by: Mario Matijasic [ ]
One of the most intensive combat actions for US armed forces during operations in Iraq happened Fallujah. Everything about insurgency and asymmetric warfare came into play during the 2004 period and proved to be one of the most difficult times ground forces could experience at that time. In those adverse conditions, one warrior figure stands out amongst many others like him – First Sergeant Brad Kasal, of Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines.
On 13 November, 2004, Fallujah, Iraq, Kasal and his men were involved in a fierce firefight inside a house controlled by insurgents; Kasal fearlessly dashed in to extricate wounded team members. Literally bumping into an enemy, he fired a burst of ten M16 rounds to the chest and two more to the head of his opponent before killing him and thus stopping the threat. Under a hailstorm of enemy fire, Kasal rushed to aid of a fallen Marine sustaining seven bullet wounds himself and falling on top of the wounded Marine to protect him from an exploding grenade, took 44 (forty four!) additional shrapnel wounds. Losing blood rapidly, Kasal tended the other Marine’s wounds then guarded them both for 45 minutes until the firefight raging around them ceased and they were rescued. Full recovery from his wounds took many surgeries over a period of two years.
Kasal was later promoted to the highest enlisted rank in the Marine Corps – Sergeant Major. and was awarded the Navy Cross; the second highest military decoration for valor that may be awarded to a member of the United States Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard (when operating under the Department of the Navy) for extraordinary heroism in combat.
This is a review of Airborne Miniatures figure set #3515 “U.S. Marines Fallujah” in 1/35 scale, based on the very known photograph of Kasal being helped by two Marines – with his smoking Beretta handgun still at the ready which epitomizes his extraordinary heroism and fighting spirit.
The kit arrives safely protected in a well-designed hard cardboard box. The box features a nice picture of the unpainted, assembled figures sculpted by Maciek Rebkowski. After opening the box and examining zip-lock bag content, I was surprised to find only 23 parts for the three figures in this kit. The casting is nice; cream resin which has some flash and some air bubbles. Casting blocks of the main figures part are big, but well placed, allowing easy clean up with minimal chance of damaging the detail. This goes especially for the casting block on the 1st Sgt. Kasal’s helmet, which features camouflage net wrapping (colloquially known as part of the “Chicken Suit”). One thing though about the packaging is there are a lot of parts together in small space which leads to possible tiny parts breaking, evident as in this boxing the barrel of the M249 SAW was snapped off.
I assembled the figures for this review. The pieces are intelligently engineered and the fairly complex build is not as difficult as it may seem at first. The overall fit is good, but I had to use putty on several locations.
The first figure (first from the left) is showing a Marine, supporting 1st Sgt. Kasal, and resting a hand on a table, that nicely depicts the body weight distribution. On a single piece head with nice facial expression is the PASGT helmet with a canvas cover and NVG mount. A nice feature that sets this figure apart from others is that the figure on the Interceptor body armor (with a groin protector) has all of the pouches attached to it, so you don’t have to worry about proper placing and alignment which can be troublesome sometimes. 3 ammo pouches are attached to the vest, as well as an IFAK pouch, CamelBak on the back, carabineers, and all of the PALS attachment system is nicely molded and will make painting of the tiny details relatively easy. The lower parts of the figures include the legs and separate parts for the boots. The combat pants are part of the MCCUU (Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform) attire and are molded with lots of details and feature a dump pouch, gas mask pouch and knee pads.
The centerpiece is the 1st Sgt. Kasal figure. The head with helmet is nicely sculpted and features a PASGT helmet with a NVG mount and camouflage net wrapping. The face is nicely sculpted and accurately shows a painful facial expression. The torso is also full of details that will push your painting skills to the limit - Interceptor body armor with 6 ammo pouches on the front, and a CamelBak on the back, in a very contrasting woodland pattern camouflage will attract the focus on the figure. Luckily, the arms resting on the shoulders of his teammates are molded on the figures, since it would make for a very complicated fit. I cannot say enough about such clever molding of a complex pose, so all kudos goes to Maciek for making this easier on the modeler. A separate part is given for the hand gripping the M9 handgun. The legs are sculpted just like on the photograph, with the injured right leg extended forward and feature a thigh pistol holster and knee-pads. Very sad to say, this is also a focal point on the figure since most of the injuries sustained were on the legs so a lot of blood got soaked through the uniform making this stand out on the desert pattern of the combat pants.
The Marine on the right has a PASGT helmet with a canvas cover, IBA body armor and a load bearing vest. Also featured is a sling for the M249 SAW, given as a separate part, slung on the back over a CamelBak hydration bladder. There are several ammo pouches, IFAK and a dump pouch, a fanny pack and a gas mask bag provided for this figure. One thing a Marine figure would never be complete without is the KaBar knife in a MOLLE sheath attached to the front of the vest. The legs are a separate part from the others, since the figure is slightly offset from the other two figures and couldn’t be molded together with the others.
I added some photos of the finished figures to this review just to show you what talented figure painting hands can do with this kit. The photos show the work of Anthony Contorinis from Greece, who added some additional details to the original kit, such as:
• Smoke grenade and zip-cuff constraints to 1st Sgt.Kasal figure
• Adjusted the grip on the gun to indicate 1st Sgt.Kasal's amazing restraint and trigger discipline
• Adjusted the hand angles on both supporting figures.
Well done, Anthony, and thanks for the photos!
This is a brilliantly sculpted figure set from Airborne Miniatures. It’s a very specific moment in time captured very realistically, and portrays the true fighting spirit and the ethos of Marine Corps when placed in context. The variety of the gear and the color options makes the figures very visible and shift the focus of the vignette/diorama to the figures and the action. Molding is very well done, although some air bubbles got trapped in the casting procedure, but it’s no big deal to clean up. Proper fit is also a bit tricky due to three figures being interlocked in one assembly and it will take some filling - hence I wouldn’t give this set to a complete beginner. Only thing to nitpick is the difficulty of painting the desert MARPAT pattern, but that is up to every modeler. This is a set of great, interesting, complex figures that pulls you to build them.