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GENERATION KILL |

July 18, 2008

GENERATION KILL
Name: Army Girl
Posting date: 7/18/08
Returned from: Afghanistan
Milblog url: desertphoenix.blogspot.com

This evening I attended a Campus Progress special screening of HBO's contribution to the wars of our time: Generation Kill. The miniseries is based on the same-titled book written by Evan Wright, one of the first embedded reporters to cover the war in Iraq, before the military and the Pentagon knew what to do with reporters.

Gracing an audience of college students and other interlopers was producer and co-writer David Simon (Ed Burns was unable to attend), former United States Marine Staff Sergeant Eric Kocher, and Evan Wright.

Going into the screening, I knew that I had little to really compare with the story of those marines. 1) I'm an Army soldier; 2) I am a woman; 3) I've never been to Iraq. But I had little time to think about much else. From the moment the dialogue started, I was sucked in.

The episode accomplished many things with me. I noticed everything, from the fast-paced, non-stop, raunchy back-and-forth between the characters, to the use of the word "homo-erotic" (which brought back a memory of the time infantry grunts enlightened me to the definition), to the seamless construction of dynamic characters and true-to-life conflicts of personalities. It's all there, and so much more. You even get a minuscule glimpse of the desensitizing that goes on in combat as the camera forces you to view civilian bodies lining the roadside and the blood of fellow comrades painting the windows of burned-out, blown-up armored vehicles.

With the characters, the viewer gets one step closer to having a clue than any American does who hasn't served or heard first-hand the accounts of those who do.

I thought that the one-liners were awesome. Interestingly, some of the authentic dialogue from combat made it not only into the book but to the filming. How do I know? Because there are things they say and do that only someone who has been deployed or spent time with a bunch of grunts would know. There were times I wanted to laugh out loud, and many times I did, but I would look around and no one else was laughing -- except the others who were service members or worked with service members. I would say that it was those "you-had-to-be-there" moments in the movie that I loved the most. Like when one of the characters goes on about how having some "(insert vulgar reference to a woman's genitalia here)" would make the people in that country happier.  I HAD to laugh --  because I've heard it a few times before almost verbatim.

Additionally, when the ineffective officer clearly doesn't have the respect or the trust of his marines, it brought back memories of moments where I've witnessed very similar scenes unfold in real time, in the real war. And I've seen the damage it can do to unit and team cohesion, to the safety of soldiers and to missions.

My only issues are petty ones, and I think a critique based on petty points is a testament to the success of the author's mission. There's no way Hollywood can portray a tour in seven episodes on TV, but overall, in my humble POG opinion, Generation Kill does a pretty damn good job of it.

All in all the screening was a success. But the questions by the audience? I'm truly. Very. Sad. I can't believe how far removed some people are from what's going on -- from the issues, from our military communities. There was a lot of back and forth about the draft even after a couple of attempts to move on from that subject.

It bugs me that there was so much concern over the draft issue when we're nowhere near invoking a draft (getting  rid of "Don't ask, don't tell" is a bit more likely to happen). The lady sitting behind me kept saying matter-of-factly, "The draft is going to happen." After a while, I could hardly take it anymore. I commented to a fellow veteran that those people seemed so concerned about it because it would mean that they'd have to actually serve their country (by being a soldier/going to war).

They don't actually care about what a draft would do to the military, to volunteer soldiers, or the war. They just want to know if there is even a remote chance that they might have to leave their cushy lives to go to dirty, nasty places like what they just saw on the big screen to do unfathomable things like kill bad guys and see dead bodies and wounded people. They didn't care or ask questions about the movie, about the characters in the movie that were based on real marines, what it took to get the story from Iraq, to the pages of a published book, to the big screen (which is a bit more relevant line of questioning for an author and a producer, don't ya think?). They just wanted to know if these non-military people thought that THEY might have to one day face the call from their country, to serve.

Despite not being a soldier, David Simon was spot-on in my opinion. We don't want draftees in our wars. We don't want anyone that doesn't want to be a soldier. I don't need you in my convoy, on my mission or even as my bunkmate. I don't want to eat with you, talk to you or even shit with you while I'm deployed.

Soldiers do enough complaining when they knew what they were getting into and volunteered. Imagine the morale bashing a draftee would bring. No. Thank. You. We're not that desperate and we won't be for quite some time. We don't want you any more than you want to stand with us in the ranks.

'Nough said.

For those whose stories this book/series tells, thank you. For the man that took the time to put it to paper, thank you. For the men who brought it to life for those who care enough to watch it, thank you. You've all truly been a part of something bigger than yourselves. And for that, you have my unsolicited respect.

Comments

It was nice hearing your insights into how the American people view your service in the military. If what you are ranting about "the draftees" were indeed true, then you would probably be serving in the German Army. Where do you think the manpower came from in WW2? You must have gone over big with the Vets groups. We don't belong with your "in" crowd, and I guess we are lucky. Don't expect any pats on the back!

Please do not assume that anyone that chose not to be enlisted is not serving their country. You have made a choice and I can support and thank you for what you intend to accomplish. I may disagree with this war and its motives, but that doesn't make it go away. We are lucky enough to have a choice as to whether or not we'll serve. You chose the Army, I did not. We are both Americans and we both love our country. We chose different paths and that's another beauty of our nation. Do not resent me of my "cushy life". I did not force you to leave your home, you did that one yourself. You're not a better American for choosing to go to war. I'm not a better American for staying stateside. Free will baby, it's exactly what you're fighting for. I'm fighting for it on this side too, but without a gun. Let's try to work together instead of segregating ourselves. I wish you good luck in your pursuits and I hope this war does not end poorly for you. We're tryin. We got a lot of shit to do yet.

I apologize if what you got from the above words was offensive. It was my gut reaction to a Q & A session and to select few people within that session.

Clearly, my brief account and perception of that one event does not define where I stand with everyone who was outside of that auditorium.

Just as the few words you've chosen do not define your opinion of all soldiers. (I would hope.)

I will take care not to be offended by your knee-jerk assessment of me or what you perceive to be my "assumptions" and I just ask that you'd do the same.

If you knew me, you'd know that I'm well aware of what I volunteered for and I'm the last person to resent anyone their "cushy life." I just resent those that fear they're entitled to it without at least acknowledging what it takes to maintain it... and a bit irritated by those whose fears of losing their "cushy" overwhelms their reason and good sense/judgment.

The fact that you both read it and were offended does make me question my delivery... and I have and will consider your admonitions sincerely. I'd just ask also, that you consider why you were so offended in the first place. I clearly wasn't talking about either of you. (Unless one of you happens to be a "reporter" for the Huffington Post and the other is the lady that was sitting behind me...)

In that case... please... take offense.

The title "The Killing Generation" puts me off. My first reaction to it was an assumption that this story would involve a good deal of soldier slandering: maybe trying to portray them all as mindless murderers of the innocent or something. What did you think of the title? How does it relate to the series? Is it this series fair to soldiers?

I think a comment like, "My only issues are petty ones, and I think a critique based on petty points is a testament to the success of the author's mission. There's no way Hollywood can portray a tour in seven episodes on TV, but overall, in my humble POG opinion, Generation Kill does a pretty damn good job of it," would suggest that that she did think that the series was fair to soldiers.

I did enjoy the book a lot, as well as Captain Nathaniel Fick's book "One Bullet Away," which follows his career in the Marine Corps and covers a bit of the same ground. Apparently, several people involved have issues with the way that Evan Wright depicted events, but many of them are the ones who come off rather poorly in the book. The fact that so many of the Marines involved were willing to be part of the movie (including Sgt. Rudy Reyes playing himself) would seem to think that they either don't agree or don't care that Wright wasn't accurate.

I think the title, "Generation Kill" accomplishes a couple of different things.

For one, it grabs attention, doesn't it? I think that's exactly what they were going for. It draws people in... it's "in your face" and serious.

It also invokes discussion and I think that's also important. Do we want to be known as that generation? I don't think so. I think there are a great deal of service members who would prefer not to be known as such but then again, I think it's good that people get shocked. I think it's good they watch the show, read the book. It's good that more people are talking about what does and doesn't go on over there.

If all of this means one more unknowing and previously uncaring person engages in discussions with soldiers about this topic or any topic for that matter... then yes, I think the title achieved what I would hope was the point of it in the first place...

But again, these are my offhand opinions. "Band of Brothers" was already taken and who can outdo "Apocalypse Now" or "We Were Soldiers?" "Jarhead" left a bad taste in our mouths and I don't know a single soldier that's seen "Stoploss"...

"Generation Kill." No one will forget the title of this series.

"...Imagine the morale bashing a draftee would bring. No. Thank. You..."

Imagine having people with you who KNOW they can make it on the outside, who are thus not dependent upon rank to lead, who are not constantly sucking-up to and blindly following the ambitious apparatchiks 'above' them.

Draftees fight as hard, win as many battles (and medals, ribbons, commendations, etc) as any lifer.

They also bring something else: Balance to the military mindset of obedience and culture of violence and killing. As John Kenneth Galbraith pointed out in "How to Control the Military," having a draft means having people who are invested in the society at large in a position to prevent the military from being used AGAINST that society. Abu Ghraib would have been less likely to have occurred if the professionals were under the scrutiny of drafted citizens - officers get drafted too, you know.

Sure, draftees have participated in atrocities too - Mei Lai comes to mind, which was, you will recall, initially reported by the professional’s COC as a great victory against the VC - but they are less likely. Galbraith argues that the draft, the citizen soldier - as opposed to the soldier citizen - is a shield against a totalitarian state brought into being by military coup.

I agree with him. I believe the powers-that-be do as well - which is why, I think, we no longer have a draft. Why no longer do we have citizen soldiers, only soldier citizens.

BTW, was 5 years active duty, 8 years in the reserve and in-country during Tet. So, ultimately, I was neither lifer nor draftee - but could see the differing commitments of each: Lifer to military career; draftee to military service to his (yep, all men) country.

As a nation we have survived as a democratic republic because we had a SMALL standing army - augmented by non-professional soldiers (volunteer and draftee) when need be - and because we DID have a standing army to lead the way for those who actually fought and won the wars.

In all of our wars professional, volunteer, and draftee soldiers and sailors have fought side-by-side with courage and honor. God Bless them all: But bring back the draft to protect our nation from having its all-professional army used against our nation's freedom.

The defense of a free nation is not something to be left to a standing army, it is the responsibility of all (male - I admit to thinking that women do not belong in combat) citizens to take up arms when called.

So, Imagine a nation whose defense lies solely in the hands of those who are comfortable living in rigid authoritarianism ... or rather, open your eyes and see what is happening to the United States of America. Once seen as a beacon of freedom throughout the world, and now seen hooding the face of freedom and grinding her into the dust.

Give me a draftee ANY day.

Wow! I guess that explains why there were no heros in the Viet Nam war. All thoes draftees!
As a draftee in the 1st Cav during Tet 68, we all did our jobs. It didn't matter if you were US (drafted) or RA (regular Army, asked for this S***). The draftee with FTA on his helmet fought & died for his country.
As a member of the American Legion (40 years) it has been our effort to make it better for the current military. Our Post are full of Viet Nam vets that don't want you to come home from a (War?) like we did.
Please look close at the parade you heros get. I bet there is a core group of Legionnairs standing there. The Legion is pushing for better GI bill benifits all the time. Maybe we should just listen to hate (talk) radio any purchase a $2. support our troops bumper sticker.

VietVet, Thank you. Both for your words of experience, wisdom and for sharing.

Dan, I got no parade... but don't think I don't appreciate that others do.

Your American Legion has made a great effort but I'm curious... what are your membership rules for females joining? (Rhetorical question, I already know.) As far as females in combat, whether you agree with it or not, it has been a reality for quite some time... I think there'd be a few nurses out there who would be pretty offended if you tried to say that wasn't the case.

To both of you, first and foremost, THANK YOU for your service. Second, although you may or may not have been drafted and though you may or may not have known or worked with soldiers who have been drafted... I would be willing to make the assumption that you have both witnessed a great deal more of the disconnect that I was attempting (albeit poorly) to describe when you came home from the Vietnam War.

Now imagine yourselves, shortly after returning home from war... at a prestigious university, watching a premiere screening of "Apocalypse Now" or some other such war movie. Imagine what it was like for us to sit there and listen as a few people who were clearly against the war, asked the movie director such questions...

You're missing the point. Yes... there are draftees that outperformed and outsoldiered the volunteers. But there were also those that were a danger to the unit, to morale, to troops and the missions. We don't need that today. We don't need any of those issues added to the already complicated interpersonal dynamics of combat. We already have stoplossed troops and disgruntled troops who knew what they were getting into when they volunteered.

I'm not saying I think all draftees are crap. I'm saying I don't need one more headache of one who is. Please. Try to understand the big picture... I realize communicating such things over comments is kind of a lost cause. I think I'll let this one go.

But I am glad that there were people willing to discuss things. People try too much to be PC these days without really sharing. How will we ever learn from each other if we don't share our experiences? Thank you for taking the time...

AG

23-years of service and retired just before the current madness ensued. Agree completely with the two Nam vets.

Army Girl, you'd be a helluva lot better off with some draftees than a lot of these guys brought in recently that wouldn't even have been considered for enlistment in less lean times. But that being said, wars of choice should be fought by soldiers of choice. NO DRAFT! Just let everybody who thinks it's such a great idea keep going back for tour after tour.

Keep as safe as you can. Good luck.

I could never say it as eloquently at VietVet did, but here's another drafted Vietnam vet chiming in. I served 14 months in Vietnam (more on that later), earning a Bronze Star and other awards while with the 101st Airborne. I fought alongside RAs and quite honestly did not see any particular difference between the two. There were slackers and cowards in both groups, just as there were heros in both. When you are placed in a war zone, you do what you have to do. As to why 14 months, my time in Vietnam and in the Army convinced me I had to get out. I didn't even want to spend the final seven months of my 2 years in the Army when I returned to the U.S. The feeling was so intense I extended my tour so I could get an early discharge. The one difference between RA and draftees in the Vietnam era probably is that when we came home we became political, because it was obvious that the U.S. should never have been there, just like it is obvious that the U.S. should not have invaded Iraq. And by the way, this is not "your war," although I'm sure the apathy in the States sometimes makes it look that way. As to draftees, I think every American, male or female, should serve two years of service to the country, either in the military or in some sort of public service. We need a citizens military, one that will imbibe all Americans with the will to protect and preserve our freedoms whether they stay in the military or not. And with such a citizens military, there will be more thought given before invading another country for no reason. The reason we finally got out of Vietnam was because of the draft, because everyone was impacted, not just the families of the RAs. If we still had a draft, we would never have invaded Iraq.
This post may be too long but let me provide an anecdote, very close to home. My brother has a son who would be draft eligible. My brother doesn't worry about solders dying in Iraq because, he says, that's what they're paid to do and that there's nothing wrong with us being in Iraq. When I said a draft was needed, he said if there was a draft he would take his son to Canada. Unfortunately, that is how a great many people in this country feel - as long as its not their children, go ahead and invade another country for no reason. That's what the soldiers get paid for.

Army Girl, I went back and reread your blog about 'Generation Kill', and the rest of your drivel. Then I realized you never even saw action and yet you are a 'veteran'. You probably got a lot out of HBO's 'Generation Kill'. Now you can speak with authority! I think you have a lot of growing up to do. I watched the first episodes and thought a lot of it was just vulgar.
Reading the writings of the soldiers who have been there on these pages give a lot more insights into what the soldiers really go through, than a staged HBO special!

On her behalf, but in disagreement.

The comments here range from the whines of those who never served and never would unless forced and even then would run from a duty demanded, to the legitimate anger of veterans who had no choice but to do their duty, but did it anyway.

For the whiners...you're trying to convince yourselves, not us. Let me know how that works out for you.

For the veterans who weren't give a choice except to become vets, but did their job regardless. I'm of two minds. On the one...I'm sorry ya'll got forced. Maybe because I don't think the ones that got forced should. Mostly because I don't think anyone, volunteer or draftee, should be in the places we get sent to, by and large. But you're veterans. Period. Same as us.

Weren't you bitter? Couldn't you at least understand the anger, at those fresh faced kids, the other ones, the ones with defferements and daddies in high places and excuses and all those _things_ that made them fortunate sons?

I know they were around then. They're around now.

Some of them are republicans that support the troops because poor people need to die somewhere. Some of them are dems who are against the war because it's a convient place to pick up other kids who protest other things.

Those are the ones, it seems, Army Girl doesn't want being forced to serve beside us.And I see her point. I just don't agree.

I want there to be a draft. I used to think like her. But now, I think the draft, a real draft, a no holds barred, no excuses rendered draft, is the only realistic way to stop all but the most neccessary wars from happening.

And when they do happen,I want those fortunate sons...and daughters,right out there with us.

We deserve it, and they have it coming.

Anyway, my .02

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