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Home : News : State Partnership Program
NEWS | Feb. 14, 2011

Illinois Guardmembers improve sand tables at remote operating sites

By Army Sgt. Aleah Castrejon Multinational Force

SINAI, Egypt - The command team consisting of Task Force Sinai and U.S. Battalion, began a project creating 12 sand tables--or terrain models--for remote operating sites and the South Camp Response Team.

The SCRT sand table will be an entire replica of South Camp, and for the remote operating sites, this will include everything on site--from the fence that surrounds the site to the buildings within it--which Army Staff Sgt. Rene De Anda, an Illinois Guardmember with Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 123 Field Artillery Regiment, is constructing.

"It is one of the first items a visitor will see when visiting a remote site; the quality of the sand table itself may set the tone for the rest of the visit," said Army Command Sgt. Maj. James Beckman, the senior enlisted advisor of 2nd Battalion, 123rd FA. "The visitor may get a negative impression in regards to maintenance and upkeep of the remote site as a whole if the first item they see is in a state of disrepair."

The sand tables are essential in presenting a clear-cut view of the operating site and are significant when briefing visitors and distinguished individuals. The project began with choosing a Soldier to create the replicas and the Force Engineering Office to gather the needed material.

"The first step was to ensure a rigid design for the enclosure of the sand table, so they would be able to withstand the elements at the remote [operating] sites for several years, without needing any maintenance," said Beckman.

"First Sgt. Andrew Davis helped ensure this by recommending an initial design which was then constructed by Staff Sgt. De Anda, with a few slight modifications he made during the process of building the enclosure, and De Anda also recommended a major change to replace the lid of the sand table with plywood as opposed to the original design using plexiglass."

The project started December 2010, and Davis, the senior enlisted advisor of Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 123rd FA, volunteered De Anda to take on the task after he created a detailed unit crest in the sand. On top of his daily duties, De Anda will spend approximately 40 hours on each sand table.

"The old sand tables were not dependable, so I am making the new ones out of strong, long-lasting materials," said De Anda.

Three sand tables have been completed with the plywood lid which has made the replica firm, durable and cost effective.

"I am currently building the fourth sand table, which is almost complete," said De Anda. "I have been using blue prints and satellite images, as well as getting help from the Soldiers at the sites to create the more detail oriented models for the buildings, fences and barriers."

De Anda uses most of his daylight hours to work on the sand tables.

"I have never done anything like this before and I am happy that I have been given the chance to do this," said De Anda.

The goal is to have all 12 newly constructed sand tables complete for the USBATT remote sites and the SCRT cage on South Camp before the FA Battalion returns home in May.