Load carriage: Reductions in solder task performance and the risks posed

Rob Marc Orr, Rodney Pope, Vanerina Johnston, Julia Coyle

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Australian military personnel are required to carry load as part of their occupation. Research suggests that these loads are increasing with reports that Australian soldiers have carried mean loads of around 30 kg in the World Wars, 36 kg in Vietnam and 48 kg on operations over the last two decades. While acknowledged as causing soldier injuries, the impacts of load carriage on task performance are often forgotten.
As soldier loads increase, the mobility, lethality (marksmanship and grenade throw ability), general task and attention-to-task abilities of the carrier have been found to decrease. Decreases in soldier mobility have altered the battle tactics of armies and increased casualties in previous and current conflicts. Through reducing a soldier’s ability to engage and suppress an enemy, decreases in lethality can be postulated to reduce the potential for mission success and increase the risk of battle casualties during an engagement. Considered concurrently, reductions in both mobility and lethality reduce the effectiveness of the basic military combat manoeuvre, being fire-and-movement. This in turn further augments the risk of battle casualties. Reductions in attention-to-task (most notably visual cues) can impair a soldier’s ability to detect an improvised explosive device on a patrol or a hidden weapon at a checkpoint. Overall, these reductions in task performance highlight the potential force degeneration risk afforded by current load carriage practices.
This paper will commence with a brief historical review of Australian soldier load carriage practices before discussing the impacts of these loads on soldier task performance. The possible consequences of these impacts will be reviewed and potential force degeneration effects examined. Discussed strategies will focus on improving military conditioning and training practices to mitigate these impacts.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLWC 2012: Potent land force for a joint maritime strategy
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the 2012 Land Warfare Conference
EditorsVinod Puri, Despina Filippidis
Place of PublicationCanberra
PublisherCommonwealth Government of Australia
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)9780980872316, 0980872316
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2012
EventLand Warfare Conference 2012 - Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 29 Oct 20122 Nov 2012


ConferenceLand Warfare Conference 2012
Abbreviated titleLWC
OtherThe Land Warfare Conference is organised every two years by Army and the DSTO to discuss new developments in capability and technology for the land force. The 2012 conference attracted more than 1500 delegates from Australia and overseas.

The Land Warfare Conference (LWC) is a major event for users, providers, academics, designers and manufacturers to meet, present, share and exchange new and visionary ideas on Land Systems.


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