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Why gamble? Army unveils deck of cards to identify friend from foe



Ace of spades Iran weapons
Iranian weapons are displayed in a previously released deck of playing cards. (Federation of American Scientists)

Want to learn about High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems? You should start a game of Spades in your barracks. Need some information on Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems? Kick off a rowdy game of Egyptian Rat Screw.

A new deck of playing cards the U.S. Army is rolling out is designed as a training tool to help decipher the dizzying array of arms the military and its allies use on the battlefield — and the cards seem well-equipped to help those on the ground in Ukraine.

The set of 52 cards — which include two jokers in case you want to play a game of Crazy Eights — features an array of NATO-made tanks, armored personnel carriers, trucks, artillery pieces and other weapons systems, according to a New York Times report.

Since being invaded by Russia in February of last year, Ukraine has become the third-largest recipient of arms in the world, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. But Maj. Andrew Harshbarger, spokesperson for the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, told the Times the cards were not specifically made for Ukraine.

The cards do, however, focus on “NATO equipment that has proliferated to non-NATO countries,” he said.

The Pentagon has used playing cards dating back to World War II, when decks featured Axis and Allied aircraft. Playing old fashioned games like pinochle in the French countryside was never so relaxing and educational.

In 2003, the military also used playing cards in Iraq to help troops identify its most-wanted fugitives, a deck that famously featured Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as the ace of spades.

Observation Post is the Military Times one-stop shop for all things off-duty. Stories may reflect author observations.

Zamone “Z” Perez is a rapid response reporter and podcast producer at Defense News and Military Times. He previously worked at Foreign Policy and Ufahamu Africa. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he researched international ethics and atrocity prevention in his thesis. He can be found on Twitter @zamoneperez.

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