Soldier self-reported reductions in task performance associated with operational load carriage
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Australian Army soldiers are required to carry heavy loads of around 48 kg while deployed on military operations. Research has associated decrements in soldiers’ ability to perform key tasks with carriage of these loads. To determine whether soldiers are aware of the negative impact of load carriage on their performance of operational tasks, soldier responses relating to perceptions of load carriage impacts on performance of five key tasks while on operations were collected. Data, captured via an online survey tool, were analysed to determine relationships between soldier perceptions and loads carried. In addition, responses were drawn from a 5-point Likert Scale and coded to allow determination of perceived performance impact. Response rates varied depending on task, ranging from 203 responses (general tasks) to 217 responses (attention-to-task and marksmanship). Mobility was considered to be the task most impacted on by load carriage with a negative performance impact score of -1.24 and 42% of respondents claiming a notable reduction in ability to perform this task. With significant correlations found between loads carried and perceptions on task performance, the strongest negative correlation (rs=-3.25, P<0.001) was associated with attention-to-task. Results suggest that soldiers who participated in the study indicated a clear perception that the loads they carried on operations negatively impacted on their ability to perform general tasks. This perception, while correlating with the weights of the loads carried, varied in degree depending on task. Having soldiers carry operational loads when performing these tasks in training may assist in aligning perceptions with actual impacts.