The things they carry are Band-Aids, bullets, and cardboard cases of Meals Ready To Eat; also, sand for making concrete, Stinger missiles for making holes in airplane fuselages, rucksack, machine guns, body armor, Kevlar helmets, blankets, boots.
They are mules, and they are the US military’s latest tool in foreign wars.
The New Yorker article contains many fascinating mulish trivia.
As recently as 1930, there were more than five million mules in the United States, and mules were active in the military until December, 1956, when Army mules 583R and 9YLL, also known as Trotter and Hambone, were deactivated.
Among the first mules in the United States were a herd belonging to George Washington…
Washington believed that a good mule was essential to successful agriculture… and he was determined to breed “a race of extraordinary goodness.”
I’ve always been surprised by the absence of mules in Sub-Saharan Africa. Is it disease? Or is technology diffusion really so slow? Draft animals ought to be a surefire boost to agriculture.
I only once saw an NGO import donkeys into a small town in northern Uganda. No one told the recipients that you can’t treat a donkey like a cow; if you beat it it will not move. Eventually the locals gave up on them, and the animals roamed free about the village for the rest of their days, a nuisance for all.
Coca-Cola, at least, thinks they have potential. Here is a picture I took in Morocco last year: