In the summer of 2008, a team of Army advisers working in the rugged terrain of eastern Afghanistan found the load shouldered by soldiers had reached a kind of tipping point.

These soldiers trudged through the mountains with body armor, weapons and a variety of other equipment. The weight often topped 100 pounds, wearing down soldiers and restricting their movements when they came under fire from insurgents.

All that gear, much of it designed to help the men survive, was sometimes putting overloaded soldiers at risk on the battlefield.

The advisers, part of the Asymmetric Warfare Group, have helped roust the Army to a more aggressive effort to trim the soldier’s load.

Their pilot plan for more than 550 soldiers shed some 24 pounds from a soldier’s load by finding alternatives for standard issue Army gear. They acquired lighter flashlights, headlamps, sleeping bags, knee pads, boots, and other gear from commercial vendors. They found a lighter machine gun and trimmer body armor.

The Army also has other efforts under way to lighten the load, ranging from producing lighter weapon tripods to long-term efforts for developing equipment-toting robots.

Source: Hal Bernton for Seattle Times.

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