Here’s a mind-boggling fact from a Johns Hopkins University researcher: Nearly a third of the military’s medical evacuations from Iraq and Afghanistan between 2004 and 2007 were due to musculoskeletal, connective tissue or spinal injuries – more than twice the number of evacuations resulting from combat wounds.
Any soldier could suggest a reason for that: the sheer weight of all the gear they have to carry around.
Although the Army Science Board recommends that soldiers carry no more than 50 pounds, a 2003 Army study found that on extended foot patrols, they carry an average load of 87 to 127 pounds. This is often under hot, grueling conditions in mountainous terrain.
Little wonder that soldiers who haven’t hit their late 20s yet are experiencing degenerative arthritis, cervical strains and other conditions.
A new Seattle Times report looks at efforts by the Army to lighten soldiers’ loads – some more successfully than others. It seems as though every time a way was found to reduce the weight of one item – including body armor – something else would become heavier or some new equipment would be added.
At what point does gear meant to protect soldiers actually interfere with their effectiveness in the field and compromise their safety?
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