There are a lot of things you can buy for training and simulation. You can practice defeating snipers with laser “bullets,” hide fake improvised explosive devices in the dirt, or fly over realistic terrain in a flight simulator. But beyond all the fake guns and ammo, there are plenty of other strange things for sale that you wouldn't normally put on your military training shopping list.
A Dead Goat
You never really think about all the weird things you need to buy until you attempt to recreate an Afghan village for training purposes. Strategic Operations has a particularly robust catalog for trainers to outfit their mock towns, including fake dead goats that can lie on the side of the road and potentially conceal an IED - or just class up the joint.
Their online catalog has around 70 pages of atmospherics, replica weapons, terrorist busts, and structures. Need to purchase a pedestrian bridge or a mosque? Look no further. Need a heroin or explosives laboratory to finish your decorating? No problem. From fake Afghan living rooms to hotel lobbies or office supply stores to butcher shops, you can create an Afghan world anywhere. (Staff it with role players for maximum effect).
But amid the pages of fake jails and food carts, the clear standout is the “road kill goat,” which lies on its side with a tiny pink tongue flopping out of its mouth. Because dead fake animal variety is the spice of life, trainers can also consider investing in an eviscerated road kill horse or sheep.
Strategic Operations also provides “hyper realistic” injury simulation, meaning they will paint and plaster you up any number of pustules, papules, lesions, or — if you are feeling like a roadkill sheep — an eviscerated stomach of your own.
To be fair, you can't buy an amputee so much as you can rent one. While typically frowned upon for children's birthday parties and bat mitzvahs, bloodied-up amputees can be a valuable part of medical training exercises. Amputees in Action, a company founded in 2004 and based out of the U.K., offers up the services of people who have lost limbs either in combat or in civilian life.
The amputees are actors who train with special effects experts who can recreate gunshot wounds, eviscerated stomachs, and multiple fragmentation injuries. Medics and military personnel can then practice proper medical procedures such as applying tourniquets and evacuating the injured.
The company claims that such realistic — and often shocking — training can help desensitize military personnel before they deploy. Experiencing potentially traumatic events in a controlled exercise provides a chance to learn and make mistakes in a safe environment.
On June 7, Amputees in Action announced it would be the primary contractor for casualty simulations for Serco Group as they provide training to the British Army. The contract, known as Contemporary Operating Environment Force, will deliver language, culture, and operational training for troops deploying to Afghanistan and on other operations.
Combine Segway bases with a humanoid hunk of plastic and a dash of evil to make what are often dubbed terrorist robots. Technically, the free-wheeling half-mannequins are Marathon smart targets, but “T20” and “T40” just don't roll off the tongue like “terrorist robot.”
As TSJ described them in a May article, these robots can roam freely while service members shoot at them. The targets have GPS and a scanning laser range-finder, meaning they can navigate around and avoid obstacles. They can also be programmed to follow a certain course, and the four-wheel version can traverse grassy, dirty terrain.
When hit, the robot body falls back, giving instant feedback. The system also determines whether the hit was a head/spine shot or a body shot. Meanwhile, artificial intelligence causes the other robots to scatter and run for cover. Perhaps the freakier part is when the robot resets itself, rising back up like an electronic zombie.
Smart targets can move at up to 11 miles per hour, turn on a dime, and operate in environments ranging from 32 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Fortunately, they don't have arms, and here's hoping they still never become self-aware, especially as a growing number of NATO countries are purchasing them for training exercises.
It's a knife! It's a wannabe taser! It's… a training device? And it claims to be “the only training knife in the world capable of inducing FEAR!” In case getting stabbed with a rubber knife isn't getting the desired effect in exercises, leaders might buy Shocknife, a composite blade incapable of cutting but perfectly able to send 7,500 volts into skin.
The apparent advantage lies in the fight-or-flight reaction that the body has when faced with a painful - if temporary - shock that simulates being cut. Creating stress in a controlled environment allows for “stress inoculation,” meaning that people can practice defensive training maneuvers while their hearts are racing or they are considering soiling themselves. There's also no question of whether or not the subject was “cut,” either. You typically notice when a few thousand volts hit you.
For those who don't want to pay for adjustable voltage and are happy to give their students the maximum shock at every contact, no fear. The StressBlade costs half as much but can provide that “acute stress” that gets the blood pumping.
Shocknife has been used by the U.S. Coast Guard, Army, and Marine Corps; the New Zealand military; and various police departments.
Sometimes, you just have to teach your troops not to go around opening pizza boxes willy-nilly. Sure, they might conceal nothing more than pepperoni-laden, thin crust deliciousness, but the box could also hide an IED.
The training device consists of a “fake prop pizza in pizza box, sheet explosive charge, detonator, improvised sheet explosive clip, and customized round fragmentation sleeve.” The prop uses inert explosives, so no one will lose a limb reaching for that first slice of cheesy goodness, but the box is “configured to detonate when opened,” hopefully teaching a valuable lesson about IED awareness, maintaining constant vigilance in the face of artery-clogging foods, and properly tipping your delivery boy (hint: tip with money; do not tip him out the second-floor window).
Not content to offer booby-trapped pizza, the developers at Inert Products make a wide variety of inert explosive training devices and accessories that are “specific to training for the modern day terrorist threat.” This means things like IEDs - and anchovies. It also means fake suicide vests, sniper clothing, machine gun simulators, or, if you need something to wash down that explosive pizza, an inert improvised soda can grenade. Hungry yet?