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Tom Odom
07-15-2008, 02:01 PM
I watched the first episode Sunday evening. I have not read the book. So far I have some positive reactions about the series curtailed by some serious negatives.

Positives:

The eternal resourceful American Marine or Soldier. The guys are out scrounging or simply buying what they need when the system is not working. Such has long been the story and is not likely to change.


Negatives:

Overt racism among the ranks. Maybe I am too old a Soldier but the overt racism--as tolerated and participated in by NCOs--was over the top.

Officer leadership--shades of Band of Brothers--the company commander is a pretty boy idiot. the Lieutenant stands "tall" and lies to the battalion commander.

More to follow. Got a meeting.

Tom

Thoughts, reactions?

William F. Owen
07-15-2008, 03:18 PM
Thanks for the heads up! Watching the Generation Kill trailers on You-tube! Laughing my ass off. The dialogue is genius. Pity no one has ever this accurately portrayed British Soldiers on screen.

Tom Odom wrote:
Overt racism among the ranks. Maybe I am too old a Soldier but the overt racism--as tolerated and participated in by NCOs--was over the top

...and in the early 1980's most UK infantry units were overtly and extremely racist from the top down. I guess most armies are. One the human challenges we don't talk enough about.

MattC86
07-15-2008, 04:26 PM
I watched the first episode Sunday evening. I have not read the book. So far I have some positive reactions about the series curtailed by some serious negatives.

Positives:

The eternal resourceful American Marine or Soldier. The guys are out scrounging or simply buying what they need when the system is not working. Such has long been the story and is not likely to change.


Negatives:

Overt racism among the ranks. Maybe I am too old a Soldier but the overt racism--as tolerated and participated in by NCOs--was over the top.

Officer leadership--shades of Band of Brothers--the company commander is a pretty boy idiot. the Lieutenant stands "tall" and lies to the battalion commander.

More to follow. Got a meeting.

Tom

Thoughts, reactions?

Tom,

I've got the exact opposite perspective; I read the book, but don't have HBO, so I'm reduced to inviting myself over to others' houses to see the miniseries. So far no takers. . .

Anyway, I think your negatives can only be addressed by reading the book. Even in 7 hours, I don't think the series will be able to address the sources of it.

In the book, I too found the view of Recon's leadership a little startling - Wright was riding with four enlisted guys and had far less contact with any officers; from platoon leader to company commander to a few of the battalion officers. Fick's book is instructive in this regard, because he too believed his company commander (derided in the book as "Captain America") was incompetent, as did apparently many of the men in the battalion. But Fick had more sympathy for First Recon's commander, Ferrando, than Wright's book (and certainly more than the enlisted guys had).

As far as the racism, the book featured a Latino Marine who believed he was fighting for the evil white government, and yet good-naturedly traded "spic" and "nigger" epithets with other troops in the platoon. I have no experience with troops, obviously, but just in my generation as a whole, I've found so many guys perfectly comfortable trading those epithets in mixed-race social groups. Whether that's a good thing or not, I don't know, but I think it's a cultural shift.

Still looking for someone who has DVRed this. . .

Regards,

Matt

Granite_State
07-15-2008, 09:24 PM
Tom,

I've got the exact opposite perspective; I read the book, but don't have HBO, so I'm reduced to inviting myself over to others' houses to see the miniseries. So far no takers. . .

Anyway, I think your negatives can only be addressed by reading the book. Even in 7 hours, I don't think the series will be able to address the sources of it.

In the book, I too found the view of Recon's leadership a little startling - Wright was riding with four enlisted guys and had far less contact with any officers; from platoon leader to company commander to a few of the battalion officers. Fick's book is instructive in this regard, because he too believed his company commander (derided in the book as "Captain America") was incompetent, as did apparently many of the men in the battalion. But Fick had more sympathy for First Recon's commander, Ferrando, than Wright's book (and certainly more than the enlisted guys had).


For what it's worth, I found Fick's book much better than Wright's, I didn't even finish the latter because I thought the writing was so bad, only other book I can ever remember doing that with was DaVinci Code. I'd say if you want to read one after watching the series go with Fick's.


As far as the racism, the book featured a Latino Marine who believed he was fighting for the evil white government, and yet good-naturedly traded "spic" and "nigger" epithets with other troops in the platoon. I have no experience with troops, obviously, but just in my generation as a whole, I've found so many guys perfectly comfortable trading those epithets in mixed-race social groups. Whether that's a good thing or not, I don't know, but I think it's a cultural shift.


Second that, with my friends the N-word is usually out of bounds (more in the U.S. than Britain), but everything short of that is fair game, and very rarely results in offense. I tend to think that's a good thing.


Still looking for someone who has DVRed this. . .

Regards,

Matt

Matt go to www.surfthechannel.com, they've got the first episode up. I'm currently torn on whether to start watching it online now or wait til I get home in two months and see them all then.

My pacifist lefty German mother started watching the series though, I'd have to think if you can get someone like that to watch a relatively sympathetic portrayal of the military, it makes up for some of the negligence of the media in covering the wars now (way more Britney on the news than Afghanistan, etc.).

VMI_Marine
07-16-2008, 03:59 PM
Negatives:

Overt racism among the ranks. Maybe I am too old a Soldier but the overt racism--as tolerated and participated in by NCOs--was over the top.

Officer leadership--shades of Band of Brothers--the company commander is a pretty boy idiot. the Lieutenant stands "tall" and lies to the battalion commander.


Sir, I enjoyed the first episode for its relatively faithful portrayal of a platoon of infantry Marines. The overt rascist jibes happen about like they're portrayed, although I think they tend to defuse any racial tension, unlike what was shown in the episode.

During the initial training range sequence, the radio traffic between the FAC and aircraft was pretty damn realistic. The terminology all seems to be spot on as well.

The company commander, "Encino Man", is portrayed as an idiot because that seems to have been the general perception. (I think I ran into "Capt America" in Nasiriyah when 1st Recon passed through our battalion's lines. I remember walking the guy around my lines and thinking to myself, "This guy's a moron.") The actor playing LtCol Ferrando certainly talked like an infantry battalion commander.

One thing that bugged me is the Lt Fick character repeatedly calling his TL, Sgt Colbert, by his first name.

Ken White
07-16-2008, 05:41 PM
...One thing that bugged me is the Lt Fick character repeatedly calling his TL, Sgt Colbert, by his first name.Why is that?

jkm_101_fso
07-16-2008, 05:56 PM
Why is that?

Because it just doesn't happen, or it's not supposed to. PLs don't refer to their NCOs by first name. I think it's pretty unheard of...and unprofessional. Just my 2 cents. Maybe in SF units or Force Recon, it's acceptable, I wouldn't know, but for a line Infantry company, no.

Maximus
07-16-2008, 06:16 PM
In 99.99999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999 999999% of Marine infantry units you would never see this. The only time this might be different is if an officer was talking to a wounded Marine or to a family member about their husband or son, etc.

Cavguy
07-16-2008, 06:18 PM
I went to the HBO website and watched all the trailers/interviews. Looks authentic to me. Laughed my a** off actually at some of the dark humor that soldiers are famous for.

Got to get HBO ... :(

Tom Odom
07-16-2008, 06:28 PM
I went to the HBO website and watched all the trailers/interviews. Looks authentic to me. Laughed my a** off actually at some of the dark humor that soldiers are famous for.

Got to get HBO ... :(

I really laughed at, "Quiet down. I can't hear the artillery..."

bourbon
07-16-2008, 06:46 PM
For what it's worth, I found Fick's book much better than Wright's, I didn't even finish the latter because I thought the writing was so bad, only other book I can ever remember doing that with was DaVinci Code. I'd say if you want to read one after watching the series go with Fick's.
I agree that One Bullet Away is the better book, they do however compliment each other well. Generation Kill covering the nitty-gritty grunts eye perspective, and One Bullet Away on a another level.
Heh, I've heard Salman Rushdie in a speech once say something along the lines of: "You know normally I am against assassinating writers because of their novels, but after reading the DaVinci Code...."

During the initial training range sequence, the radio traffic between the FAC and aircraft was pretty damn realistic. The terminology all seems to be spot on as well.
My understanding is that they tried to incorporate as much of the battalions recorded radio traffic as possible into the series. Also several members of the platoon served as technical advisers in the making of it, and did their best to make sure the terminology was nailed down.

As far as the racism, the book featured a Latino Marine who believed he was fighting for the evil white government, and yet good-naturedly traded "spic" and "nigger" epithets with other troops in the platoon.
This is the guy who was a repo man in south central LA right? And he kept getting shot at in his job repossessing cars that he figured he might as well join the Corps. Isn't he also part Native American? I know one of the guys is, they have one of the more memorable quotes in the book about the shame of watching Pocahontas with his daughter.

My pacifist lefty German mother started watching the series though, I'd have to think if you can get someone like that to watch a relatively sympathetic portrayal of the military, it makes up for some of the negligence of the media in covering the wars now (way more Britney on the news than Afghanistan, etc.).
I was in the book store yesterday, the book has been re-released with a new afterward, I read it. Wright says that when the book first came out, there was a quote in it from a Marine, that said combat was like playing Grand Theft Auto. This particular quote was cited often as an example of how today's youth cannot distinguish between reality and video games.
In the time since the book was published, Wright realized that this was more indicative of the nationsinability to distinguish between the realities of war, and the fantasies of media and video games. Rather than this particular Marines inability to do so. I thought this was particularly sharp.

Ken White
07-16-2008, 06:57 PM
Because it just doesn't happen, or it's not supposed to. PLs don't refer to their NCOs by first name. I think it's pretty unheard of...and unprofessional. Just my 2 cents. Maybe in SF units or Force Recon, it's acceptable, I wouldn't know, but for a line Infantry company, no.Having spent a great deal of time in line units and having been called by rank as well as by first, last and unprintable names by Officers ranging from 2LT to BG I'd be inclined to say it depends on the unit and the people -- as well as the circumstances; level or intensity of combat can make a difference. I do not see it as 'unprofessional' (whatever that means) at all. You have to know your people and I can truthfully say that neither any Officer that called me by my first name nor I ever forgot who I was or who they were.

I suspect part of it is a self confidence thing. I think it interesting that you posit it may be acceptable in SF or Force Recon but not in line units. Seems to me it either would be okay or it wouldn't. Fire a few inert rounds and give a good line unit the extra training SF or Recon get and you'd get similar performance capability..

For Maximus I agree that in most Marine units it would be far less likely to happen than it would be in the Army -- for several reasons -- but I can truthfully say that back in my misspent youth as an 1811 in Korea my Platoon commander called me by my first name most of the time. That was the only place in the Corps that happened but it was handy, that way I always knew when I'd fouled up. ;)

jkm_101_fso
07-16-2008, 07:50 PM
Having spent a great deal of time in line units and having been called by rank as well as by first, last and unprintable names by Officers ranging from 2LT to BG I'd be inclined to say it depends on the unit and the people -- as well as the circumstances; level or intensity of combat can make a difference. I do not see it as 'unprofessional' (whatever that means) at all. You have to know your people and I can truthfully say that neither any Officer that called me by my first name nor I ever forgot who I was or who they were.

Since being commissioned, I have always been called by my first name by officers senior to me. At least alone or amongst other officers, anyway; rarely in front of troops. As an enlisted Soldier, I was never called by my first name by anyone, from TL up to CO (although I was called many other things). I suppose it is a double standard, because I have NEVER referred to an NCO or a Soldier by their first name. Not one time, ever; because I was taught that it wasn't professional. Maybe I'm wrong. Additionally, I didn't say that is was correct that SF types call each other by their first name, I just heard from friends in that community that it was common and accepted.

VMI_Marine
07-16-2008, 08:57 PM
Having spent a great deal of time in line units and having been called by rank as well as by first, last and unprintable names by Officers ranging from 2LT to BG I'd be inclined to say it depends on the unit and the people -- as well as the circumstances; level or intensity of combat can make a difference. I do not see it as 'unprofessional' (whatever that means) at all. You have to know your people and I can truthfully say that neither any Officer that called me by my first name nor I ever forgot who I was or who they were.

I suspect part of it is a self confidence thing. I think it interesting that you posit it may be acceptable in SF or Force Recon but not in line units. Seems to me it either would be okay or it wouldn't. Fire a few inert rounds and give a good line unit the extra training SF or Recon get and you'd get similar performance capability..

Some find it acceptable to call SNCOs or senior sergeants by first name. I'd be ok doing it outside of a "work" environment. My closest friend from my lieutenant time is my old platoon sergeant - I just spent a week at his house in the Netherlands back in May. Certainly a lot of older officers (captain and above) are on first-name basis with their senior enlisted advisors during off-duty hours. Nothing wrong with that either. They don't do it in front of the junior Marines, though.

I'm not saying it was unrealistic; I'm sure it does happen in Recon, and Nate Fick may have been on a first name basis with Sgt Colbert, but it seemed out of place to me. The fact that I noticed it at all, however, goes to show how accurate the rest of it is.

MikeF
07-16-2008, 09:57 PM
In nineteen months of command (12 in combat), I raised my voice only thrice.

I called my SSG's and above by their first names.

If they were called by their rank/last name, then they knew they were in trouble.

It builds a cohesive team specifically in the most tenacious times of trench/room clearing.

To me, this issue is as irrelevant and silly as the grooming standards commissioned by the Marine Battalion and expressed today by the PT reflective belts at LSAA.

Professionalism lies in the cleanliness of the weapons, the readiness of the equipment, and the response time to an action.

Brotherhood lies in the bonds shared throughout the tense times.

From my subordinates, I was always referred to as sir.

I am regular army. Only short bus special.

For me, I smiled throughout Generation Kill as I relived my time as a platoon leader on their western flank in 3rd ID.

Ken White
07-16-2008, 10:35 PM
to admit that in 27 years in a war suit and 18 as a DAC, the only time I ever got told I was 'unprofessional' was when a Hindquarters Co 1SG accused me of being that because I refused to have the troops wax and buff the floor in the Brigade 3 shop every single night. I was hard put to figure the 'unprofessional' part of that and I'm still confused on the issue, obviously. On the floor, didn't lose a lot of sleep over it -- nor did I change the cleaning SOP..:wry:

Long way of pointing out that different approaches are not all bad. For another example, that same book says we should "praise in public and condemn in private." That is generally true but some people get really upset when you praise them publicly and for others, the worst thing you can do to them, worse than any chewing, extra duty or a fine, is to embarrass them in public. Still another is the well known 'on the spot correction.' Sometimes necessary -- rarely -- but mostly, such corrections should be avoided because they subvert the chain of command. Heebly's bad performance won't improve unless his Squad Leader knows about it (and if the Squad Leader is the problem, the Platoon sergeant knows and so on, thus best to note the transgression and cue the appropriate echelons above old Heebly, METT-TC permitting)...

That said, no intent to denigrate anyone or any practice, just trying to point out that people and standards can differ -- and if they work for the time and place, none is necessarily wrong; they're just different. That and mention that even good books are just a guide; they are not the gospel. It really all boils down to knowing your people and what works for you...

After my mindless digression, we now return to our scheduled program; "Generation Kill" :cool:

wm
07-16-2008, 11:12 PM
I think part of the issue has to do with what one views in others as worthy of offering respect.

As a young LT I addressed my NCOs by rank and last name, in deferrence to their age and experience--each of them was older and wiser than I. I spoke to most of my (E-4s only had SP4s, no corporals) and below by their first names. Similarly to MikeF, when I addressed them by rank and last name, they knew they were in trouble. As I rose in rank and experience, I was more likely to address my junior NCOs by first name, unless they were in the comnpany of their subordinates. I never came to a point whre I could address an E9 as anything other than Sergeant Major X. Perhaps the weirdest event was coming to a position as a senior Major where I supervised my former PSG, now a GS-11. Calling him by his first name was always tough for me and calling him PSG L was inappropriate. Funny thing was that I had no problem addressing by first name a former section sergeant (also an E7 during my Plt Ldr days) who was also now a GS-11. It was also tough to address my former college professors as anything other than Professor X even though I was also a professor at the time.

BTW, I haver addressed anyone of any rank simply by his/her rank, except to be insulting. That practice is the epitome of depersonalization as far as I am concerned. It is probably more demeaning than referring to people just by last name.

selil
07-17-2008, 03:10 AM
Because it just doesn't happen, or it's not supposed to. PLs don't refer to their NCOs by first name. I think it's pretty unheard of...and unprofessional. Just my 2 cents. Maybe in SF units or Force Recon, it's acceptable, I wouldn't know, but for a line Infantry company, no.

I thought they were recon? Being used in an inappropriate role. The watch cap debacle I thought was hillarious. Kind of like Tanker Boots after I finished armor school.

Stan
07-17-2008, 08:08 AM
I called my SSG's and above by their first names.

Brotherhood lies in the bonds shared throughout the tense times.

From my subordinates, I was always referred to as sir.

I think part of the issue has to do with what one views in others as worthy of offering respect.

As a young LT I addressed my NCOs by rank and last name, in deference to their age and experience--each of them was older and wiser than I. ... I never came to a point where I could address an E9 as anything other than Sergeant Major X.

I fully concur with Mike and Wayne; I see no issues/instances of lack of professionalism. In my 23 years (other than my E-1 thru E-4 days), most of my SNCOs and nearly every officer addressed me by my first name. Typically, the senior officers were far easier and the E-9s... Well, what Wayne said :D

Spud
07-17-2008, 10:54 AM
In 99.99999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999 999999% of Marine infantry units you would never see this. The only time this might be different is if an officer was talking to a wounded Marine or to a family member about their husband or son, etc.
It really is funny how cultural all of this is. I can remember being absolutely stunned and horrified attending a re-enlistment ceremony in Iraq for a female USMC CPL COMCAM operator who worked for us. She was a switched soldier who had just come out of a job in Anbar where she had to drop her camera, shoulder her rifle and slot a couple of bad guys ... she was so gee'd up about it she asked to re-up on the spot. Anyway there was a USMC 1-star and a female O6 who ran the ceremony with all of us looking on. Both principals spoke about the CPL's career at length (about 20 mins in total I guess) during the ceremony ... quite a moving thing in a combat area as it is not something I had experienced before (we don't have re-enlistment ceremonies ...we just sign up for a minimum period and then get out when we've had enough) but apart from the final pronouncement of the Corps owning her for the next few years, neither speaker ever referred to her as a person. The speeches were littered with "this marine" or "this CPL" (about 15 'marines' to the 'CPL') and all I could think of was how bloody impersonal it all was. I mean here was this young kid who just offered to keep putting her life on the line (in an adrenaline-fuelled haze that I hope she doesn't regret now) and they couldn't even be bothered to call her 'Michelle' (not her real name) or even 'CPL XXXX.' What made it really weird for me was when I commented on it to one of the guys I was working closely with, a USMC CAPT, and he looked at me like I was stupid ... apparently it was the highest honour to be completely de-personified and to become one with 'Marine' ... it was like I was dealing with the F#@&ing Borg! ;)

I used to always get in the #### from the couple of E6s, 7s and the 8 who worked with us as well. As the sole Aussie I made a point getting to know everyone in the small team pretty closely and I'd always call these lads by their first name. Here, like others have indicated, rank and last name is reserved for discipline or in the presence of seniors outside your normal C2 structure. Top used to drag me aside and tell me how I was disrespecting the rank the lads had earned by not using it. I pleaded “diplomatic immunity” and told them straight up that it wasn’t the way we played it in our Army and that I felt knowing them as people was just as important as knowing they could do the job their rank entailed ... in the end it worked out but I know one of them was never really happy ... I was just that "crazy Aussie officer who didn't know #### about the big army." I might also of got that name by being the crazy white guy who didn’t know better and stayed around playing dominos with them all after work.

Here, with seniors in my own C2 chain (apart from my 2-star) pretty much all of them are 'Boss' if no-one else is around. Might be a hang over from my days as a soldier and Section Comd where if I had a good Pl Comd he was 'Boss' and if he was a clown he was always 'Sir.' A 'Boss' here is someone you want to work with. A 'Sir' is often someone you have to work with.

But then again according to most of you I'm upside down :D

Tom Odom
07-17-2008, 02:23 PM
I fully concur with Mike and Wayne; I see no issues/instances of lack of professionalism. In my 23 years (other than my E-1 thru E-4 days), most of my SNCOs and nearly every officer addressed me by my first name. Typically, the senior officers were far easier and the E-9s... Well, what Wayne said :D

That's right. When Stan called me "Colonel" I knew I had screwed up :eek:

VMI_Marine
07-17-2008, 04:37 PM
I thought they were recon? Being used in an inappropriate role.

The whole first name thing has gotten blown a little out of proportion, I think. I've got that I am apparently the only member of this board who, while enlisted, was not addressed by his first name by superior officers. :wry: The point is that it was the only thing that seemed out of place to me. In my experience, I don't see many Marines being addressed by their first name in that particular context - even within reconnaissance and ANGLICO.

To answer selil's question; yes, they were the division reconnaissance battalion, vice the MEF force reconnaissance company. I disagree that they were used inappropriately - they were used nontraditionally, but they performed an economy of force mission that, with some additional training, the battalion was well suited to.

Some good reading on that subject would be "Ground Reconnaissance in OIF: A Perspective from Within 1st MarDiv", by LtCol Stephen A. Ferrando and Maj Todd S. Eckloff; and "A Reconnaissance Platoon's Perspective" by 1stLt Nathanial C. Fick; both from Marine Corps Gazette, Jul 2003. The first article covers how Operation DESERT STORM showed the limited utility of traditional R&S teams in a mobile environment, and resulting change in mission for 1st Reconnaissance Battalion.

The watch cap debacle I thought was hillarious.

The best part of that was the battalion commander's reaction to the Marines wearing their watch caps in the chow hall - "Cocky MFers." :D

Ken White
07-17-2008, 04:48 PM
...To answer selil's question; yes, they were the division reconnaissance battalion, vice the MEF force reconnaissance company. I disagree that they were used inappropriately - they were used nontraditionally, but they performed an economy of force mission that, with some additional training, the battalion was well suited to.Tailor made for, in fact...The best part of that was the battalion commander's reaction to the Marines wearing their watch caps in the chow hall - "Cocky MFers." :DDeja vu all over again. Some 1st Recon Co folks in Korea wore watch caps when going out on patrol; one squad even got hold of some brass Dress Barracks Cap Emblems and fixed them front and center, sort of harming the stealth aspects of black face paint and dark uniforms -- until they were told to lose the emblems because they were setting a bad example for the Grunts while heading across the MLR. Excessive cockiness was cited... :D

Tom Odom
07-21-2008, 07:32 PM
Ok I watched part 2 last evening and in keeping with the pro and con format I used before, here are my comments:

Pro:

a. Good Marines/Soldiers do well regardless of obstacles human or otherwise. Good leaders reduce obstacles.

b. Humor comes in all forms and Marines/Soldiers provide some of the better stand up routines....'quiet down, I can't hear the artillery.."; "These Hajjis are hotties..."; and "Hello! Vote Republican..."

c. Good portrayal of reactions to combat from the sniper to the young troop who kept wanting to shoot his weapon.

Con:

a. Captain America seems to have a number of companions. Bad leadership breeds such companions.


Mixed:

"In my darkest moments, I fear doing something General Mattis does not like..."


Tom

selil
07-21-2008, 08:24 PM
I'm afraid I thought last nights episode was hilarious. The roll over a tank is going by routine was a memory straight out of a dark night long ago. I can still hear the snickering all these years gone by as guys rolled over.

The abject fear and courage in the face of violence is neither glamorous or sexy. It is though a reflection of reality. A pale often tainted reflection. The what is likely relative few times I've stood toe-to-toe with the devil I did not dance with glee, crack wise ass jokes, or beat my chest. All I can say is I survived. I see some of that in the made for television veneer.

Wildcat
07-21-2008, 10:20 PM
I was on vacation in Yellowstone last week, so for the past 36 hours I've been playing catchup with "Generation Kill." I've had the DVR set to record the whole series and I've been thoroughly impressed with the first two episodes. The realism, the banter. Like VMI_Marine, I was struck by Lt. Fick addressing Sgt. Colbert as Brad. The way I've been taught, that just doesn't typically happen in the Marine Corps, particularly in the field. It's a culture thing for Marines, I think.

I'll share more thoughts later. In a rush right now.

MikeF
07-21-2008, 10:52 PM
Generation Kill is spot on. As a member of the western flank (3rd ID), this story encapsulates my memories. As I watch, I remember what occured- specifically, the karoake of the popular songs of that period.

One disturbing note,

In episode two, on the onset of the strike into Nassiriyah, the Marines remarked that they thought that the Army had already cleared the town.

That was never the mission. We left Nassiryah three days before they arrived, and our mission was west of the town-

Specifically, bypass Nassiriyah, seize Talil Airfield, destroy the 11th ID, and seize the bridge. We accomplished our mission. Subsequently, the Fedayeen secured the town. I always wondered why the marines suffered so many casualites on the onset of the war, and now I guess I know why.

VMI_Marine
07-22-2008, 12:15 AM
Generation Kill is spot on. As a member of the western flank (3rd ID), this story encapsulates my memories. As I watch, I remember what occured- specifically, the karoake of the popular songs of that period.

One disturbing note,

In episode two, on the onset of the strike into Nassiriyah, the Marines remarked that they thought that the Army had already cleared the town.

That was never the mission. We left Nassiryah three days before they arrived, and our mission was west of the town-

Specifically, bypass Nassiriyah, seize Talil Airfield, destroy the 11th ID, and seize the bridge. We accomplished our mission. Subsequently, the Fedayeen secured the town. I always wondered why the marines suffered so many casualites on the onset of the war, and now I guess I know why.

Mike, I was with TF Tarawa, and I remember being told that 3rd ID was supposed to secure it before we got there. How that got passed around, I don't know. It had nothing to do with the casualties suffered in the city, however. 1/2 was the lead battalion in the TF, and they encountered the survivors of the 507th Maintenance Convoy, so they were aware that Nasiriyah was going to be a fight. Most of their casualties came as a result of bad communications during the push through Ambush Alley - one company pushed all the way north through the city and inadvertently drove into the Iraqis' engagement area on the north side of the city.

Marines in the Garden of Eden by Richard S. Lowry is the best book I've come across so far on the battle. Cobra II fills in a few blanks as well. Both were very useful for someone who never saw more than 100-200m in front of my platoon's lines.

MikeF
07-22-2008, 02:12 AM
Thanks for the update VMI_Marine.

Initially, after bypassing the main town and seizing W Nassiriyah (11th ID HQ, Talil airfield, and the bridge), we were told that Marines would relieve us in place. On the 20 or 21st, we were told to push west to As Samawa without a relief. I always wondered what happened to the Marines when they eventually pushed through.

Like you, I was a simple platoon leader looking 100-200m out.

Obviously, our units had some breakdown over secure and bypass. Unfortunately, this miscommunication cost us Marines.

v/r

Mike

120mm
07-22-2008, 05:34 AM
As I sat and watched this on BLUFOR tracker, back in the V Corps Rear TOC, it became obvious that the Marines and 3ID had two completely different understandings of their mission. Other than the "Operational Pause", 3ID appeared to be moving faster than V Corps expected, and TF TARAWA was moving slower than V Corps expected.

From reading the rough draft of the V Corps history, I'm not aware if anyone is actually studying why this was.

Is someone writing/has written something on this out there? I admit that I've not kept up on the details since 2004.

Wildcat
07-22-2008, 04:13 PM
Marines in the Garden of Eden by Richard S. Lowry is the best book I've come across so far on the battle. Cobra II fills in a few blanks as well. Both were very useful for someone who never saw more than 100-200m in front of my platoon's lines.

I've been meaning to pick both of those up. Hey VMI_Marine, when you come home this weekend would you mind bringing those with you? I'll trade them for your "24" DVDs that I still have. :wry:

I read Generation Kill a few years back when it first came out and a friend lent it to me. I thought it was interesting, and exposed the reader to parts of the Marine Corps that weren't as visible in books like The March Up and No True Glory. Of course, the purposes of those books were radically different than the purpose of Generation Kill. GK examines the grunt culture, whereas the others look at how the battles were fought and won, geared more towards the intrepidity of the riflemen and the professionalism of their officers and NCOs. GK offers a vision that is a lot more cynical and abrasive, though to a lesser degree than books like, say, Anthony Swofford's Jarhead. Still, I consider it a valuable addition to the pantheon of Long War literature. (Not Jarhead. Different war, different times, and I didn't really like that book very much to begin with. But GK was a solid read.)

Nate Fick's book, One Bullet Away, is probably the biggest thing to hit the Marine Corps officer pipeline in years. I say that with a bit of hyperbole, but I've actually heard from officer candidates who said that Fick's book directly motivated them to try to become Marine officers. Practically everybody going through Quantico these days has read that book and raves about it, and they tend to elevate Fick to almost demigod status. I don't fall into the crowd of Fick-worshippers, but I do own a copy of the book and I definitely enjoyed reading it. I would say it had a minor impact on my decision to pursue a commission. He's a talented writer and a free-thinker, and his brand of idealism appeals to liberal arts wonks like myself. Still, I've heard of some accusations that details and events in Wright's and Fick's books were embellished, and that wouldn't entirely surprise me. But all the same, I'm really enjoying watching the miniseries so far.

VMI_Marine
07-22-2008, 07:00 PM
Thanks for the update VMI_Marine.

Initially, after bypassing the main town and seizing W Nassiriyah (11th ID HQ, Talil airfield, and the bridge), we were told that Marines would relieve us in place. On the 20 or 21st, we were told to push west to As Samawa without a relief. I always wondered what happened to the Marines when they eventually pushed through.

I reread some excerpts from Marines in the Garden of Eden this morning. TF TARAWA was briefed by COL Allen before the war that his brigade was going to secure the Hwy 1 bridge and etablish a blocking position on Hwy 7 south of An Nasiriyah. Somehow this got translated down to my level that you guys would clear the city ahead of us. According to the book, 3ID never set up the blocking positions on Hwy 7, but told the TF TARAWA staff when they conducted final coordination at Talil on the night of the 22nd.

120mm, TF TARAWA may have been moving slower because 2 out of the 3 battalions in the TF Ground Combat Element were mounted in trucks, not AAVs. In addition, our entire move from Kuwait to Hwy 7 near Talil was cross-country, which slowed us considerably.

I watched Episode 2 last night - it was about as close a depiction of An Nasiriyah as I think you're going to get. It was interesting that they showed Hwy 7 through Ambush Alley being a narrow 2-lane road, when in fact it was a 4-lane divided highway. It was nowhere near as tight through Ambush Alley as the show depicted. In addition, there were no destroyed AAVs on the bridge itself, they were all north of the Euphrates bridge. Marines were not clearing houses as RCT-1 pushed through the city - 3/1 was strong-pointing the major intersections in the city to allow the rest of the RCT to pass through.

Richard Lowry posted some criticism of the episode (http://op-for.com/2008/07/generation_kill_the_cradle_od.html#comments) on OPFOR that, while I agree with on a factual basis, I think misses that the show wanted to portray the "grunt's eye" view of the war. Yes, the show has many factual inconsistencies about Nasiriyah, but I think it accurately portrays what the Marines of 1st Recon Bn believed about the battle at the time depicted in the show.

selil
07-22-2008, 07:29 PM
Richard Lowry posted some criticism of the episode (http://op-for.com/2008/07/generation_kill_the_cradle_od.html#comments) on OPFOR that, while I agree with on a factual basis, I think misses that the show wanted to portray the "grunt's eye" view of the war. Yes, the show has many factual inconsistencies about Nasiriyah, but I think it accurately portrays what the Marines of 1st Recon Bn believed about the battle at the time depicted in the show.


Generation Kill is a dramatization it is NOT a documentary. It is a story written from the perspective of the participants and the writer was in the truck. The writer is involved and creating an account that is first person and from his perspective. The levels of bias rise as the directors and creators of the show each add to the dramatization.

Taking the sanitized knowledge of today (also based on accounts) and glaring through that lens at the tumultuous story of the writer does no good for anybody. It is the act of a concrete thinker and inflexibility to look at a show and apply a factual lens to what is attempting to give an emotional view. I really doubt that the driver gave such a philosophical meandering debate without using the "F" word as punctation for hours on end.

I will read the histories when they are written through a lens of factual obligation and enjoy the show for the personal first person account the writer and creators have attempted to give. I will listen with interest as people who were there tell me that things happened differently. But, like with the movie Black Hawk Down I'm not looking for abysmal detail in the facts of the account. I am looking for the emotional and personal stories from their perspective.

Wildcat
07-22-2008, 07:34 PM
Richard Lowry posted some criticism of the episode (http://op-for.com/2008/07/generation_kill_the_cradle_od.html#comments) on OPFOR that, while I agree with on a factual basis, I think misses that the show wanted to portray the "grunt's eye" view of the war. Yes, the show has many factual inconsistencies about Nasiriyah, but I think it accurately portrays what the Marines of 1st Recon Bn believed about the battle at the time depicted in the show.

Precisely. One needs to remember that "Generation Kill" is not a documentary. It's not fiction, either, but it is a boots-on-the-ground, pointy end of the spear perspective on real events through the eyes of men, including their officers, who didn't have the luxury of seeing the broader operational picture. I think the "artistic license" that some people might accuse the series of having is little more than the filmmakers' subtle portrayal of that phenomenon known most commonly as the fog of war. Apparently some historians might not pick up on this immediately, but veterans of Nasiriyah like VMI_Marine and MikeF do.

Other things like the streets being too narrow are probably the unintended consequences of the filming locations. With the level of realism that the show has displayed so far, I don't think that's something the filmmakers would knowingly distort unless they simply couldn't find another place with streets similar to those in Nasiriyah.

Rank amateur
07-28-2008, 03:29 PM
I just saw episode 2. I was wondering who would man up to the tank thing. Congrats to Selil for having the cajones. (I'm going to assume that you've all done it.) ;)

I was a little surprised that there weren't more IEDS in the early days. I'm going to assume that Saddam was too paranoid to release the ordinanace when he was driving around the streets. (If you're ever wargaming Iran, it'd probably be a good idea to assume they aren't so paranoid.)

The filmmakers probably made a good choice. Making the guys take a "false" route, just so they could see some of the stuff that was going on would've been worse. So would have been leaving stuff like the destroyed AAV out, because that would've painted a false picture too. (Though even I could figure out that the Iraqis probably couldn't have effectively engaged the AAV at that range.)

I don't know a lot of 4 lane highways that go straight towards a tall building. (I'm referring to the building that collapsed in the episode.) Was the geography of that building accurate, or was it the best that the directors could find? Just curious.

Question. I know it was an economy of force mission, but if we'd had double the troops, and giving everything we know now about COIN and population control, would anyone recommend cleaning out towns more thoroughly, instead of bypassing or pushing through them?

Tom Odom
07-28-2008, 04:10 PM
I watched the 3rd episode last evening.

Pros:

a. The 2nd platoon leadership (the LT and Gunny) and then the Squad leader shine. The LT questioning the company commander's insistence in calling for a 200 meter fire mission took back bone. Realizing that the Company CO was using the wrong grid zone designator for the mission: priceless.

b. Again leadership but leadership in pushing the issue of doing something for the Iraqi boy shot during the airfield seizure.

Cons:

a. Use of the thrid person to refer to yourself. I got a real problem with the habit of using third person to speak of yourself.

B. Bravo Co Commander

C. Captain America

Tom

Cavguy
07-28-2008, 04:38 PM
I watched the 3rd episode last evening.

Pros:

a. The 2nd platoon leadership (the LT and Gunny) and then the Squad leader shine. The LT questioning the company commander's insistence in calling for a 200 meter fire mission took back bone. Realizing that the Company CO was using the wrong grid zone designator for the mission: priceless.

b. Again leadership but leadership in pushing the issue of doing something for the Iraqi boy shot during the airfield seizure.

Cons:

a. Use of the thrid person to refer to yourself. I got a real problem with the habit of using third person to speak of yourself.

B. Bravo Co Commander

C. Captain America

Tom


I read the book on a plane ride last week. I was actually pretty impressed with the writing. The series is probably the most accurate representation of the "environment" of Iraq I have seen yet.

The two episodes I caught in the Hotel I was staying in (free HBO!) seemed accurate enough given the constraints of where they had to film - buildings were too nice and too high but that is entirely execusable.
I read the OPFOR criticism - Fick and Wright both claim a short arty round, the blogger denies - I tend to trust the guys who were there. I know from experience (Ken Ballard case) units tend not to highlight when friendly fire kills their own.

RE: civilian casualties - I take issue with those that claim that that would never happen - I've seen it, so has most everyone who have served in OIF (and other wars). They happen, it's tragic, but part of the friction of combat through urban areas in that context. I've seen more than a few civilians injured/killed by "collateral damage". Unless it was done maliciously, it's an inevitable and unfortunate byproduct of combat on all but the most rural battlefields.

For an "elite" unit, I was struck throughout the book at the poor quality of officership and also senior NCO leadership. Part I am willing to write off to the author's bias and lack of perspective. Maybe it was only that company. But the fact that "Encino Man" was allowed to command a company shocked me. In the book later one of his NCO's tells him he's a nice guy but just not competent enough to command a company. Encino Man doesn't dispute his assertion, according to Wright.

Captain America shocks me more, and you will see what Wright claims he did later on. (spoiler) He does get relieved briefly near the end. In the end of the book he apparently moves onward with good reports, as did Encino man.

Having been there, I am very hesitant to judge leadership based on a few accounts who haven't had to deal with the challenges of leading in combat. However, I wondered why the "Godfather" didn't take stronger action when the stakes were so high. Or if he knew at all what was going on.

Will be a good question for me to ask the Marines at Quantico tomorrow at the get together!

Tom Odom
07-28-2008, 04:53 PM
Cav,

Agree with your comments and your concerns. For my part, my pros and cons are strictly based on what the film shows. Again I have not read the book and lack even that yardstick. Like you, I have been surprised at the leadership issues. Frankly it reminds me more of my Army of 1976-1979 or so rather than a Marine Recon battalion. Again it is a series and as such I look at it more of a series of leader laboratory events than a depiction of "fact," which in any case relies heavily on who is doing the depicting.

best

Tom

Rockbridge
07-29-2008, 10:30 AM
While I'm willing to concede that a show that inaccurately portrays soldiers may have some negative Public Affairs implications, what the heck does this discussion have to do with IO as a warfighting discipline?

Tom Odom
07-29-2008, 01:38 PM
While I'm willing to concede that a show that inaccurately portrays soldiers may have some negative Public Affairs implications, what the heck does this discussion have to do with IO as a warfighting discipline?

Well Rockbridge I don't recall saying that it did. Maybe if you are going to ask a rhetorical question with a snap of sarcasm you should offer some wisdom to go with it.

As for inaccuracies, that may be the case. Do you know that it is innacurate?

I put this thread under media because it is a story as related by an embedded reporter. It is frank in its portrayal of the oiperation. And it is being watched by a significantly large audience.

Tom

Ken White
07-29-2008, 04:51 PM
And how is this IO?but it does impact on IO due to wide distribution.While I'm willing to concede that a show that inaccurately portrays soldiers...May not be all that inaccurate...... may have some negative Public Affairs implications, what the heck does this discussion have to do with IO as a warfighting discipline?I think you just answered your own question.

Besides, as Brother Dave Gardner said; "Man cannot live by bread alone, he must have peanut butter." Have another cup of coffee, it'll all work out, no benefit in being grumpy. :D

selil
07-29-2008, 05:21 PM
Besides the forum is Media <stop> Information <stop> and Cyber <stop> unless I'm missing something it is in the right place. Here on this thread people that were in the unit being portrayed or near the unit being portrayed have weighed in. I would really like to see Nathaniel Fick give us his account as I've read his book. But, he's off in grad school or something.

I think about it this way. There are a few movies that have defined for the public as entertainment the horrors of war or the camaradarie. We've had threads about that before. Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now to an entire generation represent the Vietnam War as much as MASH did of the Korean War. Accurate to a fault? I doubt it. Did they give some inkling of the travesty of clean and honorable combat? Likely.

Will Generation Kill become that media portrayal? I can say it is much better than the movie "Jarhead" which should only be watched by Marines while drunk. Comparing Generation Kill as quality to a movie like Platoon to me it is no contest Gen Kill is the winner.

Rockbridge
07-30-2008, 10:25 AM
Okay, I stand duly chastened. Guess I need to open the old sight aperture a bit.

selil
07-30-2008, 02:50 PM
Okay, I stand duly chastened. Guess I need to open the old sight aperture a bit.

Meh. Life go's on. Beer gets drank. I've done much much much worse.

Cougfootballfan
07-30-2008, 09:22 PM
i just finished the book yesterday, better than i thought it was going to be. thought the writer did a pretty good job, but i wasnt there so who knows

sounds like from all the comments the show was done quite well, ill have to find some way to get to watch it

SWJED
07-30-2008, 11:38 PM
Sam - Nate just joined John Nagl at CNAS and I believe is with John in Iraq right now for short trip.

selil
07-31-2008, 12:05 AM
Sam - Nate just joined John Nagl at CNAS and I believe is with John in Iraq right now for short trip.

Two guys I'd like to meet among so many others. Problem is nobody wants to meet me!!! :eek:


Must remember deodorant.. and manner.. I need some manners. :D

slapout9
07-31-2008, 12:32 AM
Two guys I'd like to meet among so many others. Problem is nobody wants to meet me!!! :eek:


Must remember deodorant.. and manner.. I need some manners. :D


Sam, I tried!!!! but Nooooo you wanted to stay at the nice motel:wry:and hang out with them Air Force guys.

selil
07-31-2008, 04:52 AM
Sam, I tried!!!! but Nooooo you wanted to stay at the nice motel:wry:and hang out with them Air Force guys.

Yeah, the nice hotel with the MEPS contract and ants... But, now I know you live there and I will be back.

selil
08-04-2008, 02:15 AM
"Godfather" lost the battalion colors in a supply truck and wasn't relieved on the spot?

reed11b
08-04-2008, 07:37 PM
Because it just doesn't happen, or it's not supposed to. PLs don't refer to their NCOs by first name. I think it's pretty unheard of...and unprofessional. Just my 2 cents. Maybe in SF units or Force Recon, it's acceptable, I wouldn't know, but for a line Infantry company, no.
My experiance was that soldiers that had been friends before the war tended to default to first name use while in the field even though they rarely did so during training. Of course I deployed w/ NG unit so my experiance may have little to do w/ active duty soldiers.
Reed

reed11b
08-04-2008, 08:03 PM
I was unable to decide if I liked godfather or not. Obviously he was hamming for promotion (in the T.V. Series) but he showed at least some signs of compentancy. I am not suprised by the poor leadership shown in the movie. Poor leaders has been one of my fairly constant experiances in the military, and the fairly heavy dogma of the Corp. seems like it would breed it as well. Most of my bad leader experiances could be related officers that did not know what they were doing, but were afraid to admit it. War did a fairly good job of clearing SOME of the deadwood from my battalion however. Maybe leadership Army (and Marine) wide has improved.
Reed

Cougfootballfan
08-04-2008, 08:32 PM
Godfather does come off as wanting to impress the General quite a bit. both the tv series and the book dont do a great job of portraying the officer side of things with the exception of LT Fick and the crazy cpts

Connable
08-05-2008, 02:59 PM
I have been watching the docu-drama with mixed feelings. I was with the Div Fwd COC during the invasion; I met Evan Wright during Phase IV in Diwaniyah; I know Craig Schwetje (Encino Man) and have spoken with him at length about Evan's story.

THE SERIES: The HBO series almost perfectly captures the feel of the March Up. The first thing that struck me was the little pack of Skittles sitting on the dashboard of one of the HMMWVs - I think I rested about 30 packs of Skittles in exactly that same position over the course of the invasion. The detail, and the willingness of the producers to accurately re-create impenetrable Marine-specific dialogue, is both incredible and incredibly daring. Spending five minutes on the lack of LSAT for the Mk-19... less dedicated producers would have dropped that to the cutting room floor without a second thought. We've all seen enough lame Dale Dye creations to make us cringe. Whatever else one might think of HBOs Generation Kill, the Marines should at least be appreciative of this risky effort to show the little things as they really were. Evan Wright and the Marines who worked on the series also deserve kudos.

THE DIALOGUE: The dialogue between the troops is dead-on, even the bitching about the officers. I was an enlisted machinegunner in the Gulf War and I listened to plenty of "private" troop bull#### sessions during my three tours as an officer in Iraq. It all rings true and it's obvious that Evan took good notes.

Officers often address their enlisted Marines by their first names, especially in recon units. For better or worse, that's the way it is. Troops often believe that officers are stupid and/or don't deserve their position and they often state their case. This is not a uniquely military phenomenon; leaders are often the subject of warranted and unwarranted derision. As a fellow Marine once told me, "The higher the monkey climbs up the pole, the more you can see of his a**hole."

THE CHARACTERS: This is definitely a point-of-view story. From a character perspective, this is an embellished work of fiction. There are no Manichean opposites like the fictionalized Nate Fick or Craig Schwetje. Nobody is that competent, moral, brilliant, or insightful day on, stay on during extended combat. Conversely, nobody could possibly be as stupid and utterly, consistently incompetent as Evan Wright’s/HBO’s Encino Man.

I have known and worked with Craig on and off for about 14 years. We went to Basic Officer's Course (BOC/TBS) together, I served with him during one of my Iraq tours, and we ran into each other at Camp Pendleton from time to time. During one of the inter-deployment Pendleton meetings we talked about the book. He told me that Evan latched on to the biggest dirt-bags in the company and took everything they said as verbatim truth. He gave me a different version of Nate Frick, one that is inconsistent with Nate's and Evan's first person accounts.

I can't speak accurately to either point of view - bottom line, I wasn't there with that platoon. However, I can affirm that Craig is not a dumb guy. He's had at least one successful follow-on tour in Iraq as an intelligence officer. In all the time I've known him I've never seen him walking around with a gape-mouthed grin on his face. Yes, he looks like Encino Man; we're not all pretty boys.

As an intelligence officer leading an infantry recon company for his first go-round in combat, Craig probably made some mistakes. He may have made an ass out of himself from time to time. So have I, so has General Mattis, so has LtCol Ferrando, so has Nate Fick, and so has every other officer I have ever met.

Whatever Craig's mistakes he probably didn't deserve the blasting he got in either the book or the series. This is not a work of distant history or fiction. Craig is still around, still serving. This will impact his personal life and his career. If he screwed up, fine, tell the story. But tell the balanced story. I'm curious to know if the HBO team interviewed Craig or tried to get his input. I can clearly state that Craig is not a moron and at least one other Marine from the unit has published a different account of the portrayed events: http://coinside.blogspot.com/2006/05/generation-kill-full-rebuttal.html.

I don't know "Captain America" but so far the HBO series has implicated him in at least one war crime (shooting an unarmed man in the back). Has anyone brought charges against him? If not this is a pretty nonchalant way of portraying what should be an investigated criminal act.

I don't know Nate Fick but I've read his work and respect his intellect, writing talent, and passion. I want to hear his point of view on the series.

EVAN WRIGHT: Evan approached me at the Division COC in Diwaniyah about a week after the end of major combat operations (mid-late April). He told me that he was trying to track a Syrian foreign fighter who had been wounded during an ambush against Fick's platoon. The Syrian was purportedly aboard one of our hospital ships. He asked me to try to get him an interview so he could tell the other side of the ambush story. I thought it sounded like a great idea and told him I'd do what I could but that he had placed a very tall order.

I went back to work. Needless to say we were busy setting up the COC and trying to figure out our next mission. Evan barged into a clearly marked secure area of the COC and asked what progress I had made. I gently took him back outside and told him he needed to be patient. I warned him about entering a secure area. A few hours later he came back in to the same secure area. This time I yanked him outside and chewed his ass. As I was yelling at him (he could have been detained at this point - I figured a stern warning would suffice) he said, "You can't talk to an enlisted Marine that way."

For a second I was taken aback. Was Evan a Marine? He had on Marine cammie bottoms and a green t-shirt but wore what looked like a puka shell string around his neck. "Are you an enlisted Marine, Evan?" He looked down at the ground. "Well, no." I ripped him again and sent him packing.

I think this interaction gives some insight into depths of "embeddedness" to which Evan had sunk. Part of him actually thought that he had become a Marine. Only Evan and the guys he wrote about will ever know how much of his story is weighted towards his "fellow Marines" at the expense of objective truth.

INACCURACIES: Portraying a story from one point of view means getting things wrong from time to time. It also means that just about everything is out of context and often more broadly inaccurate.

For example: In the series the Marines complain that they are dropped to eating only one MRE a day because LtCol Ferrando abandoned a supply truck that carried some of their food. Anyone who was with the Division during the invasion knows that we were all down to one MRE a day because we were out-running our logistics convoys. We fell victim to an inter-war program called "Logistics Pull." Essentially, you carry what you need for a very brief period of combat and request the remainder to arrive at your position "just in time." This bean-counter program completely failed to take into account combat friction, fog of war, or high-tempo operations. Since 2003 this problem has been rectified. However, anyone watching the series who is unaware of these larger issues will come away thinking that LtCol Ferrando made a mistake that wound up starving his Marines.

I think there are repeated instances in which this first-person perspective leaves viewers with the wrong impression. This method is authentic in that it portrays the junior Marines' point of view. It's dangerously misleading as a story-telling or historic device in that it leaves an international viewing audience with the impression that our officers are generally incompetent and that the invasion was a near fiasco.

At the end of the day we demolished or caused the collapse of an entire national Army with what really amounted to two divisions of fast-moving troops. As General Mattis and many historians have pointed out, tempo was the key to our success. Embracing the fog of war and moving quickly meant operating in very uncertain environments. From a troop perspective this came across as "stupid," "incompetent," or "foolish." At the end of the day, however, the First Marine Division was immensely successful, achieving all objectives while suffering very few casualties. We'll see how HBO finished out the series.

FINAL: Whatever its faults, Generation Kill is certainly generating some good discussion. I'm looking forward to hearing some feedback.

- Ben Connable

Tom Odom
08-05-2008, 03:47 PM
FINAL: Whatever its faults, Generation Kill is certainly generating some good discussion. I'm looking forward to hearing some feedback.

- Ben Connable

Ben,

You just made the entire thread worthwhile.

Best

Tom

Keep posting and welcome to SWC!

Cavguy
08-05-2008, 03:53 PM
Great review and perspective. Thanks for the insight on key issues, it's what this thread has been missing. If you don't mind, head over to the "Introduce yourself" thread and give a post for the rest of us.

Agree on the perspective of the series (enlisted centric, bottom up) and how for a viewer not immersed in the military the rants/conclusions could lead to misguided perceptions of the plan and their leadership. A constant is that whatever echelon I have worked at, the next higher level is SNAFU, and their higher is FUBAR. Whether we thought they were actively trying to get us killed depended on the situation. :rolleyes: Of course, whenever I worked at that echelon, our/my decisions were spot on and beyond reproach. :D Those who have served understand this. So I too am uneasy at the impression a civilian would get from the series in this area, although it is probably the most accurate "Joe" perspective depiction of a combat unit I have seen. Like you said, the details down to the skittles on the defroster vent and the Charms in the MRE add an authenticity rarely seen on any show.

The show still raises some serious LOW/ROE issues in my mind, but again, I don't think we're getting the whole perspective. As I stated before, I wondered how guys like "Captain America" were allowed to lead in such a unit. From the book Captain America does get relieved later but is cleared in the incident. Other things, like the supply failures, can be explained (leaving Kuwait without adequate LSAT and NVG batterieswould be one of my war stoppers - your weapon is your life). All the Marine "if you wanted supply join the army" struck me as endorsement of logistical incompetence. I was not in the invasion but in the early part (May 03) of OIF 1, so I know the shortages that were in theater once into it, but Kuwait had lots, even if you had to scrounge. Just puzzing to me that a lead unit would cross berm short of mission critical supplies.

Another (larger) observation was that as the book stated, this unit was formed ad hoc from a different structure to perform a mission it never trained for in garrison - really a cav role (screen, recon, not armed enough for guard), so I was also perplexed that they didn't *gasp* borrow some army 19D-series doctrine and TTP's.

Thanks again for the perspective. There's always two sides to a story.

Niel

selil
08-05-2008, 05:15 PM
Connable should our paths ever pass I owe you a beer or dozen.

Ken White
08-05-2008, 07:29 PM
beer but I'll provide beaucoup bourbon...

Cougfootballfan
08-05-2008, 09:25 PM
thanks for the insight, I had a feeling that there was more to it than what the author wrote about

Steve Blair
08-05-2008, 09:36 PM
thanks for the insight, I had a feeling that there was more to it than what the author wrote about

There almost always is. That's one reason it's important to understand the *why* behind something written as well as the *how* and the conditions at the time.

I took "Generation Kill" as an interesting examination of the grunt level view (granted...of a few grunts) of a particular unit during a specific time period during a campaign. Narrative is always going to be colored by the perceptions of the writer, those he chooses to focus on, and the reader. "On Bullet Away" adds to that narrative, and Connable's comments add yet another layer of detail and perspective: one that, I might add, is vital to understanding the whole.

The important thing is to not mistake "Generation Kill" for unbiased history. It's going to be biased, and it's a *part* of history but not the entire picture. We may never get that picture, but it's important for guys like Schwetje to add their perspectives to the narrative so that we can help create a good, blended whole.

Cav, your point about this really being a cav mission is well-taken. Maybe the Marines need to go back to some of their "horse marine" roots and borrow some doctrine. I also noticed that they didn't seem to use armor as effectively as they might have during Vietnam (in my opinion, at least...especially when compared to operations in III CTZ).

Ken White
08-05-2008, 09:55 PM
of NW Europe in 1944-45; the USMC owes much to the Pacific 1942-45.

Maybe too much in both cases...:wry:

oblong
08-06-2008, 02:54 AM
I know this may not be the most substantial post.

But my girlfriend sat down with me while I was watching the second episode. For the next hour, she was asking me "who is that? "why did he do that?" "what did that mean?

Two questions stood out, however: "Are Marines really that funny?" and "Are Marines all really that good looking?"

120mm
08-06-2008, 05:39 AM
I know this may not be the most substantial post.

But my girlfriend sat down with me while I was watching the second episode. For the next hour, she was asking me "who is that? "why did he do that?" "what did that mean?

Two questions stood out, however: "Are Marines really that funny?" and "Are Marines all really that good looking?"

It sounds like your girlfriend might be shopping. ;)

But, never fear, I "won" my wife from a much better looking Marine Officer. He was bigger than me, too. :p

bourbon
08-27-2008, 07:55 PM
That was a powerful final scene with the Johnny Cash tune. (YouTube clip (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7gab_b-5EbE))

BayonetBrant
08-28-2008, 01:31 PM
FWIW, here's some long commentary by one of the guys portrayed in the book. He notes places where the author did screw some stuff up, and places where the author's perspective might've gotten in the way of his interpretation of what was happening, as well as places where the author was spot-on.


http://commentaryongenerationkill.blogspot.com/

Tom Odom
08-28-2008, 01:55 PM
Great find. I wonder is LTC Shoup related to General Shoup?

Tom

BayonetBrant
08-28-2008, 02:32 PM
keine ahnung.

I just read the commentary. I haven't read the book yet (still buried under grad school reading) and waiting for the entire series before I start watching it on TV.

bourbon
08-28-2008, 03:38 PM
Brant,
Thanks for sharing that. Good read.

Fwiw, Evan Wright (the reporter), has an extensive note in the comment section (https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=5203670785925908974&postID=2487016740422806244&isPopup=true&pli=1). (August 25)

Another comment, posted August 23 by J.M. Keynes, is worth echoing:
BTW, for anyone interested, a new edition of Wright's book has just been published, with a "new afterword" that contains some interesting surprises, both pleasant and unpleasant. You'll also appreciate the clever cover. (If nothing else, drop by your local bookstore and skim that chapter over a cup of coffee.)

Umar Al-Mokhtār
09-01-2008, 10:26 PM
I've done some work with Mike and asked him, he's not.

Noble Industries
09-02-2008, 02:56 AM
I was in the book store yesterday, the book has been re-released with a new afterward, I read it. Wright says that when the book first came out, there was a quote in it from a Marine, that said combat was like playing Grand Theft Auto. This particular quote was cited often as an example of how today's youth cannot distinguish between reality and video games.
In the time since the book was published, Wright realized that this was more indicative of the nationsinability to distinguish between the realities of war, and the fantasies of media and video games. Rather than this particular Marines inability to do so. I thought this was particularly sharp.[/QUOTE]


As someone who is just trailing out of being classed as youth this is something I can identify with. Will not military myself I remain close to some who serve in Australia’s defence force. The comparison between video games an actual combat seems to be valid. Perhaps it is the desensitisation of the current crop of young adults populating the armed services or something larger. Once you have become accustomed to eyeballing a target through a scope and putting rounds into him, then to transfer that experience to combat may not be to far fetched. Video games as training methods are becoming more main stream.

Jason Port
09-08-2008, 10:06 PM
So, I just finished a crash viewing of all seven episodes. I set aside things like first name references as making the show palatable by a wider audience than just old warfighters, (like my wife) and the racial talk as mild exaggeration for bs-ing between brethern, the show as a whole took me right back to the right seat of an uparmored turtle HMMWV rolling out of the gate to kick in some doors. While never in the current fight, the show's sounds, images, and intensity brought me right back into the mindset, and reminded me of a great bunch of guys I once knew. (and for every Marine in the AO, I can think of one or two cavalrymen I knew just like them, especially Encino Man, and Captain America.) I really liked the series, and I plan to read both books to try and understand the realities of the story more.

Schmedlap
01-11-2009, 12:10 PM
I just watched the first three episodes of this. The main characters - the team leader and platoon commander - seem normal. A few others do too. But many of the characters strike me as exaggerations of quirky personalities. Much of the series seems exaggerated - the trigger happy behavior, the outlandishly incompetent officers, the racial trash talking seemed over the top. Racial slurs are commonplace in every unit that I was in, but they were not used in the way that they were used in the series. It was common to have a close-knit fire team (in real life, not the show) that included a black, hispanic, asian, and white and for each to call one another by the corresponding racial slur. It was kind of a way of showing that they were such good friends that they could get away with it. In the show, it seemed more adversarial, not like anything that I ever saw in any unit that I served in.

The lack of initiative shown by the leaders in the show also struck me as exaggerated. There were several instances where the platoon commander was asking permission to do something that I would expect a team leader to do without asking. It seemed like it was embellished for the screen.

Haven't seen episodes 4 through 7 and I don't see them listed on Netflix, so I probably won't get around to them.

On a side note, I also watched The Battle of Algiers. I haven't gotten around to reading A Savage War of Peace, yet, but the movie struck me as a good one to help a lay audience understand a few concepts about insurgency and COIN.