U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Eric C. Hopfinger, (left), a Combat Engineer attached to Marine Wing Support Squadron-271 (MWSS-271), and Sgt. David J. Swaney, (right), a Data Technician attached to Marine Wing Support Group-27 (MWSG-27), swim with their packs during swim qualification class three at the combat pool on Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., Mar. 19, 2010. Swim qualification is part of the required annual training Marines must undergo each year. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. John A. Krake/Released)

A key House lawmaker wants the Army and Marine Corps to consider low-cost ways to help ground combat troops more easily carry their heavy loads of ammunition, water and equipment.

“We have to do something,” said Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s tactical air and land forces panel. “We cannot expect them to carry that much.”

Bartlett said he is pleased to hear some combat units are using donkeys and mules to carry such loads. He thinks they should also consider goats — which he has raised on his Frederick, Md., farm — as well as wheeled vehicles like garden carts, or even sleds when moving over areas where wheels are impractical, in order to reduce the stress on troops’ backs.

His panel will hear from Army and Marine Corps officials on Thursday about efforts to reduce the weight of equipment and body armor, along with other planned improvements in combat-related clothing and gear.

With backpacks and protective gear often weighing 130 pounds — and sometimes more for those packing extra ammunition — military commanders concede that the load is great, limiting mobility and agility and likely causing increases in back, shoulder and leg disabilities in Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

“No farmer would carry that kind of weight,” Bartlett said. “They would find some way to roll it or slide it or drag it.”

Bartlett said he isn’t talking about having the military design an expensive, high-tech armored garden cart, but rather low-tech solutions that are inexpensive and durable. “In this high-tech environment, you often overlook the low-tech solution,” he said. “I’d like to know what might work.”

Source: Rick Maze for Army Times.

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