How much weight do soldiers carry on deployment?

Author: Eric Sof

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It is impossible to have an exact answer which will answer the question. Still, 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 a longer time. Of course, the overall weight varies from mission to mission, from unit to unit, and 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 guns, 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. 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 conducted (Photo: XY)

But, still, as we mentioned, different troops, units, or missions are in charge of varying 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 platoon member will carry additional machine gun rounds.

For example, if you were carrying the radio, the radio without batteries will run you about 10 pounds (Whoever came up with that official weight is utterly insane, it’s not). Then you’re carrying at least four 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 items (just random stuff like knives, clothing, gloves, sunglasses, boots, etc.), 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 also carry a lot of hand grenades, NVGs, and other special equipment 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 your men’s 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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