Not to be outdone by Mattel and all the other vendors showcasing their wares at this week's Toy Fair, Rupert Valero spoke to design blog Another Limited Rebellion about the very cool action figures he created from recycled materials he finds lying around in Afghanistan, where he is presently deployed with the U.S. Army with a rank of Private First Class. A longtime collector of and customizer of action figures, Valero felt compelled to exercise his creativity even in the harsh conditions of Khandahar.Valero is a former oil rig engineer who joined the armed forces after the U.S. recession made his job untenable, he told toy blog Articulated Discussion. Although he only gets 12 hours off every 24 hours - "a regular work day is about waiting for a fire mission to come down and pour down high explosive rounds on a daily and nightly basis" - Valero makes the time to collect materials and create articulated action figures.

To an engineer, there is always something to make something out of. I see things as useful, where others discard them. When is there time to hobby model? We don't sleep much even on our 12 hours off. Sometimes we are laying on a target waiting to shoot. I'm on my position, and I have my utility knife and bottle caps in hand. I don't ever get bored.

Valero has found that his works inspire other soldiers to find ways to be creative, and Afghan children have responded positively as well.

It's allowed me into interact with the local nationals when I roll out our forward operation base. Toys are universal, be it in mainstream America, or way out in the middle of the desert. There is something wonderful when imagination is spurred up, and if I can do my part and bring a smile to a child, it may deter them from doing something they shouldn't.

You can check out Private FC Valero's complete collection of figures made in Afghanistan at his Flickr page and even purchase some of his original works at his Etsy store.

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