In The '90s, The Military Tried Giving Soldiers Skateboards
We often picture soldiers in green camo, as though they spend all their time hiding among trees in the jungle. But that's not what modern warfare is like, so in the '90s, the US military introduced Operation Urban Warrior, a project for training Marines to carry out missions in cities.
They were mainly responding to 1993's Battle of Mogadishu, the Somalian incident made famous through the movie Black Hawk Down. It was hardly the first time US forces had ever had to fight in a city, but it was a particularly embarrassing one, with terrorists mocking the US withdrawal and gruesome propaganda footage playing on people's TV screens.
So, the military had to teach its personnel how to fight in a city, where they couldn't quite count on a tank backing them up. One trick they tried: a remote-controlled bulldozer, still very powerful but slightly more mobile than an actual tank. This didn't go well; the Marines called it the "bulldozer from hell," which isn't as much of a compliment as it sounds.
What's the best way to get equipment in the field, when traditional airdrops aren't a good idea? They tried moving stuff using paragliders, with limited success. Also floating above them, the Marines tried an "airborne aerostat communications relay system," which would probably be rendered redundant by satellite-based stuff. The equipment broke free from the training site and crashed in Palm Springs.
And yes, they tried putting Marines on skateboards, in an event best remembered through a single widely circulated photo:
This training exercise was called, awesomely, Urban Warrior '99. We don't see a lot of info on skateboard use after this. But the experiments did lead the military to make better-quality elbow and knee pads.
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Top image: LCPL Christopher L. Vallee