PAYING FOR WEIGHT IN BLOOD: AN ANALYSIS OF WEIGHT AND PROTECTION LEVEL OF A COMBAT LOAD DURING TACTICAL OPERATIONS
Lucas, Thomas W.
Lin, Kyle Y.
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To gain, retain, or increase an advantage over enemy forces, military leaders have emphasized the importance of providing the latest and greatest technology to the warfighter. A common—possibly unintended but accepted—consequence of this effort is an increased combat load. Unfortunately, there appears to be a profound misunderstanding of how an excessive external load reduces the lethality and survivability of warfighters, as seen by the significant increase in combat loads over the past two decades. Agent-based simulation is used to investigate the effects of combat load weight. This thesis analyzes a scenario in which a 13-Marine rifle squad rushes across 100 meters of desert terrain while engaging four enemy fighters in defensive positions. Data obtained from nearly one million simulated firefights reveals that the reduction in speed from carrying an extra 15 pounds of gear—the difference between the Marine Corps’ fighting and assault loads—results in an additional casualty for the squad. Also, if a Marine is moving such that they are at least twice as hard to hit as a stationary target, the expected number of squad casualties is reduced from 8.9 to 3.5. It is recommended that a holistic approach to weight reduction be implemented in order to reduce the fighting load to under 50 pounds and the assault load to under 75 pounds. Military leaders must balance the risk and reward of each piece of gear assigned to the combat load; the difference could be life or death.
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