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Infantry protective gear includes all equipment designed to protect the soldier against enemy attack. Most protective gear comprises personal armor of some type. Ancient and medieval infantry used shields and wore leather and metal alloys for armour, as defense against both missile and hand-to-hand weapons. With the advent of effective firearms such as the arquebus, large numbers of men could be quickly trained into effective fighting forces, and such armour became thicker while providing less overall coverage to meet the threat of early firearms, which could only pierce this armour at close range. Generally, only pikemen were armoured in this fashion; gunners went largely unarmoured, due to the expense as well as the impracticality of armouring large numbers of men who were not expected to fight in close quarters where it would be most useful. As firearms became more powerful and armour became less useful against gunfire, the ratio of gunners to pikemen increased, until the advent of the bayonet rendered the latter entirely obsolete. While it became clear to most military leaders that the pikeman was now outdated, some armies stubbornly clung to the pike, though pikemen, too, would abandon their armour, until only specialized and prestigious cavalry units retained any significant armour coverage; the infantryman from this point went entirely unarmoured. The return to the use of the helmet was prompted by the need to defend against high explosive fragmentation and concussion, and further developments in materials led to effective bullet-defeating body armour such as Kevlar, within the weight acceptable for infantry use. Beginning in the Vietnam War, the use of personal body armour has again become widespread among infantry units. Infantrymen must also often carry protective measures against chemical and biological attack, including gas masks, counter-agents, and protective suits. All of these protective measures add to the weight an infantryman must carry, and may decrease combat efficiency. Modern militaries are struggling to balance the value of personal body protection versus the weight burden and ability to move under such weight. Infantry survival gear includes all of the items soldiers require for day-to-day survival in the combat environment. These include basic environmental protections, medical supplies, food, and sundries. As the amount of equipment a soldier can carry is very limited, efforts have been made to make equipment light and compact. Equipment is carried in tactical gear (such as ALICE), which should be comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, hamper movement as little as possible and be compatible with other things a soldier can be expected to carry, such as field radios and spare ammunition. Infantry have suffered high casualty rates from disease, exposure, and privationoften in excess of the casualties suffered from enemy attacks. Better equipment of troops to protect against these environmental factors greatly reduces these rates of loss. One of the most valuable pieces of gear is the entrenching toolbasically a folding spadewhich can be employed not only to dig important defenses, but also in a variety of other daily tasks and even as a weapon. Specialized equipment consists of a variety of gear which may or may not be carried, depending on the mission and the level of equipment of an army. Communications gear has become a necessity, as it allows effective command of infantry units over greater distances, and communication with artillery and other support units. In some units, individual communications are being used to allow the greatest level of flexibility. Engineering equipment, including explosives, mines, and other gear, is also commonly carried by the infantry or attached specialists. A variety of other gear, often relating to a specific mission, or to the particular terrain in which the unit is employed, can be carried by infantry units.

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