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Current military operations require soldiers to carry heavy external loads that are widely acknowledged to impair the ability to move tactically on the battlefield. However, to date, the effect of load on susceptibility to enemy fire (the probability of being hit) has not been examined. Nineteen soldiers completed a break contact simulation (five 30-m sprints commencing every 44 seconds) and a fire and movement simulation (sixteen 6-m bounds commencing every 20 seconds) in each of the 5 load conditions (ranging from 9.8 to 30.1 kg). For each simulation, the impact of load on exposure time and peak movement velocity was examined. In addition, the 6 fastest and 6 slowest soldiers (determined by exposure time in the heaviest condition) were parsed into subgroups to examine interindividual differences in response to load. Susceptibility for the 2 subgroups was modeled using exposure time for the 2 simulations and the assumed reaction time, shooting cadence, and shooting accuracy of the enemy. Susceptibility increased as a function of load for both the break contact and fire and movement simulations and became more pronounced when the participant population was parsed into fast and slow groups. When the impact of personal protection systems was isolated and analyzed, it was found that not only were the slower participants more vulnerable (as a result of not wearing the personal protection system) but also more susceptible than the faster participants who carried 11.2 kg more load. Large interindividual differences in response to external load have meaningful consequences for battlefield susceptibility, and it is therefore critical that personnel are afforded tailored training such that they maximize their proficiency in the execution of tactical combat movements.

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Journal Article

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