Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., at a Thursday hearing on Soldier and Marine Equipment for Dismounted Operations, voiced his concern about the amount of weight soldiers are required to carry. And his concern certainly is justified.
Nearing the end of the meeting, Bartlett warned military leaders against “getting in a rut.” His warning started with a very strong example of supplies in the South Pole, then took an somewhat unexpected turn …
“As a senior member of the Science Committee I’ve now been twice to the South Pole,” Bartlett said. “I just want to use this as an example of how you kind of get in a rut and keep doing the same thing even though it may not make much sense.
“At the South Pole the sun shines continuously for six months without a cloud in the sky. That’s a real desert. They have two inches of precipitation a year. And the wind blows incessantly, sometimes 100 miles an hour. It’s blowing 24/7 year round. Guess where we get our energy from at the South Pole? We fly diesel in on an airplane to run a diesel generator. It shows how you can get stuck on a rut. Obviously what we need at the South Pole is solar in the summertime … and wind all the time down there.
“I think we kind of got stuck in that same rut with our soldier. If the soldier needs something, of course he carries it, because that’s what soldiers have always done. So if he needs more, he simply carries more. And I’m very pleased to note that the 4th Brigade of the 101st Airborne is kind of thinking outside the box. They now have employed six donkeys to serve as pack animals to help them carry this gear. …
“And I wonder if we’re really been thinking outside — if you want a pack animal, I would suggest that a neutered male goat would do a really great job. They’re really tough animals. If you bottle feed them, they will follow you around like your pet dog all the rest of their life. And if you’re looking for something to carry it for you, you couldn’t do better. By the way, there are a lot of goats over there. And they survive very easily in that environment.
“I would also like to suggest — and again, this is because I’m a farm boy and see some opportunities to make due — I’d like to at least look at why we don’t provide the soldier with the means of having that with him other than carrying it on his back. And I’m not sure what that would be, but I’d sure like to look at a few things to address that problem.”