Infantry Drills

7-10: Soldier Load

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Previous: Section II: Soldier, Combat, and Unit Basic Loads

7-10. The Soldier’s load is a main concern of the leader. How much is carried, how far, and in what configuration are important mission considerations. Commanders and leaders must balance the risk to their soldiers from the enemy against the risk to mission accomplishment due to excess loads, soldier exhaustion, and injury. Leaders must ensure that soldiers travel as light as possible. Commanders and leaders must be willing to accept calculated risks to reduce the soldier’s load and they should base load limits on well thought out METT-TC analysis.

7-11. Personal protection equipment constitutes the largest weight category of Soldiers load. The greatest PPE weight is body armor that additionally limits the Soldier’s ability to maintain body core temperature and, to varying degrees, regulate breathing due to constriction of the torso. Depending on mission variables and environmental conditions, commanders and leaders may adjust the level of body armor protection or even remove body armor balancing an increased risk to individual soldiers to improve the likelihood of mission accomplishment.

7-12. Equipment and ammunition loads must be tailored to mission requirements and the likely enemy threat. For example, if the enemy threat does not include armor formations, leaders may not include the Javelin CCMS. In certain circumstances, it may be appropriate for units to carry additional small arms ammunition due to sustainment constraints. In other circumstances, based on the enemy threat and historical analysis it may be necessary to carry mine detectors but not ECM equipment.

7-13. The platoon’s planning and preparation processes will include detailed load
planning and calculation. This assists leaders and Soldiers in organizing tactical loads to manage energy expenditure and combat effectiveness. (See table 7-1.)

Table 7-1. Example of METT-TC Analysis
Table 7-1. Example of METT-TC analysis (continued)

7-14. Maximum effort should be placed on echeloning excess loads. Leaders must resist the mindset that we must carry everything to be prepared for every eventuality. Leaders at the lowest levels must enforce load discipline to ensure that soldiers do not voluntarily carry excess weight. Additionally, leaders must rely on the chain of command to deliver equipment forward for subsequent operations.

Note. The ability of an Infantry Soldier to fight is directly related to the load he must carry.

7-15. An excessive load reduces energy and agility. A Soldier carrying an excessive load is at a disadvantage when he must react to enemy contact. Conversely, if the load is tailored to be light, leaders may make a decision to leave behind mission-essential or crucial equipment to balance the load. Sometimes a Soldier must carry more than the recommended combat load. However, leaders must realize how this will affect the unit’s overall effectiveness. (FM 21.18 provides additional information on a Soldier’s load.)

7-16. Infantry forces are designed to be flexible and responsive in all types of terrain and environments, and for this reason, they consist mainly of foot-mobile fighters. Their success depends on the ability of Infantry Soldiers to deliver the appropriate weapon systems and materiel, to the decisive place on the battlefield in a timely manner; while at the same time, maintaining the ability to defeat the enemy and survive. The Soldier’s load is managed at the company and platoon level; however, standards are established at the battalion level using planning considerations to ensure Soldiers are properly equipped, and mentally and physically ready for combat.

Next: 7-17: Combat Loads

Go Back To: U.S. Army FM 3-21.8: The Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad