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Thursday, May 17, 2007

U.S. soldiers use 'Silly String' to detect IEDs

WASHINGTON U.S. soldiers have been using plastic goo, donated by private citizens, to help defeat improvised explosive devices in Iraq.

Officials said U.S. combat troops have begun carrying cans of "Silly String" and similar products in counter-insurgency operations in Sunni areas of Iraq. The troops have been spraying suspected homes to detect trip wires around bombs.

"If it falls to the ground, no trip wires," a military official said. "If it hangs in the air, they know they have a problem. The wires are otherwise nearly invisible."

So far, the U.S. Army has not funded the procurement of Silly String. As a result, a New Jersey woman, Marcelle Shriver, has organized a drive to send cans of Silly String to Iraq.

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Soldiers spray the plastic goo before they enter a suspected insurgency stronghold. Silly String can shoot strands up to four meters.

Ms. Shriver was told by her son Todd, who serves in Iraq, that U.S. troops use Silly String to detect trip wires around bombs. She has acquired more than 1,000 cans of the neon-colored product in her home outside Philadelphia.

"If I turn on the TV and see a soldier with a can of this on his vest, that would make this all worth it," Ms. Shriver, a 57-year-old office manager, said.

The manufacturer of Silly String, Just for Kicks Inc. based in Watertown, N.Y., has donated its product to the U.S. military. Other companies manufacture a similar product, dubbed "party string" or "crazy string."

"Everyone in the entire corporation is very pleased that we can be involved in something like this," Rob Oram, Just for Kicks product marketing manager, said.

Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said soldiers and Marines have been encouraged to devise anti-IED methods. Garver said commanders were given money to buy nonstandard supplies.

For example, U.S. soldiers have bolted scrap metal to Humvees in what has been dubbed "Hillybilly Armor." They also welded old bulletproof windshields to the tops of Humvees to provide extra protection to gunners.

Ms. Shriver has found a pilot who pledged to fly the aerosol cans to Kuwait in 2007. The U.S. Postal Service has refused to deliver aerosol cans by air.

"I know that he's going come through this," Ms. Shriver said. "I hope they all do."

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