The Weight of Duty: How Much Do Soldiers Carry on Deployment?

Author: Eric Sof

Last modified:

It isn’t easy to provide a definitive answer to how much weight soldiers carry on deployment. However, it is estimated that soldiers and Marines deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan routinely carried between 60 and 120 pounds of gear, including body armor, weapons, and batteries. This exceeds the regular combat load recommended by the Army Science Board in 2001, which suggested that soldiers should not carry more than 50 pounds for an extended period. The weight of equipment can vary depending on the specific mission and unit, so it is difficult to pinpoint an exact number.

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

Infantry troops deployed to a combat zone typically carry a significant amount of gear, referred to as a “buttload.” This weight can be even more burdensome when combined with the thin, high-altitude mountain air and heat, as experienced in places like Afghanistan. The regular combat load includes a personal weapon (such as an assault rifle, SAW, or sniper rifle, depending on the soldier’s role in the team) and a sidearm, both with additional magazines and ammunition (it is probably at least seven mags if we speak about assault rifle and at least two or three mags for the sidearm).

It also includes kevlar armor, such as the regular army-issue flak jacket with front, back, and side SAPI plates, which weighs around 30 pounds. This equipment can be physically taxing to carry, especially in challenging conditions.

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 soldiers deployed to Afghanistan is from 60 to 120 pounds, depending on the unit and mission conducted (Photo: XY)

It is important to note that the amount of gear carried by troops can vary depending on the specific requirements of the mission or their role within the unit. However, it is also important to understand that no one is carrying less than others and that all soldiers are expected to carry a significant amount of equipment regardless of their specific duties or missions.

Additional equipment

All soldiers, from medics to mortarmen, carry mission-essential gear and additional equipment related to their position on the team. For example, a medic may carry a first aid bag in addition to their standard kit, while a squad leader may have additional equipment such as a radio, binoculars, and GPS. In the case of an infantry platoon on a recon patrol, many members may also carry additional machine gun rounds. For example, carrying a radio alone can add 10 pounds, and the batteries for the radio can weigh 2-3 pounds each, bringing the total weight to 22 pounds or more.

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)

The amount of gear carried by soldiers can also vary depending on the environment in which they operate. For example, in hot and dry regions like Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers may need to carry additional water reserves. This can add 9 pounds between Camelback and water bottles. Miscellaneous items such as knives, clothing, gloves, sunglasses, and boots can add 10 pounds or more.

Special operations forces like Navy SEALs, Army Delta Force, or regular Army Special Forces may also carry additional equipment such as hand grenades, NVGs, and other specialized gear as needed for their missions. It is important to consider the physical demands of carrying this equipment, especially in challenging conditions.

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 also determine the amount of additional equipment that must be carried. It depends on the specific tasks, such as ambush, movement to contact, recon, raid, condone, and search. The type of mission determines what equipment a soldier must carry. While it may seem like a lot, it is important to have enough ammunition, water, and other supplies to potentially save lives in combat. It is better to have too much than not enough in a dangerous situation.

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.

Content on this website is free to use and share, but please provide a link back to Spec Ops Magazine as a source. All content is protected by copyright and may not be used for commercial purposes without prior written permission.
Share on:

Leave a Comment