Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Things They Carry

Even though this article doesn't specifically call out batteries, we know from discussions with Army Soldier Systems in Natick, MA, as well as from the Wearable Power competition conducted last year, that the proliferation of mobile devices is weighing soldiers and Marines down past the breaking point. This article provides a very visceral sense of just how much they're humping:
Currently, the lightest load carried, the "fighting load" for situations where the troops were sneaking up on the enemy and might be involved in hand-to-hand combat, is 63 pounds. The "approach march load," for when infantry were moving up to a position where they would shed some weight to achieve their "fighting load", is 101 pounds. The heaviest load, 132 pounds, was the emergency approach march load, where troops had to move through terrain too difficult for vehicles. 
Could you carry that much for 10 minutes in your back yard? What about in the desert heat? How about for 2 hours up and down hills? Here's what this means for troops in Afghanistan in particular:
In Afghanistan, the problem is made worse by the high altitudes (up to 5,000 meters) the troops often operate at. The researchers found that in Afghanistan, even though the infantry were in excellent physical shape, troops would sweat nearly 20 ounces of fluid an hour while marching at high altitudes in bright sunlight in moderate temperatures. That meant more weight, in water, had to be found to keep these guys going.
I have to admit, there've been times I felt that the smaller power challenges weren't as important as the larger systems ones. I no longer feel that way. Not in the least.

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