The Civil War in Yemen has been going on for four years. On the one side, there are the Shia Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran. On the other side is the Sunni Yemeni government, which is backed by a substantial coalition of Sunni nations, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Even before the war, Yemen was one of the world’s poorest countries. Four years of bloody fratricide have compounded that to make Yemen a black hole of famine and destitution.
In this video, a Yemeni government soldier fights for his life on a hilltop trench somewhere in the mountainous area of Radfan. Two Houthi rebels assault his position, and brutal hand-to-hand combat ensues. With the support of his comrades from a neighboring hilltop, who are also filming the action, the Yemeni soldier emerges victorious. On the right, however, you can see more Houthi rebels scaling that mountain like goats, agile and battle-ready once they reach the top.
Here’s the point of concern for any Western army. Put a Western troop in the position or the Houthi rebels, and he would be fighting for dear breath, not dear life, once on top. Modern-day combat loads are ludicrous, heavy and cumbersome. No matter how physically fit you are, long missions and environmental factors (altitude, humidity, heat) will quickly turn even the fittest soldier into a bag of sweat and anger.
We have written before about the unrealistic loads that U.S. Marines are required to carry into combat. The numbers are astounding. The standard combat load comes in at 100 pounds. Officers are often expected to carry around 150 pounds, and some Marines — for example, machine gunners or radio operators — are often humping close to 200 pounds. These numbers turn war-fighters into moving mountains of gear. To be sure, they have sufficient protection, ammunition, and batteries that would put an al-Qaeda or Iranian troop to shame, but that’s not the point. American war-fighters begin the fight with a disadvantage. Overburdened by all of their gear, their stamina and strength are sapped at a much quicker pace than that of their opponents.
Wars are won or lost on the ground, by troops engaged in close combat. It goes without question that technological superiority offers an advantage over an enemy. But until robots do all of the fighting, it’s important to remember and respect the value of the grunt.