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Armor/AFV: Modern - USA
Modern Armor, AFVs, and Support vehicles.
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Takom M9 ACE: The History of Dirt Diggler
ultratone85
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Michigan, United States
Joined: April 12, 2016
KitMaker: 3 posts
Armorama: 3 posts
Posted: Monday, April 11, 2016 - 08:05 PM UTC
Hello! I see that there has been a bit of interest in Takom's M9 ACE model on this forum and knowing that the modeling community appreciates historical accuracy, I thought I might shed some light on the real life mission that inspired this model. I only just recently became aware that this model exists, but I cannot tell you how excited I am to find out about it. Long story short, as a Specialist in the U.S. Army, I took the photograph that Takom used for inspiration during my 2006-2007 deployment to Ramadi, Iraq. I deployed to Iraq with C. Company 9th Engineer Battalion, 1st Infantry Division as a Combat Engineer 12B. While I was there I briefly took interest in contributing to wikipedia. The M9 ACE wikipedia article has two photographs that I contributed, the Dirt Diggler photo and also a photo of an ACE with with its apron lifted ejecting dirt from its bowl.

The mission we were on that particular day was to install a Observation Post (OP) between Camp Ramadi and Combat Outpost Steel along Route Spear, one of the worst roads in Ramadi in terms of the IED threat. This was part of a larger operation at the time to install a number of OP’s along Route Spear to make it harder for the enemy to install IED’s. It’s interesting to note that COP Steel was discussed in Marcus Lutrells’s (of lone survivor fame) second book “Service: A Navy Seal at War” about his second deployment to Ramadi, Iraq. We didn’t know he was in the city with us at the time, but he pretty much blamed his convoy being struck by an IED on Route Spear on our Task Force.

The Dirt Diggler photo was taken the morning we were assigned to build OP Blood, we had spent the morning staged to go at a yard in Camp Ramadi. After having waited quite some time for the order to move out a bored and rebellious M9 ACE operator named Nate pulled out a can of spray paint and shocked everybody by graffitiing his vehicle with the now famous “Dirt Diggler” name. The second ACE operator followed suit and painted his vehicle to say “The Quicker Picker Upper, Bounty”. Upon seeing the graffiti, our chain of command nearly lost its collective minds, because spray painting a military vehicle isn’t received much better than graffitiing a building. I stood at a distance and watched as everybody in Nate’s chain of command took turns exploding at him with shocked rage at what he had done. He later told me that our First Sergeant had among other things, threatened that if the paint was still there after the mission, Nate would be removing it with a tooth brush. Naturally as a lower enlisted man I thought this was all very funny and made a point of taking several pictures to preserve the incident.
We ended up constructing OP Blood without any incident and luckily for the two M9 ACE operators the spray paint rubbed off almost the instant the dozer blade touched the dirt. No one was punished for the the graffiti and the rest of the company’s ACE operators took notice of this and it became a bit of a tradition of ours to graffiti the dozer blade prior to each mission, unfortunately it doesn’t look like I took photos of any of the other designs.

This photo is the unedited version of the photo I posted to Wikipedia. When I originally posted it I cropped it and also removed the bumper markings on the advice of an NCO because of operational security concerns at the time.


Here’s another view of the two M9 ACE’s.


Here’s a few pics of “Dirt Diggler” working at OP Blood, I’m not sure what he was assigned to do that day; he was either leveling out the ground or perhaps heaping soil for the loader to use for filling Hesco Bastions.



Here’s a pile of junk Nate built with “Dirt Diggler” that day, he was quite proud of it calling it his “Sculpture” and insisted that I take this picture for him.


Here’s some Iraqi Army Engineers using their loader to fill Hesco Bastions at OP Blood.


Installing a crows nest at OP Blood.


The completed OP Blood two days later.

HeavyArty
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Florida, United States
Joined: May 16, 2002
KitMaker: 16,430 posts
Armorama: 12,766 posts
Posted: Monday, April 11, 2016 - 08:30 PM UTC
Welcome Andy. Great background info for building an M9 and "Dirt Diggler" specifically. Good pics for dio ideas as well. Thanks for the info.
LTMike4208
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Maryland, United States
Joined: May 23, 2011
KitMaker: 39 posts
Armorama: 28 posts
Posted: Monday, April 11, 2016 - 08:34 PM UTC
This is great information. Thanks for posting!
Burik
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New Jersey, United States
Joined: March 12, 2002
KitMaker: 1,382 posts
Armorama: 1,250 posts
Posted: Monday, April 11, 2016 - 08:35 PM UTC
Amazing stuff! Thanks for the detailed explanation and pics!
SSGToms
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Connecticut, United States
Joined: April 02, 2005
KitMaker: 3,444 posts
Armorama: 2,957 posts
Posted: Monday, April 11, 2016 - 09:08 PM UTC
Welcome to Armorama Andy! Thanks for the photos and the story.
amoz02t
#192
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Kentucky, United States
Joined: November 25, 2009
KitMaker: 1,198 posts
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Posted: Monday, April 11, 2016 - 09:32 PM UTC
Great stuff! Thank you for your service and thank you for sharing. Following this one!
AikinutNY
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Pennsylvania, United States
Joined: October 21, 2003
KitMaker: 683 posts
Armorama: 630 posts
Posted: Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 01:21 AM UTC
While I was stationed in Germany 1974-77, my Ordnance company was allowed to paint slogans on the repair compartments on their trucks. Lance sections had a screaming Indian war chief with a long feathered bonnet, Shillelagh section had a mean little Leprechaun on it,I forget what Redeye session had. One of the sections had a PT Barnum circus style sign that read:
Finest Technicians Available (FTA) and they had it for a year or two before some one figured it out.

My M813 Wrecker had "Joe's Junk Yard" in black, on the hydraulic oil tank on the side of the crane. The only thing they sqwacked about on my truck was the yellow and green figure I painted on the front of the air filter housing. "Those colors would give the vehicle's position away in combat"! Not the reflective yellow and black safety stripes on the bumpers and outrigger pads, or the half dozen red fire extinguisher on the crane operator's position.

The best was the commander of the helicopter section on the 11th ACR walking around with a blue cowboy hat, spurs and a chrome sword, telling us mechanics that the yellow tipped safety shoes we were required to wear looked stupid.
fhvn4d
#159
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Massachusetts, United States
Joined: April 07, 2008
KitMaker: 800 posts
Armorama: 561 posts
Posted: Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 02:14 AM UTC

Quoted Text

While I was stationed in Germany 1974-77, my Ordnance company was allowed to paint slogans on the repair compartments on their trucks. Lance sections had a screaming Indian war chief with a long feathered bonnet, Shillelagh section had a mean little Leprechaun on it,I forget what Redeye session had. One of the sections had a PT Barnum circus style sign that read:
Finest Technicians Available (FTA) and they had it for a year or two before some one figured it out.

My M813 Wrecker had "Joe's Junk Yard" in black, on the hydraulic oil tank on the side of the crane. The only thing they sqwacked about on my truck was the yellow and green figure I painted on the front of the air filter housing. "Those colors would give the vehicle's position away in combat"! Not the reflective yellow and black safety stripes on the bumpers and outrigger pads, or the half dozen red fire extinguisher on the crane operator's position.

The best was the commander of the helicopter section on the 11th ACR walking around with a blue cowboy hat, spurs and a chrome sword, telling us mechanics that the yellow tipped safety shoes we were required to wear looked stupid.



All brought to you by the very same Army logic that required us to wear PT BELTS at FOB SHANK and Camp Liberty and to SALUTE officers.... cause ya. Shank was a blackout fob to boot.
RobBye
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Manitoba, Canada
Joined: February 04, 2015
KitMaker: 90 posts
Armorama: 76 posts
Posted: Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 03:52 AM UTC
Thanks very much for your post Andy. And now we know the rest of the storey...
Ultra_aussie
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New South Wales, Australia
Joined: May 20, 2014
KitMaker: 193 posts
Armorama: 141 posts
Posted: Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 06:28 AM UTC
Awesome first post Andy!! Thanks for sharing.

I hope Takom sends you a few free kits for using your images commercially
ultratone85
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Michigan, United States
Joined: April 12, 2016
KitMaker: 3 posts
Armorama: 3 posts
Posted: Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 08:26 AM UTC
Thanks everyone for the warm welcome!

Jim while my unit was in Iraq we were discouraged from adopting any type of unit specific morale markings. They gave us the rationale that it made our vehicles more easily identifiable in case the enemy wanted to target specific units. This always seemed like a lame justification because it seemed to me that the enemy was happy to kill any of us and probably didn't waste much time targeting specific people, but who knows?

When we arrived in Ramadi the base was run by 1st Armored Division and we wore the actual Big "Red" One patch on our uniforms. Halfway through our deployment 3rd Infantry Division took over Camp Ramadi and made us switch to the the subdued Big "Black" One patch. It always irked me that somebody thought that a tiny splash of red was gonna get somebody killed; meanwhile our uniforms at the time (the ACU's) didn't actually blend into anything.

When I was stationed in Korea, I was assigned to a unit with M2A2 Bradleys, it was our tradition to name the vehicles following our first successful crew table 8 qualification. My unit was E. Co. 2/9 Inf. and our only rule was that the name had to start with an "E". So the Bradley I commanded ended up with the name "Easy Money" stenciled behind the turret.

Quartercav
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Hessen, Germany
Joined: February 06, 2014
KitMaker: 41 posts
Armorama: 41 posts
Posted: Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 01:10 PM UTC
Hi, thank you very much for all the information about "Gila Monster"!
I started building two M9 ACE from Takom, both models get markings from the 9th Eng Btl during their time in Germany.
ultratone85
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Michigan, United States
Joined: April 12, 2016
KitMaker: 3 posts
Armorama: 3 posts
Posted: Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 06:59 PM UTC
Hey Andreas! I would enjoy seeing pics of your M9 ACE models when they are done! With your interest in 9th Engineer battalion and the fact that you use the callsign "Quartercav" makes me want to know if you had any connection to the Schweinfurt community? I really enjoyed my time stationed there, and look back on those days as being some of the best of my life!
Quartercav
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Hessen, Germany
Joined: February 06, 2014
KitMaker: 41 posts
Armorama: 41 posts
Posted: Wednesday, April 13, 2016 - 01:22 PM UTC
Hey Andy. At the moment I have no connection to Schweinfurt. I am a "fan" of the modern cavalry. The most vehicles I built are "assigned" to the 1st Infantry Div during their time in Germany, especially the Quartercav (1-4 CAV), complete B-Troop and some HQ vehicles.
The building of the M9 is easy, now I have to figure out the anti slip coating of the vehicle.
Good to hear that you enjoyed your time in Germany and defined as some of the best of your life!
HermannB
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Bayern, Germany
Joined: October 14, 2008
KitMaker: 3,382 posts
Armorama: 3,354 posts
Posted: Thursday, January 05, 2017 - 11:45 PM UTC
Hi Andy/Ultratone,
thanks for the story about Dirt Diggler. I had the opportunity to take pictures of ACE`s from 82nd ENG, 10th ENG, 9th ENG and 54th ENG. Scheweinfurt and Bamberg military installations were good places to take pics in the 1990`s. I wished that Takom chose a vehicle from 82nd ENG with the prominent Blue Babe Ox marking.
Hans-Hermann