Joint Base Balad (JBB), is about 60 miles north of Baghdad. It’s the busiest military airport in the world, and the second largest airport in the entire world. It has a population of 30,000 people, military and civilian. JBB is a key logistical hub for the Iraq theater of operations. Almost everything comes into or out of our base, and then on to other bases, including the small FOB’s (forward operating bases) surrounding Balad and Baghdad.
When I arrived in Iraq back in November 2008, I was amazed at the number of things there are to do on JBB. There are recreation centers, at least four indoor gyms, two pools (one indoor and one outdoor), fifty different religious services, various dancing lessons, a full movie theater with free movies running every day, and bulletin boards filled with information on things to do. To see a pretty good list of the activities offered, just check out the base newspaper, which can be downloaded at: http://www.dvidshub.net/?script=pubs/pubs_show.php&id=140 (or search for “Expeditionary Times”).
One thing that caught my eye is the Joint Base Balad Plastic Model Club.
I hadn’t built any models since I was a teenager, and was eager to give it another try. I’m not sure when the club was started, but for about a year before I got here, it was run by Major Andy Taylor, from the 555 Engineer Brigade. The idea behind the club is that on Wednesday evenings, we’d get together at the East Side Recreation Center, and build plastic models for about 2 hours. We have several boxes of models to choose from, and a supply chest filled with a selection of paints, brushes, knives, sandpaper, and various other modeling tools.
Most people come for a few meetings, just to build a model or two. Some people take the models and build them at their CHU’s (containerized housing unit, which is where most military live). There are several members who are regulars, and who come to every meeting, and these tend to encourage others to work on their models, and give tips on good techniques. It’s a fun way to spend time, hang out, socialize, and of course build plastic models. We keep a copy or two of Fine Scale Modeler magazine around to inspire folks. Most of us are not nearly good enough to make models like those seen in this publication, but we try. Over time, I’m becoming better. Like I say, though, the main purpose of the group is just to relax and have fun building plastic models.
We have one father-son team that comes regularly. Some guys are really good. Here is Air Force Master Sergeant Raynor, and another AF guy who I think is an O-5 (Lt. Col):
There are clubs like this around the various bases in Iraq, but I believe we are the largest and most organized in Iraq. We are lucky to get some great support from modeling groups and shops in the US. The group leader requests extra models and supplies, and our chest is almost always filled with plenty of modeling materials. Some of the models are great, like the brand new automotive models of which we have plenty still in the plastic. Some are not so great, such as the pre-owned model alien spaceship I built recently that had a receipt from sometime in 1997, and was missing a few parts. But we are grateful for all support from home, and we send out “Thank You’s” to everyone who sends us supplies. Here is a picture of most of the group:
It’s a great boost for our morale over here to be able to build models, and I always look forward to my Wednesday nights here. To conclude, here are a few close-ups of some of the better models. I made the yellow Lamborghini Diablo, and MSG Raynor made the M-1 tank that looks so life-like!