This is a neat little deal that I wanted to put up as a Building Snowmobiles post. Partly because it is an innovation, and partly because it is a cheap solution used to defeat a cheap weapon. I also wanted to give some kudos to the troops who are out there and innovating and creating their own ‘snowmobiles’ to defeat the enemy.

With this tool, they can probe for wires in the ground from 26 ft away with a telescoping rod and a hook attached to the end.  So for those scenarios where an IED emplacement is possible because the area is suspicious, an EOD specialist could probe for wires. When wires are found, he could cut them, and then the squad could follow both ends to the bomb and then to the IED team location. (please consult EOD or ‘those in the field’ first before using this tool, just so you know exactly how things are done!)

Now what would really be cool is for the innovator that thought this thing up, to come forward and claim some credit. Or at least give their invention a catchy name?

I also wanted to point out that innovations like this is something that happens out in the field due to analysis and synthesis, trial and error, and just plain old luck. This was not a solution that came from thousands of miles away, developed in some office by a company paid millions of dollars or by some government think tank. Nor was this innovation ‘ordered’ by some officer or higher command. Nope. Innovations like this come from individuals who are trying to survive and gain an edge on the battlefield. Their lives depend upon ‘finding the better way’, all so they can defeat the enemy and get back home alive. And this solution was cheap, simple, and effective…..perfect.

This is also the kind of thing that should be encouraged and rewarded by command and by today’s military. It should also be something that squad leaders and small unit leadership should encourage and seek out. The problem solvers of a squad should not be shut out, and a leader should do all they can to encourage innovations and discussions about innovations. A solution could come at any time, and from anybody, and leaders should be quick to jump on that gold and give that individual credit.

Ego or whatever you want to call it, has no place in this process (doom on those leaders that shut everyone out and propose that only ‘their’ ideas are the best) Use the creative juices of the entire team, include everyone in the process, and cheer that on as a leader. That is if you want to win, and in some cases, keep everyone alive and in one piece.

This particular innovation is just one example of how important ‘building snowmobiles’ can be to individuals who risk life and limb out there. Find the solution, no matter how crazy, how ridiculous, how radical, how funny, or whatever. Open your mind to the problem, and saturate/incubate/illuminate to find a solution. Get feedback and borrow brilliance. Avoid group think and confirmation bias. Question authority and the status quo. Use mimicry strategy. Stay focused and work on your Kaizen. Seek to destroy dogma and create a better plan/idea. (destruction and creation a la Boyd) Etc….

Pretty cool and bravo to the guy(s) who thought up this battlefield innovation. –Matt



Pikes Defeat Bombs
July 6, 2012: Given the incentives (life or death) it should come as no surprise that combat troops are very innovative in coming up with new battlefield tools.. One recent example was the development of an improvised “spear” for exposing and cutting wires the Taliban would use to set off roadside bombs. Three years ago, some soldier or marine (most likely the latter) figured out that one could take long (up to 8.4 meter/26 foot) fiberglass poles (normally used to help install communications or electrical wires), tape a sharp, curved blade to them and then use it to poke around an area possibly containing a roadside bomb detonating wire, without getting shot by the Taliban team waiting to set off the bomb. Once you found the wire, and cut it, you could find and disable the bomb itself. The Taliban detonation team would, by then either have run away, been captured or killed.
The manufacturer of the fiberglass poles, which come in three sections, became curious after more and more orders for the poles came from army and marine combat units in Afghanistan. These outfits normally did not do a lot of cable installation, and when asked what they were doing, the troops explained their innovative use of the poles.
As a bonus, the captured Taliban expressed great anger at their cleverly concealed bombs having been defeated by some poles with knives taped to one end. They expect more high tech from the American and don’t like being defeated by weapons any Afghan tribesman could build.
Story here.
US troops score win against IEDs in Afghanistan
July 6, 2012
Almost afraid to say it out loud, lest they jinx their record, U.S. troops in Afghanistan achieved one small but important victory over the past year: They found and avoided more homemade bombs meant to kill and maim them than a year ago, thanks to a surge in training, equipment and intelligence.

Bomb-planters have picked up the pace during the summer months, planting improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, along roads or footpaths. But the explosives are no longer the leading cause of death and injury in Afghanistan.
In the first three months of this year, only 5 percent of the bombs planted across Afghanistan hit their mark, according to Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, director of the Pentagon’s Joint IED Defeat Organization. That’s down from 10 to 12 percent over the same three-month period a year ago.
The new figures released to The Associated Press show a slow but steady decline, from a high of 368 deaths caused by IEDs in 2010 to 252 in 2011, according to the privately run, which tracks war casualties. That decrease has happened even as the military has begun to withdraw its surge of 30,000 troops, scheduled to be complete by September this year. Troops are often more vulnerable as they withdraw from an area.
Officials concede that the rate of bombs that cause casualties has risen slightly from April through June, as NATO troops attacked Taliban-held areas in a return to heavy fighting with the summer months. But the year is on track to be lower still than each of the previous three years, with 77 deaths from IEDs so far out of 162 total troops killed, halfway through 2012, according to
Barbero credits the slow turnaround to three years of an increase in intelligence-gathering equipment such as towers and aircraft outfitted with an array of cameras and other detection technology that have given U.S. commanders an edge, enabling them to spot the bombers as they approach often-traveled routes or revealing the signs of freshly dug earth where the explosives have been buried.
They installed “towers and balloons that give you persistent stare” to spot the Taliban trying to bury a bomb or approach a base in a bomb-laden car at fast speed, Barbero said. “Every commander told us (they) love those, because they can see (the threat) and take action.”
Training is the second key factor — teaching the troops how to use devices such as a hand-held remote robot with a camera that they can throw over a wall, then wheel around, checking if the coast is clear and trying to see whether the area shows telltale signs of being mined with explosives. The IED organization focused last year especially on equipment to help foot patrols, because so many troops were losing limbs, Barbero said. They rushed hundreds of devices into the field that are like a window washer’s telescoping pole, repurposed with a hook on the end, to probe for hidden bombs on footpaths.
That welcome trend is tempered by the looming drawdown of troops from Afghanistan by 2014, which will spell tough choices for commanders trying to balance keeping enough combat troops on the ground to challenge the Taliban with keeping enough intelligence support teams on the ground to keep combat troops safe. Then once the troops draw down, the small numbers of special operations forces and intelligence teams left behind will have to rely on smaller numbers still manning the sensors in the sky.
That reality is already being discussed by lawmakers on the congressional committees that oversee intelligence matters and the armed services.
“We may seek to offset the drawdown by boosting intelligence assets,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Even with those assets, the troops face another headache Barbero has not been able to solve: Explosives manufactured in the tribal areas of neighboring Pakistan still pour across the border. Pakistani officials say only a fraction of 1 percent of Pakistan-made fertilizer gets turned into bombs used in Afghanistan. Barbero counters that 86 percent of IEDs in Afghanistan are made from ammonium nitrate from fertilizer made in Pakistan. In frequents trips to visit Pakistani officials, he requests that they find a way to change the fertilizer’s composition to make it hard to turn into explosives.
He’s made the same plea to the international fertilizer industry, telling a conference in Qatar this year to join in a global campaign to dye the ammonium nitrate to help track it, and to develop “a non-detonable formula.” In two years of pleading with the industry for a solution, no one has come up with one yet.
Story here.

Telescoping Poles
Reach Across the Ceiling or Floor to get Cables with Ease
What’s special about these Telescoping Poles?
GSA approved
Constructed of non-conductive fiberglass to prevent shock and won’t rust or corrode
The 16′ poles are 2′ long collapsed and the 26′ poles are 3′ long collapsed
Poles are coated with baked enamel to protect against rust and corrosion


How a cabling-installation tool is being used to disable IEDs in Afghanistan
May 15, 2012 has reported that it has supplied fiberglass push/pull rods, typically used for installing cabling, to the United States Army and Marines for purposes including the location, digging up and disabling of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Afghanistan.
The poles, manufactured by CMD Cable Management, are available in lengths up to 26 feet. According to the report, troops in Afghanistan use tape to attach a steel hook, made locally in Afghanistan, to the end of the pole. The hook has a sharp blade. The modified tool is then used to detect IEDs, access them and cut their wires. said it has sold more than 100 such poles to the armed forces at GSA pricing for direct shipment to Afghanistan.
Paul Holstein, chief operating officer of, said, “We’re most thankful for the opportunity to assist U.S. troops in their front-line efforts in Afghanistan by making this telescoping tool affordable and readily accessible to them in the field. We appreciate how well we’ve worked [with CMD] to get this product in the hands of these innovative soldiers, who we wholeheartedly applaud.”
Story here.