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Rappelling at Fort Hunter-Liggett

It is my goal to build vehicles and figures to reflect my 20 year service in the US Army. When, I saw this figure, I knew I had to build it. Since, I’ve enjoyed rappelling, even before I joined the army in 1975 and still doing it today. However, now I share my enjoyment by teaching youth through the Scouting Program. It depicts a US Soldier of the 7 Infantry Division (Light) circa 1986, rappelling somewhere in Fort Hunter-Liggett, California.
  1. “US Soldier Rappelling” 1/35 scale, resin, by SOL from Korea
  2. “ ALICE Pack Large” 1/35 scale, by Tamiya, Military miniatures “Modern US Military
  3. Equipment Set #MM266 M16A2, Kevlar, 1 quart Canteens, Ammo pouches from spare box
  1. Figure: Model Master Enamel: Armor Sand, Flat Black, Forest Green, Military Brown
  2. Cliff: Craft acrylic paints. Delta Ceramcoat (DC), Apple Barrel Colors ABC), and DecoArt (DA)
Building the Cliff
The only prep I need to do with the cliff was to clean up the mold seams, prior to painting. After washing the cliff with dish soap, I primed the cliff with Model Master’s Gray Primer. I allowed about 2 to 3 days to ensure the enamel was cured before I applied the acrylic paints.

I selected the following grays to create the rock face: Charcoal Gray (DC), Slate Gray (DA), Quaker Gray (DC), and Dolphin Gray (ABC). I rarely will use black in painting natural rock when using acrylics. The main reason is that over the years using acrylics painting ceramics, I found that black did not work well in creating realistic rock. The only reference I use to paint is my eye and memory of the type of rock I’m trying to paint. What I mean by this is that I stop when it looks right to my eye. Then and only then do I precede to the next lighter color

I selected Charcoal (dark gray) as my base color. I covered the entire cliff over two days to ensure I had covered every inch of the cliff. The next color was a mixture (about 50-50) of Charcoal Gray (DC) and Slate Gray (DA). I applied this mix over most of the cliff. I would leave very little of the base color showing. I then let that layer dry over night. Next, I used Slate Gray, focusing more on the high points of the cliff.

The next color used was Quaker Gray (DC). Here, I applied most on the high points of the cliff. But I did allow some of the Quaker Gray to fall in the recesses. This layer would cover about 50 per cent of the cliff face. I would use Dolphin Gray to set the highlights off. (Fig 1)

Now, I allowed the cliff to dry for about a week. This was more due to the lack of time, then an actual need. Anyway, my next step was to apply some color areas of the cliff that would hold dirt and or vegetation. The reason for this is that rarely have I seen any cliff that did not have areas where dirt and vegetation could be found. I selected a reddish brown for the dirt and a dark forest green for the vegetation (Fig 2, 3). I would use a ratio of about 10 to 90, paint to water mix. I used around a number 2 brush loaded with the mix. I would select an area I wanted and just barely touch the area with the brush. I would allow the paint to follow naturally into the crevice or flat spot. If too much was applied I used tissue to soak up the excess. After letting the paint dry for about two days, I applied some clear gloss lacquer in some random spots to depict some ground water seepage or pooled water (Fig 4).
Turning the figure into a Light Fighter
The actual assembly of the figure was straight forward. The only actual modification I did was to remove the soft cap, to allow the figure to wear a Kevlar helmet. I applied the woodland BDU camouflage to the uniform. Here, I used Model Master’s enamels; the colors would forest green, military brown, armor sand, and black. After about 3 days of drying, I applied clear flat lacquer to seal the uniform. Next, I used a ratio about 20 – 80 (armor sand to thinner) and applied a wash over the entire uniform. I like the effect it gave; it toned down the colors and gave an appearance of being in the field. The two ammo pouches and two canteens came out of my spare parts bin.

I gave the face in camouflage paint job, instead if flesh tones. The reason was that the Standard Operating Procedures for the 7 Infantry Division, all soldiers would apply camouflage to all exposed skin when they wore the Kevlar and LBE.

Next, came the Kevlar Helmet and the 7 Infantry Division’s Rag Top. The real Rag Top that we wore was cut strips of BDU that were either woven through a small piece of camouflage netting or was sewn onto the Kevlar’s camouflage cover. I duplicated this by painting on both sides of a white paper a BDU camouflage pattern. After drying, I began a slow process of cutting many small strips and super gluing each strip separately to the helmet.

The next step was to create an Alice 1 large rucksack with frame, a two quart canteen and an Entrenching tool attached. I used the Alice large rucksack found in Tamiya’s Military miniatures “Modern US Military Equipment Set #MM266. However, it lacks the frame that was issued with it. I used a paperclip, scrap strips of photo etched brass, and a small piece plastic, to make the frame. What helped me with the construction is that I still have the ALICE Large rucksack. (Fig. 7) The two quart canteen was made from a small piece of plastic. While the entrenching tool came out of my spare parts bin.

The rappelling equipment was fairly easy to make. The rope and Swiss seat were made from a piece of parachute cord. I pulled the inner strands out of the outer sheath and painted one strand Olive Drab. I tied the Swiss seat on the figure just like we did in real life. The carabineer was made from a small bent piece of straight pin. The rope itself was super glued to the top of the cliff, twisted around the carabineer, to the brake hand (right hand). Since, the brake hand is a close fist just gluing it to the back side of the hand wouldn’t look right; I glued it the top of the hand and reattached it to the lower side. Doing it this way makes it look like the rope is actually being held by the hand.
Final Positioning
I took some old Parachute Cord (550) and removed 1 inner cord and cut about 2 feet off of it. Next I applied Model Masters Olive Drab to a rag and pulled the cord through it to give it the OD color. After letting it dry about 24 hours I then cut it in half, so I can attached it to the brake hand (right). Next I used super glue to attach 1 end between the thumb and first finger. The other half I glued between the peky finger and the palm. I did it this way because the hand was closed in a fist and if I kept the rope in one piece it would be above his fingers and not behind them.

My next step was drying fitting the figure to the cliff to find the most realistic position. Once I found it I super glued the upper rope to the top of the cliff and pulled it tight. The figured I used super glue and both feet. I allowed the glue to set about a day. The final step was to pull the lower portion of the rope downwards to give it a more natural lay. Once I found the right look, I super glued it to the base.
  • Fig 1
  • Fig 2
  • Fig 3
  • Fig 4
  • Fig 5
  • Fig 6
  • Fig 7

About the Author

About Edward Geer (Manchu34)

Started building models back in early 1970, mainly MPC Dodge cars/trucks and Monogram WW 2 Armor. When I joined the US Army in 76, I stopped building. However, around the late 80s, due to my duty in the Army, I started to build Modern armor for training aids. After my retirement from the US Army in...


Hi Edward, Interesting and different topic for a dio. I know it's only one figure but I would have liked to have seen a bit more mountain, just to give an idea of the emptyness and vastness of being on a rock face. Still space is always an issue and it was an interesting article to accompany the photo's. Thanks for you time and effort to show this side of military life. Cheers Al
JUN 17, 2006 - 03:06 AM
I agree having more of a mountain face would give a better idea of the emptyness and the vastness. However, it would need to depict between 50 to 100 scale feet (15 - 30 scale meters). Not having a ruler handy to measure the figure, I would have to guess that the cliff would have to be between 2 to 3 actual feet (610mm - 914mm) Thinking about it, if I had the resources to create such a large cliff, it could turn out to be a very interesting dio.
JUN 17, 2006 - 08:58 AM
Hi Edward, It's just my liking for big dios, it's always a question of where does one stop!!! LOL, LOL. Of course if you make it bigger you would have to add more figures!!!!! ha, ha. Cheers Al
JUN 17, 2006 - 04:11 PM