heard of.These politicians are so far removed from reality that it’s scary.It will never work no matter how you look at it……………..

  • HalfElf

    Strikes me as humourous, and always has that the women screaming about glass celings, and “open up the all boys club” do not, and have never served in the military. When the military desegregated back in the 50′s we did not have to lower physical standards, or decrease mission completion. The “soft discrimination” of lowered standards did not apply for the all boys club, but the standards for male and female should make these truths self evident. Girl and boys do not play at the same level,and they are different, combat support, and supply is fine, but as a “Fobbit”not a real good ideal. These inequities have been codified by PT standards and stomping your little combat boot and screaming “NOT FAIR” doesn’t fix it. Combat is not fair, if it is your doing it wrong.

  • Pingback: The Captain's Journal » Goodbye To The Army And Marines: Political Correctness Has Taken Over


You are currently reading "Amelioration of Battle Space Weight and Women in Combat", entry #6516 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Battle Space Weight,Women in Combat and was published March 13th, 2011 by Herschel Smith.

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