Bridgeport, California. (July 6, 2023): This quote from America’s most famous author accurately describes the relationship between man and mule.
In this photo by Lance Corporal Justin J. Marty, Corporal Andrew Cobb, a rifleman with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment leads a military working mule during Animal Packers Course 23-1 at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center. The course teaches personnel to load and maintain pack animals for military use in difficult terrain to carry essential gear.
The course is designed to teach Marines the lost combat art of handling pack animals, transporting gear, supplies, and wounded across rugged terrain too difficult for aircraft or vehicles. Students must master essential tasks such as assault climbing, animal packing, and small unit movements at high altitude in a mountainous environment.
Mules have a long history of faithful service to the U.S. military. In the 1800s, mules led the western expansion by pulling wagons and delivering supplies to far flung outposts. During the Civil War, mules were a valuable resource for the Army pulling wagons, hauling artillery pieces, and transporting the wounded. Mules also went into action during both World Wars and the Korean conflict as pack animals hauling ammunition and supplies.
Over the years, the military all but eliminated the use of mules for a lack of need. The wars in Afghanistan reminded commanders what a unique and highly valuable asset mules can be. Today, the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Center is experimenting with robotic “dogs” to handle these dangerous assignments, but there doesn’t appear to be a replacement for the stubborn, faithful mule.