By Army Sgt. DaleAnne Maxwell
Special to American Forces Press Service
Feb. 3, 2009 - Dozens of military vehicles, cars, planes and a few other special novelties adorn the walls of the brigade command conference room in the headquarters building of the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team at this southern Baghdad base. Army Col. Ted Martin, the brigade commander, leads a group of soldiers and civilians known as the "Underground Model-building Crew."
They enjoy building models in their spare time, as evidenced in the mosaic of miniatures decorating the staff's operational meeting room.
"It all started after Colonel Martin built the first couple of models," Army Maj. Timothy Reed, the brigade's civil affairs officer, said. "When a couple of us saw that the commander was into models, we admitted that we were also model builders. He then offered to let members of his staff build the models at their leisure and see how they did."
The "crew" members work hard in their spare time to make the airplanes, race cars, military vehicles and dioramas depicting famous scenes in history and movies, with some of the more difficult models taking more than a month to complete, he explained.
The model-building brought members of the brigade closer together, Reed said.
When the command showed interest, it provided a good morale booster and a good break within the brigade, Army Maj. Kurt Giese, the brigade's military intelligence officer, said. Model building is something that can be done alone, and it doesn't take up a lot of time in one sitting, he explained.
"NASCAR is my favorite sport, so as I am putting them together, I can draw back and say I remember going to that race, or I remember that car," Giese said.
Building intricately detailed models is an exercise in patience, Giese said.
"I have had to learn to be very patient while working on the models, and I have learned a good measure of self-discipline; there are instructions that must be followed — kind of similar to what is done in the military," he added.
"It's a diversion -- something to take my mind to a different place," said Walter Koenig, senior business development advisor for the brigade's embedded provincial reconstruction team. "It's fun to see the progress as you move through the steps. It gives you something to talk about in the office."
The model Koenig is working on now is a Christmas gift from his children, but many of the models are donated.
"We really appreciate the donations that have been made on behalf of the soldiers in terms of the models themselves and the supplies and the things we use to put them together," Koenig said. "A lot of those are donated, and it's a nice thing."
(Army Sgt. DaleAnne Maxwell serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)