Heavy Loads Could Burden Women’s Infantry Role

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 3 months ago


If and when women assume the role of infantry soldier, one of the biggest challenges they may face is the weight on their backs, according to an official at the Veterans Health Administration.

The average female will have trouble as infantry soldiers must carry a load often weighing more than 80 pounds for many hours at a time over rugged terrain in some cases, said Dr. David Cifu, national director of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Veterans Health Administration.

“I’m certain the majority of women doing this won’t be physically able to do it as long as the men. It’s a matter of body size and body mechanics,” Cifu said.

Well gosh.  This could be embarrassing for the women, the Army, the Marines and just about everybody associated with this effort.  If only someone could have said something beforehand?  If Dirty Mick and my son Daniel had only weighed in on this issue, maybe some of this embarrassment and trouble could have been avoided.

  • Jules

    You know, I suppose my M.D. ( who is a 5′ 6″ doctor) could heft a 70 lb. back pack if she needed to. Then turn around and do triage on friend and foe alike ( according to her Hippocratic Oath). Don’t presuppose what these angels are capable of.

  • Doug

    Never underestimate women in combat units.
    The Kiwi experience is that they strengthen the unit in unthought of ways.
    They don’t give in as they have something to proove – the guys dare not fail before the ‘girls’ do!
    Their interaction with civilian women/children gives the whole unit a higher integrity and acceptance as ‘being there to help’.
    The women also have a far higher acceptance of the Civics module in training too.
    Their competence in command roles is legendary.

  • Nathaniel

    No doubt there are some women who can handle the physical stress of being in the infantry. But the Marine Corps is having trouble finding them. Not a single female candidate has yet passed the Infantry Officer Course: http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/article/20130402/NEWS/304020020

  • Sean

    Don’t worry, boys and girls! They’ll just do like they did when I was in, circa 1974, and the WACs were folded into the US Army. They’ll lower the standards! No problemo! That way, the men can do the same old duty, and the women, well, not so much. And everything will be equal! Yay! Well, until, they come up against all male units, and well, you will know the rest when you read the papers. It’s no great shame to lose a war! Or for men to have to do more than the women, but for women to get exactly the same benefit from their lesser performance! Gosh! Whatever! It’s like ,wow, can’t you see how cool it will be to overthrow thousands of years of history, with like, the stroke of a pen? I mean women have just been kept back by the patriarchy or something for sooooo long!

  • http://summitpost.org bubba

    A superior adult female athlete (Olympic class) has similar capabilities to that of a superior male High School athlete.

    I’ve spent thirty-five years humping heavy loads up and climbing mountains in the West. I’ve climbed with some very good female climbers and most have been able to carry their share when it has been sized for their abilities. The ladies can carry only a percentage of their weight just like the men, but men are generally larger and as such can carry more. The men seem to recover more easily and can take more physical abuse over a longer period of time and with less debilitating effects on their bodies.

  • George Fagerstrom

    Same argument from the late ’60s. A portable flamethrower loaded is 60 lbs. add another 40-50 of regular gear, now try to run, or better yet squat to pee. At that conference at Ft. McClellan Ala. the WACs wanted the 54E MOS without the weapon qualification and let it be known they expected to be promoted over someone who could carry the load, meaning the guy was pigeon holed. A WAC major locked me up a number of times to get even for saying what I did. The Army’s answer was to drop the MOS.

  • Pffftt!

    The #1 cause of injury in Army is from regularly carrying these heavy gear loads. It doesn’t matter how strong you are, running around with 100 pounds of gear will break down cartilage, and tear ligaments & tendons. And the weaker you are, the worse the tendency. It doesn’t matter how determined and gutsy women are… they are going to break down.

  • Ken

    Are the first two comments satire, or do those two idiots seriously believe that crap?

  • jdkchem

    “Their competence in command roles is legendary”? Because life imitates Xena warrior princess.

  • Adam

    Seems fairly straightforward…..the military should implement gender-neutral standards for all roles. If you can pass, you’re in. Gender should have no bearing on the question, any more than race does; there are plenty of women out there who can carry a 80lb pack, and there are plenty of men who cannot. No compromises should be made for diversity or politics.

  • Jean

    This is an extract from an ARR of ambush of Taliban element in the Korengal Valley April 2009. I have redacted the names, but this is from an open source document. Please note the last sentence. That’s combat. No social engineering or expansion of perceived equal rights and opportunities will negate the grim realties of the battlefield.

    The Scouts began their SSE near their OP/LP as well. Sergeant X moved two bodies to the collection point while Sergeant Y and Specialist Z provided security. After Sgt. X returned, Sgt Y began cutting away the rack system (ammo pouches) from another insurgent who appeared to be dead. He wasn’t. The wounded insurgent suddenly grabbed Sgt Y. The sergeant then swiftly plunged his knife into the man’s eye socket.

    So after climbing up and down mountains in Korengal, with elevations that exceeds 19k feet, carrying a combat load in excess of 100lbs, and experiencing the post physical let down of multi adrenaline surges that occur in a fire fight, you may have to engage in hand to hand combat. – Sure lets put women in front line infantry units……shame on our senior leaders. Yes sir is not the answer.

  • Jean

    Sorry my elevation factiod was little high, more like 12k.

  • DirtyMick

    I think we’ve beat the argument of weight into the ground.

    I also want to bring up the mentality and the mindset of being an infantryman. It’s stuff that the general public would find abhorrent. It’s stuff most support units find abhorrent.
    When you’re in the infantry or a combat arms unit it’s a pretty miserable experience. Infantryman are generally men in their late teens to early 20s who are covered in tattoos of skulls and death, go out in packs on the weekends, get into knock down drag out brawls (lets see how a women in the infantry handles a company size brawl between rival companies or battalions outside the barracks), train to kill people, and deal with NCOs hounding them everyday (I remember when I first checked into my unit getting smoked for about 10 hours straight). We want warriors and killers. Guys that can pull there weight and as NCOs we turn boys into men.
    Combined with humping weight, combat, and the lifestyle we lead it’s not a woman’s place period.
    Pardon my langauge but I doubt a female PFC would appreciate me calling her a pussy, a motherfucker, and smoking her for hours on end because she couldn’t remember how to do a 9 line medevac. Then keeping her up at all hours of the night after COB and training her and smoking her ass all night. Then getting her up early in the morning for a PT smoke fest. Because most men can’t hack that either

  • M1A1TrkTrror

    @Adam: No there are not plenty of women who can do what you are suggesting they can. Furthermore, of the small sampling that are able, how many are willing? Why go through all this extra bullshit to find a qualified one when we have plenty of men who can pull their weight and are willing? It’s inefficient and stupid.

You are currently reading "Heavy Loads Could Burden Women’s Infantry Role", entry #10571 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Women in Combat and was published April 10th, 2013 by Herschel Smith.

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