by: Gino P. Quintiliani [ ]
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have quickly changed the uniforms and gear of the US Army. When they began, we were still wearing the old BDU pattern uniform in either woodland or desert camouflage. These were pretty quickly deemed ineffective and the Army Combat Uniform (ACU) in the Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP), the grey on grey digital pattern, was fielded around mid 2005 with the first Stryker unit that deployed to Iraq. By April 2008, the ACU (as it was commonly called) was the only authorized uniform for wear by US troops, with the exception of those in Afghanistan, who wore a uniform of the same cut, but with a different pattern camouflage, which looks much like the old woodland pattern, known as the Multi-cam. The initial body armor vest was issued around 2001 and was the Interceptor Body Armor (IBA) that was split down the front like any other vest. It was replaced around 2007 with the Improved Outer Tactical Vest (IOTV) which goes over the wearer’s head and attaches with Velcro straps around the stomach. Likewise, the helmets have changed from the older Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops (PAGST) Kevlar helmet to the smaller and lighter Modular Integrated Communications Helmet (MICH) Kevlar helmet around 2004 as well. The basic ammo and accessory carrying gear has changed to the Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment (MOLLE) system which attaches to loops on body armor vests as well. These improvements increased the Soldiers survivability and effectiveness.
Once again, Master Box comes through with a great set of modern figures to add to their growing list of modern offerings. Included are four figures and a Military Working Dog. They could represent infantryman from Iraq or Afghanistan depending on whether you paint them in UCU or Multi-Cam pattern. They wear uniforms and equipment that place them around the mid to late 2000’s. They are wearing ACUs with the original IBA vests and MOLLE pouches for their ammo and gear and all have knee pads on. Three of the four have on MICH helmets. The dog handler has on an older PAGST helmet but without a helmet cover on it, which is a little odd since all regular US Army Soldier wear the helmet covers. By the drawing on the rear of the box, it looks like he could be a USAF dog handler since he is shown with the sage green USAF boots on and it is common for the USAF to have the older helmets and not wear helmet covers. Additionally, he also has an older M16 Carbine, which is an M4 without a folding stock, again, not a common Army weapon. It is not common to have a USAF dog handler attached to an Army unit though, so this is possible.
The figures are broken down into 6 main pieces; torso, 2 legs, head and 2 arms. They have relatively crisp details and fine moldings on the clothing, faces, and accessories. There is a small amount of flash along the mold seam lines, but nothing that shouldn’t be swiftly taken care of with the quick pass of a hobby knife. The figures have the proper MOLLE gear and ammo pouches. Each also has a different assault pack, an AN/PRC-125 radio pouch with antenna, and there is a small sledge hammer for one of them. There is also a cement block included for the SAW gunner to prop his foot up on. Two of the figures have sunglasses on, which is common in both theaters of war.
As mentioned above there are a variety of weapons included. All are well molded and look very nice. The SAW gunner has an M249, but it is an older version with the skeletal stock. There is also a nicely molded sawed off shotgun. The other weapons are an M4 with a scope and an M4/M203 grenade launcher with a scope. There are three pistols in different styles of holsters included. And lastly, there is the aforementioned M16 Carbine. There is also an M40 sniper rifle included so you could arm one of the Soldiers with it and make him a Designated Marksman. Some of these weapons are out of date (M249 and M16 Carbine) and should be updated with other offerings. The ammo pouches are appropriately varied for their weapons systems as well with the M249 SAW gunner having larger SAW ammo pouches and the rest having M16/M4 pouches.
Box Art Differences
Master Box has a habit of the figures in the box not exactly matching the box art. This set is no different. The biggest difference is the Military Working Dog. He is nicely molded, but does not have the harness shown on the box cover molded onto him. It would be easy to replicate with some A&B epoxy putty though. Also, the dog handler in the set, as already mentioned, has an older PAGST Kevlar helmet without the cover. On the box top, he is shown with a MICH helmet and cover. Also, the Soldiers are all depicted with Night Vision Goggle (NVG) mounts on their helmets, but none are included in the set.
I highly recommend this figure set to compliment any of your modern AFVs, or as a stand-alone set of figures in Iraq or Afghanistan. They are well molded and pretty well outfitted. A few replaced weapons and they will be properly outfitted and can look really good.