6 Pieces of Gear You Won’t Believe the Military Used



Military budgets can contain some surprising items. These six pieces of gear probably raised some eyebrows when they were purchased.

1. Skateboards


Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Christopher L. Vallee

Skateboards were tested during Urban Warrior ’99 for potential use in detecting booby traps and avoiding sniper fire. Documents from the exercise don’t discuss how the “urban combat skateboard” was to be employed, but the boards never made it to full fielding.

2. Go-karts


Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Jason Hull

The ultra-lightweight combat vehicle is currently in testing with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, but earlier versions have already seen combat with special operations troops in Afghanistan. The vehicles are easily delivered by air and can be used by paratroopers to quickly move around a drop zone, allowing them to mass forces for an assault, quickly move crew-served weapons around the battlefield, and evacuate wounded troops to a casualty collection point.

3. Video game controllers

Since more than half of adults play video games and the average gamer plays 6.3 hours per week, it’s no surprise that many service members are handy with video game controllers. The military is capitalizing on that by using video game controllers to replace unintuitive controls for certain weapons systems and drones.

4. Radioactive identification markers

Small, radioactive markers were worn by some World War II squad leaders so their troops could follow them easily at night. The “luminous discs” were painted with radium. After being exposed to light for a short period, they’d emit a glow for hours. Experiments with the technology dated back to 1912 when the Army was testing them for cavalry units.

5. Skis



Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Michael Selvage

Quite a few modern militaries use ski troops, including three branches of the U.S. Armed Forces: The Navy, Marine Corps, and Army. The training and equipment allows the service members to move quickly in winter, mountain, and arctic environments.

6. Children’s toys


Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Gloumouth1

When Allied paratroopers jumped into Normandy on D-Day, they needed a way to identify each other in the dark behind German lines. Military planners came up with brass versions of a common children’s toy, the cricket noise maker. Troops would click the noisemaker while near an unknown person in the dark. If the other person responded with a click or code word, the soldiers knew each other as friendly.

classedit2 David Nye – Staff Writer at We Are The Mighty

David is a former Fort Bragg paratrooper who deployed with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team.


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  • Leon Suchorski

    The problem with the cricket, was that the response was two clicks for friend. But the two clicks was also the sound of a German retracting his rifle, and the rifle inserting a bullet. So if you popped your head out too soon, you got shot.

    • MAJ.D

      I think you mean, the problem with that one scene in “The Longest Day” was that a German rifle only sounds like a cricket if you dub a cricket over the sound of a bolt-action rifle chambering a round.

    • M1A1

      Yea, In a lot of movies we saw this happening. An Air Born soldier would be alone or even with a small squad would use the clicker and the sound from a Mauser bolt action rifle sounded like a response from a friendly…The next thing you know you had a close quarters fire fight or just one German killing an American. It was a good idea and for the most part worked. I think the ‘BATTLE OF THE BULGE” Was one of the movies that showed this, John Wayne was showing Air Born men how to use it before they took off, Unfortunately the drop landed a lot of soldiers out of their zones. However we over came that and between the gliders that were crashed and the lost soldiers we still kicked some German butt.

      • CW4 Gary R. Gagnon

        I own a Mauser M48 and I guarantee you that it sounds nothing like a child’s “clicker”. Do not get your information from movies.

  • Ken

    Number 2 is not a “Go-Kart.” That is a very sturdy version of a side by side UTV, like the Polaris Ranger. They can go speeds of 60 mph, have excellent 4wd systems, and carry two men and a lot of gear across rough terrain very quickly that might be difficult or slow for ordinary military vehicles.

    • galloglas

      Reminds me of the Mighty Mite.

      • Sur5er

        Ah, yes, the M106 CS disperser. Just about as dangerous to the troops as it was to the rioters

    • Shirley

      2 to 4 packs per. there are 3 different ones and they go faster you can check them out on Polaris web site

  • lcdr kent

    The Japanese used bicycles in WWII to move troops.

    • mhpr262

      So did the VietCong, against the French and probably against the Americans too. They pusheded 700lbs of supplies on their Peugeot (oh, the irony) bicycles.

      • tezla

        the french used taxis when the germans invaded in WWI

      • gallgolas

        The German’s used French tanks, (only abandoned running once) to invade everyone else.

      • PrahaPartizan

        You know nothing of the French effort in the Flanders Campaign of May-June 1940. You can mock the French effort at stopping – successfully I might add – the German attack through the Gembloux Gap in Belgium in one of the first great tank vs tank battles in history. Or, try the French attack on Stonne by two French tanks which stopped a Panzer battalions advance cold. If French tanks were abandoned, it was generally because they ran out of fuel due to their design considerations not because of cowardice on the part of the French tankers.

      • KLD

        Well said Praha. The French did lose but not because of their fighting spirit (at least not in the beginning of the invasion). They were well equipped to the point of even having better tanks but their leaders were still fighting battles from WW1. Heck, using the 88 as an anti tank gun was first deployed because Rommel was desperate to stop the French tanks.

      • Wordell

        Oh come on…they were sampling cheese and sipping some wine and discussing fashion as all narcissistic French do even to this day. The Germans stopped to get involved in the conversation and then took credit for “stopping” the French.

      • DBM

        WW1 french tanks armor was easily penetrated by rifle fire.

      • DBM

        And the french national white flag for bandages



  • John

    a lot of these thing like skis and clickers are great tools. I have not figured out skate boards yet though.

    • tker

      i was with the last draftees in 1969, we were rushed to complete our its course, we fired a long oblong 4 round rocket launcher, that fired a magnesium rocket, what was it called ? , i though it is great

      • John Friedson

        M202 Flash

  • LChoate

    The US Air Force can be added to the ski users. My father was in Combat Control. While stationed at Aviano Air Base during the 1970’s, he attended a British military ski school in Germany. Before Aviano, he was stationed at Eglin AFB where he was trained in scuba diving.

  • Clinton Jensen

    I would argue for the go-cart. MRAP’s and HMMWV’s were do heavy. They were always getting into trouble. They couldn’t keep up with the civilian vehicles that the insurgency used. We definitely need lightweight easy to squire vehicles for our airborne units.

    • DBM

      They used to have gunned up sand rails (dune buggys).

  • Jerry

    Why are skis on this list? That should surprise no one. Ever heard of Alpine troops? Where do you think the Biathlon came from?

    • mark

      You are right and as a matter of fact a lot of our 10th division ski troops in wwII started most of our ski resorts.

  • Michael

    I used skis across Country and down hill with a full pack Radio,and combat load and broke 3 ribs doing it but I got to the bottom first but it was not pretty nor was it by choice LOL

  • Dennis

    My favorite toy in the Army was the Matty Mattel M-16 single shot rifle. You’d jump off of a chopper in a hot LZ in Viet-Nam and the Matty Mattel would fire off one single round and then you would have to un-jam, reload and fire one more round.

    • Vietnam 1966-69

      Most of the jams were due to bad ammo from one company in Bar Harbor, Maine the rest were due to non-chrome barrels or molybdenum barrels. The first M16’s were regular steel and rusted or grimed up almost immediately, the same thing happened with the M60 MG’s but they fired a larger caliber and could keep on working but needed cleaning all the time especially the ones on the Helo’s.

    • fijidawg

      Good one!!!

  • During the joint operations training for the Irianian hostage rescue mission, fuze busters were placed inside specific aircraft to detect certain radar guided missiles that seeked targets using the same band width as the fuze buster radar detectors. The warning signal given off by the detection would alert the crew to make a hard turn to avoid middle lock on. It worked like a charm with as many as 10 fuze busters mounted on every 360 degree quadrant. Radio shack retail store made huge sales.

  • James Ditty

    We sent 150 CB radios to Iraq for a transportation unit that had very little radios , only the lead vehicle and rear vehicle had army radios , with the CB radios the could command and control better the unit was a National Guard unit from North Carolina . They sent back pictures and a thank you note .

  • jim channon

    The off road and armed dune buggy created at the high tech test bed in the early 8o’s spurred a worldwide interest ….google armed dune buggies..or military dune buggies …and click on images …I helped the first copy appear …proudly jim channon LTC inf (ret) soldier for life.

  • Laszlo Szabolcs

    Regarding the radioactive ID markers. While inGermany during 1967 I conducted CBR/ABC (chemical biological radioactive) training for our Army unit but needed some radioactive source to demonstrate the geiger counters. A sgt. in the unit who was also a veteran of WWII recommended that I use the ID marker discs in storage at our ammo bunkers. We went to the bunker to verify that the discs were there and suitable. Boy were we surprised. The storage box of about 2000 discs maxed out our geiger counters. The whole lot had to be sealed in double lead lined containers by a special disposal crew. ( Expensive process). I guess that when they made the discs they did not know about safe radiation dosage.

  • Whats the need of children toy? I am not clear about it. Can you make me clear about the use of children toy in military use. Others used are amazing too.