How much weight do soldiers carry on deployment?

101st airborne division the screaming eagles in afghanistan
U.S. Army soldiers with 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division return fire during a firefight with Taliban forces in Barawala Kalay Valley in Kunar province, Afghanistan, 31 March 2011. (Photo: Wikipedia)

It is impossible to have an exact answer which will answer the question, but it is estimated that soldiers and Marines deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan had routinely carried between 60 and 120 pounds of gear including body armor, weapons, and batteries.

It differs from the regular combat load recommended by the Army Science Board in 2001. Their study recommended that no soldier carry more than 50 pounds for any length of time. Of course, the overall weight varies from mission to mission, from unit to unit, we think we might have the right answer.

Average equipment and combat load carried by the regular infantry soldie
Average equipment and combat load carried by the regular infantry soldier (Photo: XY)

Combat load weight

The regular infantry troops deployed to the combat zone carry exactly one buttload of gear, which is a lot. If you still think it is not heavy enough, try to combine that unit of measurement with the thin, high-altitude mountain air and heat, which means you will suffer (of course, if the place of deployment is for example Afghanistan).

The regular combat load includes a personal weapon (assault rifle, SAW, sniper rifle or so, depending on the role in the team), a sidearm and for both weapons additional magazines and ammunition (it is probably at least 7 mags if we speak about assault rifle and at least two or three mags for the sidearm).

It also includes kevlar armor. The regular army issue flak jacket with front, back, and side SAPI plates weighs around 30 pounds.

The average combat weight of soldier deployed to Afghanistan is from 60 to 120 pounds, depending on the unit and mission conducting
The average combat weight of soldier deployed to Afghanistan is from 60 to 120 pounds, depending on the unit and mission conducting (Photo: XY)

But, still, as we mentioned, different troops, units, or missions are in charge of different gear depending on the requirements of the mission, or their role within the unit, but understand that nobody is getting off easier than another.

Additional equipment

From medics to the mortarmen, everyone cares about their mission essential gear plus their additional equipment related to their position on the team. For example, a medic man carries on regular gear plus a first aid bag, squad leaders as additional equipment needs to have a radio, binoculars, GPS, etc… For example, if we speak out about the infantry platoon on recon patrol, almost every member of the platoon will carry additional machine gun rounds.

For example, if you were carrying the radio, the radio without batteries is gonna run you about 10 pounds (Whoever came up with that official weight is utterly insane, it’s not) Then you’re carrying at least 4 batteries and they weigh probably 2–3 pounds apiece. So right there you’re looking at additional 22 pounds.

How much weight do soldiers carry on deployment: Delta Force operator's combat load exposed
How much weight do soldiers carry on deployment: Delta Force operator’s combat load exposed (Photo: Spec Ops Magazine)

Depending on the environment you operate in, you might need additional water reserves (for example in Iraq and Afghanistan). Ok so go to your oven and turn it to 150 and wait for it to heat up. Now put your face inside. That’s what it’s like there. You NEED to carry a lot of water. Usually, a gallon or so ends up being carried between your Camelbak and water bottles so that is another 9 pounds. Trust me, when you first get there you need that much because your body will burn through that in a day until you’re used to it.

Tack on assorted other items (just random stuff like knives, clothing, gloves, sunglasses, boots, etc.) and that’s at least another 10 pounds. I also forgot to mention that most of the operators operating in special operations forces like Navy SEALs or Army Delta Force or even regular Army Special Forces will carry also a lot of hand grenades, NVGs, and other special equipment they might need while on a mission.

GPNVG-18 night vision goggles used by SEAL Team 6 in Operation Neptune Spear (target GERONIMO - Osama Bin Laden) in 2011
GPNVG-18 night vision goggles used by SEAL Team 6 in Operation Neptune Spear (target GERONIMO – Osama Bin Laden) in 2011 (Photo: Pinterest/Navy SEALs)

Type of mission

The type of mission can bring a lot more additional equipment to have carried on. So it depends on ambush, the movement to contact, recon, raid, condone, and search…what the type of mission is. Then that’s what the fighting man carries. Sometimes it’s too much, but you can never have too much ammo and water and other supplies which could save your or yours men life in combat.

Weight of war: Health issues

Since 2001 and the invasion of Afghanistan (and later Iraq) many soldiers were subdued to the pain caused by the heavy load they carried during the time. The heavy loads shouldered over months of duty contribute to the chronic pain suffered by soldiers.

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