One thing I learned as a soldier for 22 years is if there is a need and a motivation, there is almost nothing a soldier cannot create through innovation and desire. As an infantryman my fellow soldiers and I were always “adapting and overcoming” whatever was in our way to get the mission accomplished.

Taking battlefield applications and turning them into lifesaving solutions is nothing new. As the enemy adapts and evolves, so do our service members, as they look for new ways to address emerging problems. Recently a group of soldiers and Marines discovered they could use a pole designed to install cable and wiring as a counter-IED tool. With a steel hook attached, the 26-foot fiberglass tools can be used to dig up IEDs and slice their wires.

This is a great example of “adapting and overcoming.” Countering IEDs has been a major struggle by our forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq, and continues to be. The Defense Department recognized how critical fighting the IED threat was when they created the multi-million dollar Joint IED-Defeat Organization (JIEDDO). Needless to say our country has committed thousands of troops and civilian resources at this, millions of dollars and a lot of time. Many cool, neat and useful tools have been employed as a result. Of course with a rapid development and fielding of such new capability that is always changing to counter the threat in near real-time there have been many capabilities that have been a waste of time, manpower and money.

I said many times while serving as a soldier and eventually a military contractor that for every “high-speed” and expensive “whiz-bang” tool we deploy, they (our enemies) counter-act with a lower-speed and non-technical way to defeat what we are trying to do. I personally know of several proven examples of this in the IED fight alone, much less other areas of the battlefield.

So it is refreshing to see our troops using their own genius and ingenuity as part of the counter-IED fight. They don’t need radars, or remote controlled vehicles or anything else. All they need is a fiberglass pole, a blade and some duct-tape. This is the “on the battlefield” ingenuity that we need to support and enable with our troops. They don’t need a Technology Readiness Level rating of 7 or higher, or a PM shop to take ownership or years of research and slow acquisition. They had a real-world, life-threatening problem and they developed a solution.

Another example of this was when I was in Afghanistan from 2006-2007 and the Army mechanics started ordering extra bullet-proof windshields to mount to the top of the Gunner’s protection kit for the gunners on up-armored HUMVEES. They were just windshields that allowed the gunner to see but stay behind protection. By late 2007, all of the vehicle protection kits were outfitted with glass portals or windows that offered ballistic protection, but still allowed the gunner to see.

What examples can you recall of service-member powered technology? How could further empowering ingenuity on the ground help save the U.S. military money in the long-run?

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Troy is an Army brat and the father of combat medic. He is also a retired Infantry Senior NCO with multiple combat tours, in addition to several stateside deployments. Troy retired from the Army and has worked in Information Technology consulting and as a contractor for the U.S. Army. He serves on several task-forces and enjoys working with soldiers every day. Troy is also a recognized and multiple-award winning military blogger who writes at, and a familiar person in many social media circles.