Iraq: Soldiers Get Innovative

It took Marcelle Shriver nearly a year—and hundreds of donations—to pack up 80,000 cans of Silly String to send to her son in Iraq. This was no lighthearted care package: Todd and his fellow soldiers were using the foamy substance to detect trip-wired explosives by squirting the string across a room and watching how it fell. It was a creative response to an ever-changing war and, as it turns out, one of the many innovative tactics being used by American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Chewing tobacco kills: Some troops have taken to eating raw tobacco to kill stomach worms that come from local foods. Veterinarians even recommend mixing it with pet food to get rid of parasites in cats and dogs.

Put your butt to use: Cigarette butts are a perfect fit for gun barrels and can help keep out dirt, sand or water. And they shoot out easily when the weapon is fired. For non-smokers, there are other options: in Vietnam, soldiers rubber-banded condoms around the tops of their guns.

Makeshift medics: Tampons are great for plugging up bullet wounds, soldiers say, and nothing seals a punctured chest like Saran Wrap. Sealed lips: After cholera scares hit the region, some soldiers began using lip balm—or Vaseline—to coat their mouths when they showered, to keep out contaminated water.

Sticky situation: During her training at Fort Dix, N.J., Spc. Cynthia Brabant got in the habit of putting tape, sticky-side up, around her bed to catch poisonous insects. Now in Baghdad, she stretches socks over her boots at night to keep the scorpions out. "It's kind of silly," she says, "but it works."