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Iraqi Freedom, Nov 2003 - "... some problems, but morale is high"

Diorama (1:35) built by Stefan Beck


The invasion of Iraq by American and Allied troops began as a part of the "war on terror" during March of 2003. This occurred without an official declaration of war and ended in April of the same year with the capitulation of Iraqi forces. The result was an initial celebratory mood where statues Saddam Hussein were toppled and the capital Baghdad was taken.

Civil unrest began in parts of the country after a relatively quiet period. The civilian population of Iraq suffered terror attacks, acts of war and violent criminal acts. Guerillas were active against the forces of occupation and the newly formed Iraqi security forces. Despite changes in US policy under the new Obama administration the situation remains unstable and terrorist bombing attacks continue.


The title of the diorama (... some problems, but the morale is high, Operation Iraqi Freedom, November 2003) was deliberately chosen because, the insurrection had not started and everybody on the allied side was still euphoric because everything had gone according to plan. That explains the missing "slat armor" on the Stryker which became a necessity when RPG strikes caused increasing losses. By the way, the inspiration for the diorama stemmed from an article in Military Modeling Magazine. There I found a photo that shows a Stryker with a detached wheel. Apparently there is a problem with the hydraulic system or the suspension. (the author of the article finds it amusing that the axle was secured against suspension breakdown with belts rather than with chains as the manual prescribes. I always find it amusing when "experts" try to distort the original, even if the facts stare them in the face.
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Building of the M 1127 ICV Stryker (AFV-Club)

To start with, the vehicle is an O-series, a version that never saw combat. This can be determined from the cover of the wheels as well as the remote weapons station that was developed further with optics and a new stabilization system. A basket to catch spent ammunition casings is also to be found on the newer combat vehicles. Aside from that the building of the model is a pleasure. The instructions are clear and the quality of the parts is first class and requires very little work. I could not the resist the Eduard photo etch for this model and used the fret for the ammo baskets (in my opinion an absolute necessity as well as the exterior set. The two frets for the exterior set includes everything including every eyelet……gluing these on presented me with many happy hours. I also thought that the soft rubber tires were well done, but that is really a matter of taste.

The only real minus is the lack of armored plate which protects the door locking mechanism at the rear of the vehicle. This should be added. One should also mention the beautiful clear periscopes. I had something very special in mind for these. All periscopes in modern fighting vehicles have a coating that protects from lasers for instance those that measure distance. They usually have a color tone that ranges from red-purple to green-blue. To reproduce this effect was a modeling challenge. Polishing and mirror applications from the interior as well as colored confetti pieces all failed. I finally had to resort to gluing on bare metal foil and painting them with transparent Gunze colors. After that I had to deal with all exterior equipment (Tamiya, and scratch built) including the sandbags made from Miliput and the tarpaulin made from Magic Sculpt and the model was ready for the base coat. After the base coat and a black coat of earth color I used the tinlet of Lifecolor that came with the kit.

I had never used the products of this paint manufacturer but found the application not difficult. After post shading and a very controlled use of washing to bring out the fine detail, I began to use the MIG treatment of fine pigmentation. I needed to exercise self control here and not overdo it to get a realistic effect.. An interesting effect can be achieved with pigments and shoe stamps from Calibre 35 . It breaks up large flat surfaces very realistically. Now I added the razor wire roll (Eduard) ration cards (Tamiya), water bottle cartons (Plus Models), water bottles and canisters (Accurate Armour).
Voila! The Stryker is finished.
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Diorama: Iraqi Freedom 2003 - "... some problems, but morale is high" (1:35)

  Diorama built by Stefan Beck, photos taken by  
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Building of the M1025 Humvee by Tamiya

The quality is typical of Tamiya, no more no less. Eduard photo etch was again used as well as the tire set From Plus Models. There is nothing other than the above mentioned extras on this vehicle. The paint job is also relatively simple consisting of a mixture of Tamiya colors in a sand tone and micro chipping with Vallejo paints. I have to thank my fellow modeler Istvan "Stefan" Majercsak who provided the proper decals after I had a disaster with the original set of decals. After the pigment treatment, the Humvee is finished. Antennas were made from heated straightened wire.

Building of the figures

Since the figure market still does not produce satisfactory figures in relaxed poses especially for the modern period, I decided to scratch build the lot. After long hours of research about uniform and equipment requirements, I had a fairly good idea of what the figures should look like. The figures were positioned with wire armatures and chest and hip torso made from Miliput. I added heads and hands from Hornet and shoes by Dragon. After the figure was anatomically correctly positioned the different body parts such as chest, shoulders, upper and lower torso were realistically sculpted. Now the figures were ready to be "dressed" for which I used Magic Sculpt. After the finishing uniforms with all its folds and other peculiarities, and the fitting of the equipment, the figures were ready for painting. Here are a few tips for working with two part modeling putty. After mixing let the material sit for awhile. If you use the mixture right away it is a little to soft to work with. To model and work with the mixture I use "dentist torture tools" but also soft silicon tips in various shapes (available in art supply stores) they are called Colour shapers. As a separation agent I use simply Vaseline. It does not attack the sculpted mass but dries nicely overnight.

Painting the figures

After a coat of white primer, I painted the heads separately from the torsos. This has the advantage that one does not have to be as careful with already painted surfaces. I use only colors by Andrea and Vallejo and in my humble opinion they are unsurpassed. I admit that I have never really mastered oils. When painting is complete and everything is dry the heads are mounted. Then the helmets are glued on and the (Quartermaster’s Depot) insignia decals are applied.. The whole figure is then sprayed with a flat sealer. Lastly I use wire pins inserted in the shoe soles to attach the figures to the diorama.

Building of the Diorama base

The base as in all my dioramas is made of Styrodur. The edges are puttied and sanded. Then follows the ground work gradually built up with Milliput which is then worked into a realistic desert structure. The road is fine sandpaper glued down. As a final touch I apply footprints with a footprint stamp. The diorama is now ready for painting. I used various sand tones to paint the desert floor and after adding the figures and vehicles, I added a selection of pigments.

Final comments

After 350 hours of work everything was finished. I have to admit that I am not the most efficient model builder. The problem with the periscopes took me a good week to resolve. Some would say time wasted. Also the complete scratch building of the figures is something few would attempt. However modeling should be fun I keep hearing. I am fairly satisfied with the end result and I hope that I am not the only one that holds this opinion.
Thanks for being interested and see you at Paul’s (a popular Viennese hobby shop).
  meet the modeler      

Stefan Beck

  My name is Stefan Beck. I began modeling very early, probably since I started thinking. Like many others I started with Airfix and Esci. As the years passed and the modeling budget increased the subject matter also grew in complexity. I now build (civilian) motorcycles, (military) dioramas and figures but also Science Fiction (Warhammer 40000) in diverse scales (1:12 to 1:285).

If you have questions or constructive criticism donít hesitate and contact me.
  Stefan Beck  
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This page:  GALLERY: Iraqi Freedom, November 2003 - "... some problems, but morale is high" (1:35)
was last modified on: Aug 09, 2009
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Translation into English by Werner Stocker (Ft. Myers, FL USA).
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