Morale, endurance and the budget

Lightweight equipment isn't enough to keep dismounted combat troops from becoming too exhausted for their missions. Let's think about other factors;
  • selection and allocation of suitable recruits*
  • physical fitness
  • cohesion (including good enlisted-NCO relations)
  • sufficient (hot) food and water supply
  • prior training in enduring stress, exhaustion and adverse conditions *
  • sleep discipline*
  • good leadership
  • companion/mascot animals (especially dogs)*
  • comfortable clothing
  • protection from elements (suitable clothes, tent, use of buildings)
  • personal hygiene
  • replacement boots & clothes
  • uplifting moments
  • good CASEVAC and medical care
  • ideally daily communication with family (digital text messages as minimum)
Such things are relatively affordable and can thus be mastered by poor budget forces even though some high budget armed services fail at providing such favourable circumstances.
Military history shows that endurance under great stress is a hugely important determinant for battlefield success. Armies tend to become better at preparing troops for combat during wartime, and usually they pay more attention to the factors listed above than before war, unless they feel forced to cut training down in order to fill the ranks.

Such non-combat background issues are likely even more important than other pivotal questions such as:
  • Can we penetrate their tanks head-on? Can they do it?
  • Can we maintain our radio comms in face of their ECM? Can they do it?
  • Are our radio comms secure? Are theirs secure?
  • Who has air superiority? 
  • Do we need to ration fuel and munitions? Do they?
  • Do we have sufficient night vision? Do they?
  • Do we know where we are and where we are heading?
Overall, I think there clearly are diminishing returns from investment in land power quality. Improvements beyond getting the two lists above right will yield little additional benefits.**

A good approach for sufficient deterrence and defence on a tight budget would thus be to get such essentials right and keep ambitions in check for almost everything else. This would be a kind of Schwerpunkt applied on budgeting; get right what needs to be right, be frugal on luxuries.


*: These are the points at which the German Heer fails as far as I know, but I am not an active soldier and really only have an outsider's vantage point these days.
**: Plus effective artillery support, but I'd exclude air superiority and be satisfied with a good air defence instead.


  1. One main point in my opinion are skills in ultralight trekking/bushcraft/survival/living from the land etc because you can very often replace equipment with skills and the better the skills the more you can replace weight with it, become more mobile and have at the same time a much better endurance.

    In our today western TM societies the first point you mentioned is crucial, the selection of the recruits. To many young people now come from cities, are not accustomed to live outside for a longer time (i do not speak of wilderness but also from living in ruins, cities, and so on but outside). The cannot suffer cold, hunger, thirst, heat and so on and have difficulties to learn that even if you train them properly for a longer time in that points. The never achieve the same abilities like an son of an farmer from the far countryside.

    And to much of them are weak in that sense that their morale and mental state is much faster degraded by living in such conditions.

    Througout times hunters, forestman and frontiersman have delivered the best light infantry with a gap to every other group. Even the name of such units like Jäger or Ranger has become a synonym for such light infantry. The same still counts today.

    We should select light (dismounted) infantry much more from countryman and should reconsider to recruit foreigners from some selected countries and cultures into the armed forces (an example in the british army would be the gorkhas), perhaps even from among the asylum seekers in germany. Hardened warrior tribes and frontiersman and countryman make a much better dismounted infantry than anything else from our urban societies.

    1. That's how it was for thousands of years, but WW2 and later wars are interestingly devoid of hints or conclusions that recruits from rural areas were better than those from urban areas.
      Prior experience with motor vehicles or guns as well as marital status gets mentioned in the literature, but I remember no rural/urban divide.

    2. I don't think we have that kind of rural population. At least not in europe. I grew up in a rural hunting household in tyrol and later served a year in the mountain infantry. The things that helped me the most were skiing skills (learned through a club), mountaineering (learned through a club), basic shooting skills(learned from my grandfather but later also in a club), physical fitness (sports clubs and volunteer firefighting) and some practical outdoor skills and how to use tools (learned at home because I never learned a trade or was part of the Naturfreunde). Later on I studied in vienna and there were plenty of city-kids who had all those skills and more. And I know plenty of tyrolean farm boys who grew up stuck in front of a monitor who weren't much use for the infantry. Skiing, hiking and climbing aren't as popular but then again there are much more sports clubs (including alpinism) and training facilities and I have no doubt that there will be little difference between kids who grew up with similiar interests (athletics, outdoors, hunting/shootin).

  2. How does the ukrainian army that's been sitting on the frontline in self dug trenches without much food or anything in the way of necessary amenities for over 3 years now figure into your argument? Asking just out of sheer curiosity (most all of them are city folk too).

    1. Th Ukrainian army was badly decimated by the Russian offensive early on. It's mercenary-militias who do much if not most of the front-line duty now.

      There has been a largely-respected ceasefire (Mink II) since early 2015, so the forces haven't been engaged in warfare "for over 3 years".

      There is too little info available to me about that conflict to tell much about morale and endurance there.

    2. you are wrong. they've been firing mortars and other stuff at each other daily all this time. you just don't read ukrainian press. so those have been sitting under fire for that long and you can't really claim that their moral is crumbling because of that.

    3. There were 62 fatalities in the Donbas region observed 1 January 2017 to 9 August 2017 according to the OSCE observer mission:

      62 fatalities in more than seven months is not a level of violence that tests the psychological or physical endurance of armed forces. Such a level of violence doesn't test the logistical supply system either.