By Ray Kozakewicz, Fort Lee Public Affairs
FORT LEE, Va. – Five Quartermaster Soldiers spent two days at a commercial sculpture studio in New York City Feb. 24-25 serving as models for castings that will soon be displayed in the U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum. Once complete in about 8-10 weeks, the hand-made figures will be featured in the museum exhibits.
The Soldiers are Sgt. Sidy Diallo, automated logistics specialist; Staff Sgt. Ronald Knowles, petroleum supply specialist; Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie Owens, culinary specialist; Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Prager, rigger; and Sgt. 1st Class Rebecca Smith, mortuary affairs specialist.
“Our plan is for these museum figures to represent five departments of the Quartermaster Corps,” said Paul Morando, Quartermaster Museum director, who traveled with the Soldiers and helped direct the work by the artists at Atta Studios. “All of the figures will be placed within our existing gallery in permanent exhibits depicting their work.”
Morando said, “In the planning process, I had an early challenge to determine how they would be used. Should they just stand as statues or did we want to engage them in some type of activity? There is nothing interactive if they just stood at attention. In our gallery, for example, we have a pipeline that is part of our Petroleum and Water Exhibit. So, the completed figure of the petroleum supply specialist – Staff Sgt. Knowles – will be bent over a wheel opening a pipeline. It will give the public an idea of what these Soldiers might do on a daily basis.”
“The Soldiers were fun to work with,” said Karen Atta, owner of Atta Studios. “This is our first project with the U.S. Army. For some projects, we use generic models, but to work with the Soldiers was a great experience. We were glad they came to New York too, and all were involved in helping to make sure we could do the work accurately.”
Atta has 30 years experience in unique hand-made objects. The firm has over 1,000 figures in the Smithsonian Institute, National Parks, and various museums around the world.
“It was an awesome opportunity to be selected,” said Smith, a 17-year service member. “This was totally unlike anything I have experienced. It was not as bad as it looks (having the material applied to her face).”
Smith noted, “when I found out I was chosen, my first thought was ‘my mom is going to die.’”
Smith’s figure will be holding a flag in the mortuary affairs exhibit.
Morando said it took about 2 hours total for each Soldier to be cast.
“The group of artists did multiple Soldiers at a time and different pieces of their body,” he said. “The face and head molds were one part, the hands were another while the body was another.”
The faces of each were done quickly in about 20 minutes. “The material dried quickly and the artists worked with each Soldier and explained the process,” Morando said.
He credited the Soldiers for being good sports and fully cooperative to allow the artists to complete their work. The departments selected each of the Soldiers.
“I wanted to have good representation of all walks of life of the Quartermaster Corps,” he noted. “The figures will represent a typical Soldier not an individual. It’s who they represent.”
Morando said, “I worked with the artists to explain what we’re trying to go for on each type of look. For mortuary affairs, it was important to maintain a somber look. The pose the Soldier (Sgt. 1st Class Smith) was in will be holding or cradling a flag.”
The figure of Prager will hold a parachute cord representing the parachute rigger specialty, Morando said.
Each of the figures will match the height and angles of the exhibits. Uniforms will be added to the figures in New York and then a resin coating will be applied. All will be approved by Morando before they are delivered to the museum.
“It was exciting to visit New York for the first time,” said Knowles, a 14-year Soldier. “It was really the defining moment of my career. Having an opportunity to be part of military history is so great.”