Army Mules for Afghanistan?

The U.S. Army might send pack mules to Afghanistan. The logistics of supplying patrols in that rugged terrain are complex and costly, and new experimental cargo robots aren’t working out.

Army mules in the 21st century? That’s ridiculous. They’re noisy, stubborn, and need too much feed and water. The U.S. Army should try the state-of-the-art equipment the Israel Defense Forces uses: llamas. The agile critters worked pretty well for the Inca imperial army, too.

Hat tip: Joe Loong

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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11 Responses to “Army Mules for Afghanistan?”

  1. Deb Collins Kidwell Says:

    Hey Mike…ever meet a mule? They are not “noisy”, not “stubborn”, require less food and water than a horse and those in the service that have served with them wax poetic when recalling their “longeared buddies”. Mules have been proven in war time after time from: Hannibal to Napolean to Germany to the Zion Mule Corps to Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere today. I invite you to come and meet some of our longears, or better yet, go to West Point and meet their mules – or maybe the USMC Mountain Warfare Training facility in CA – lots of mules and donkeys there too!

    “My favorite animal is the mule. He has more horse sense than the horse. He knows when to stop eating – and he knows when to stop working.” Harry S. Truman

    Deb Kidwell and the longears
    Lake Nowhere Mule and Donkey Farm
    Martin, TN

  2. Mike Licht Says:

    Deb Collins Kidwell: A friend in Nevada has a saddle mule he wouldn’t trade`for anything. But while pack mules would work much better than the cargo robots the Army has tried to develop, it looks like camels or llamas would be better suited to to the realities of the field situation in Afghanistan.

  3. Deb Collins Kidwell Says:

    Hi Mike – thanks for the response:-) It is interesting that I have been contacted by a mule breeder in Israel about a request from their military and how many kilos a mule can pack, etc…..I would think that the llamas would require clipping of the coats and could not carry near the weight one of the big Army mules can….have to think on that one….I don’t know about the numbers of camels available either….mules and donkeys both are currently being used in Afghanistan and Iraq by our military..unfortunately, the mules are not being purchased in the US – but are being bought in China (donkeys are being bought locally) – figures! I will have to contact my collegues at Haifa University and see what they say about the llamas…that intrigues me:-) Have a great evening!

  4. Deb Collins Kidwell Says:

    Mike, I forgot…it just so happens that the mule was developed in that part of the world about 2,000 BC – Sumerians were using the Kunga (Persian Wild Ass, e. hemionus X Domestic Donkey) around 2,500 BC – since there were no horses in Mesopotamia yet, but once the horses arrived, the superior mule was bred…, I think that they would work just fine…..King David gave Solomon his prize mule and Mohammed’s favorite mule was a white one named Faddah…….

  5. Mike Licht Says:

    Deb Collins Kidwell wrote:

    “I would think that the llamas would require clipping of the coats and could not carry near the weight one of the big Army mules can ….”

    I don’t think llamas need clipping more than once a year, and I bet local weavers would be happy to get the wool (hearts and minds, you know…). And clipping can be done at HQ, so it’s no burden on the trail. While the payload per beast may be smaller, llamas and camels can go farther on feed and water, cutting forward staging needs.

    “the mules are not being purchased in the US – but are being bought in China”

    U.S. Military procurements from CHINA??!!! Call your Congressman!!!

  6. Aunt Raven Says:

    Llamas will only pack 100 lbs or less. Mules will pack up to 1/3rd their body weight–meaning up to about 210 lbs. Surefooted mules can be ridden, and can carry out wounded men to safety, which Llamas cannot do. Miles can be accustomed to gunfire; I have my doubts about llamas. Mules can swim a river; I wonder if llamas would be dragged down by the weight of their wet wool? There are good websites on the use of mules in warfare, –none I know of on the aptitude of llamas.

  7. Aunt Raven Says:

    The reason that mules / donkeys are being sourced from China is economic and logistical: China is comparatively close to Afghanistan and Chinese animals more accustomed to the Afghan terrain and local foodstuffs than mules expensively shipped from the USA.

  8. Deb Collins Kidwell Says:

    I understand the logistical aspect of purchasing mules from China, however, there were mules in China during the Burmese conflict and the US chose to send them in from the US, because the US has superior jacks. Our mules are much larger than what is produced in most of the rest of the world – exceptions, Poitou, France and draft horse X Catalan or Andalusian jacks. China, Tibet and other eastern countries often use a mix of Equus Hemionous, Equus Asinus, etc. to produce thier “mules” which in some cases are a hybrid that would not be considered a mule [elsewhere]. In the US. mule export from the US was so extensive at one point MO mule companies built their own docks in Savannah, GA to ship them overseas. Re: terrain and food, it would not make a bit of difference if I took my mules to Iraq tomorrow, from TN. They would like the change in terrain and they will eat whatever is available….it would be a human issue, not a mule one;-)

  9. Steve Townes Says:

    Mules have served armies on the march for many centuries. Their utility in rugged terrain is outstanding, especially for logistics purposes. Accordingly, for 113 years so far, the Mule has been the sports mascot for West Point, the United States Military Academy. Strong, hearty, and perseverant, Army Mules embody the traits that are central to the academy’s leadership tenets. Here’s a fun article about West Point’s two newest mules, Ranger “III” and Stryker: . I feel very privileged to have the honor of donating mascot mules to West Point, and I intend to do so in perpetuity. Steve Townes, CEO, Ranger Aerospace.

  10. Mike Licht Says:

    Steve Townes wrote: Mules have served armies on the march for many centuries..

    Due to FY 2012 budget constraints, DOD has scrapped development of the “remotely operated equine” (ROE) prototype.

  11. Deb Kidwell Says:

    Steve, God bless you sir for your efforts supporting Army tradition! If you ever have occasion to be in NW TN we would love to have you stop in and see our mules and American Mammoth Jackstock. A son of our mule and AMJ herdsire AMJR PCF Genesis just arrived in Nazareth, Israel on the 23rd of Dec. 2011. He is the first and only AMJ in the country and the Israelis will now be making gaited mules…..bless American Mammoth Jackstock as well! I would be happy to share some of my articles from Western Mule Magazine about the good ol’ American Army Mule’s history that you might find interesting. My e-mail is if you would like them. Deb and the longears of Lake Nowhere Mule and Donkey Farm

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