Former Marines aid in making of new TV seriesBy Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Jul 14, 2008 9:47:06 EDT
Former Staff Sgt. Eric Kocher has lived war. He has watched friends die in combat, endured surgeries after an RPG attack, received a Bronze Star for his actions in Iraq. Now, he’s helping a major television network tell it the way he saw it.
Hired as a technical adviser for the new seven-part miniseries “Generation Kill,” Kocher’s job was to stop the hatin’ before it began — to make sure HBO and its hotshot producers got life in the Corps right.
For two months beginning July 13, he’ll find out if he pulled it off. That’s when the series rolls out, beaming into America’s living rooms an unvarnished look at life in 2nd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
This is no rifle-flipping recruiting video filmed on the Golden Gate Bridge. Based on a hotly debated, bestselling book by an embedded Rolling Stone reporter, it’s a vulgar, searing portrayal told with the same frankness that brought its producers critical acclaim for another HBO series, “The Wire.”
With HBO’s track record of taking subjects that mainstream America has little understanding of — normalizing the mob in “The Sopranos,” for instance, or going downstairs in the mortuary on “Six Feet Under” — millions of people across the country will likely be tuning in to see what the network thinks of the Few and the Proud. The question is simple: Can America handle the truth?
Capturing a culture
Ed Burns and David Simon want credibility. That’s the overriding sentiment the producers of “Generation Kill” express when speaking about their work, and the reason they worked closely with “Generation Kill” author Evan Wright, who co-wrote the series’ script.
The real fun isn’t trying to convince the average viewer [that we have it right],” Simon said. “It’s trying to convince people who have been in the game.”
The producers sought out Kocher not long after he left the Corps in February 2007, after getting passed over for a promotion to gunnery sergeant. Once he arrived on one of the series’ sets in the African nation of Namibia, Kocher quickly realized how difficult it was going to be to get the nitty-gritty details straight.
Within days, Kocher and another former 1st Recon Marine, Sgt. Rudy Reyes, had implemented a daily 14-hour boot camp on set, to whip the cast into shape. Former Cpl. Jeff Carisalez joined them after dropping classes at Texas A&M University, coming in to bring a fleet of ratty Humvees back to life and eventually begin advising on technical issues as well.
“I’m trying to train these guys to carry themselves like recon Marines, and that’s very hard to do,” Kocher said. “I tried to speak like I would as a Marine, which is to say ‘f---’ about every third word.”
The boot camp was severe, Reyes said, with four hours per day of heavy physical training, followed by 10 hours of lessons on weapons handling, tactics and Marine jargon.
“I’m out there teaching them jujitsu in the rain at 2 in the morning, in the middle of a desert in Namibia,” Reyes recalled. “I’m out there taking all comers, but the actors kept on coming, and after a while, they were all just recon Marines to me.”
By the time filming began in June 2007, the actors began to look like a cohesive unit. Filming moved from Namibia to South Africa to Mozambique over the course of the series, with Kocher and Carisalez offering criticism and Kocher checking with friends in the Corps to see if needed equipment could be purchased or borrowed, Burns said.
“We tried to be true to the culture and the particular details of the culture,” Simon said. “There were times when we wanted to try things, and if we went too far, [Kocher] would be the first one to bristle.”
Said Carisalez, who ended up with a small role in the series: “There were times where I was like, ‘Bulls---, Marines would never do that!" “I was like, ‘Hell no, dude!’”
Getting it right. It might not be perfect, but the surface results are pretty darn smooth.
Throughout the mission, Marines spit a steady stream of Copenhagen, with part of a scene devoted to teaching a Marine to spit through his teeth to keep from coating the Humvee door in goo. Background radio transmissions form the only real score in the series, much of it culled from actual battalion recordings.
Marines also sit in real Humvees purchased from an undisclosed military aficionado near Camp Lejeune, N.C., and fret over a lack of lube to keep their “Forty Mike-Mike” MK19 grenade launchers from jamming.
It looks and sounds like war, right down to Marines being “Oscar Mike” and screaming “Get some!” when insurgents get lit up by Cobra gunships. The show is so full of jargon, HBO sent out a nine-page glossary of terms in its press kits so mainstream television critics can keep up.
Burns said certain elements in the series, such as the Cobras, are computer-generated special effects. Glimpses of them are kept to a minimum, though, and shown only from the view of grunts on the ground.
One example of a required change: Kocher said it was necessary to scrap using “homemade” light armored vehicles, and instead go with computer-generated versions, because Marines watching the series would pick out the fake LAVs.
“You’re dealing with the most anal-retentive mother------s on the planet, and we tried to tell people [involved in production] that,” Kocher said. “I’m telling you, that’s the way we are. That’s in our blood.”
Despite all the work, not everyone’s happy to see “Generation
Kill” make the small screen. Former Capt. Nathaniel Fick, a first
lieutenant during the 2003 invasion, said he and several other members
of 2nd Platoon wish the series had never been made.
Fick, who has seen the series and is portrayed as one of the few competent junior officers, said some of the Marines depicted wish they could “just get on with their lives.” Fick said they also worry that too much attention has already been placed on 1st Recon, considering that Wright’s book and a 2006 book by Fick, “One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer,” have already been published.
With his own book, Fick said, he felt obligated to run the manuscript by the Marines named in it before it was published, a courtesy they didn’t have with either incarnation of “Generation Kill.”
“There’s a general sense among the guys that between Evan’s book and my own, we sort of feel like the story has been told, and our story isn’t that exceptional,” he said. “I feel a real discomfort with there being so much attention put on it. I ask people if they’d like to see a high-intensity, stressful part of their own lives played out that way.”
Other Marines depicted in the series couldn’t be reached for comment, but some have criticized Wright’s book in the past. Retired Gunnery Sgt. Daniel J. Griego, for example, took issue in a 2006 blog entry with the way a character modeled after him — nicknamed “Casey Kasem” — was depicted as an incompetent operations chief for 1st Recon’s Bravo Company.
“Not only are there multitudes of lies, but the book is written from the point of the view of the Marines that befriended Evan Wright,” Griego wrote. “Evan Wright created characters for his book, a book that can only be categorized as fiction.”
For his part, Wright said he stands by his work, especially when it comes to Griego.
“I can’t bend the truth as I saw it to suit one individual’s needs,” Wright said.
Fick said that while he has misgivings about the attention 1st Recon again will receive, the miniseries and book “by and large” depict the unit accurately, with occasional overdramatization of some of the tensions between enlisted Marines and officers.
“Some of the dialogue is priceless, and it’ll be recognized by anyone who has spent time with young infantry Marines,” Fick said.
A part of the lore?
But how will America receive “Generation Kill”? And better
yet, how will the Corps?
Those are questions that remain, and those involved in the miniseries admit they don’t have an answer yet.
For its part, the Corps did not endorse the series, Marine officials said, a blessing that could have led to some technical support and shared equipment. But HBO also never sought it, choosing instead to rely on Wright’s journalism and the expertise of its military advisers.
R. Lee Ermey, a former Marine who played the legendary DI in “Full Metal Jacket,” said a miniseries about life in the Corps won’t hurt the service as long as things are presented accurately.
“I’ve probably had a half million people tell me that they went into the Marine Corps because of ‘Full Metal Jacket,’” Ermey said. “We make mistakes in war, and [viewers] expect that. We capitalize on the other side’s mistakes and we make our own mistakes. That’s war.”
Ermey agreed that small mistakes in the presentation of the Corps will be magnified, recalling a letter he received in regard to a scene from “Full Metal Jacket.” In it, he wore a Korean War ribbon incorrectly after “a little guy in wardrobe popped it back on upside down and backwards” when it came off, he said.
“The objective, always, is to always try and get it right, because if you leave one stone unturned, as a technical adviser you’re going to catch crap for it,” he said.
Marine recruiting officials declined to comment on the series’ potential impact but said that a part of a recruiter’s job is to dispel myths created about the Corps in popular culture.
Through a spokesman, Gen. Jim Mattis, commander of 1st Marine Division during the series, said he had not seen any of the prescreenings of “Generation Kill.” He declined to comment on the book, which often described officers making rash decisions in an attempt to impress him.
The Marines involved in the series said they hope the civilian world doesn’t judge pieces of the show independently but takes in the work as a whole.
“It’s hard to understand that we say these nasty, nasty things, but it’s really just to make us laugh,” said Reyes, who plays himself in the series. “Is there a tougher job in the world than to protect your guys and kill the enemy? I don’t think there is in the freakin’ world, and if you can’t find a way to laugh about it and to make light of your suffering, you can go crazy.”
Carisalez said too many people think Marines are “brainwashed” and don’t have any feelings about the work they do.
“Hopefully, this shows that a Marine can joke, and he can laugh, and he can cuss ... I hope that people see that there’s a human behind the uniform.”
Kocher, who plays a bit part as a gunnery sergeant in the show, said he thinks “Generation Kill” will be an education for civilians and officers who haven’t spent time in combat.
“I hope that an audience of outsiders will grow to respect these guys as I did,” he said of his old unit. “There’s no politics in the show. I hope not, at least.”
From: Acting Director, Division of Public Affairs, HQMC
The recent airing of the first episode of HBO's "Generation Kill" has generated numerous inquiries regarding Marine Corps support of the series. The Marine Corps did not provide any official support to the filmmakers. The series is based on the book by the same title by Evan Wright, a former Rolling Stone magazine reporter who was embedded with 1st Reconnaissance Battalion at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While there are certainly aspects of the film that are accurate, it is at its heart a commercial production. It's raw and has elements that are very much out of synch with the core values our nation rightly expects of its Marines. Viewed as a whole, in my estimation, it does not accurately portray the honor and professionalism of our Corps of Marines.
1st Recon Bn (The Gulf War)
August 3, 1990, the battalion just returned from a change of command ceremony for the new division commander. It was about 4:30 in the afternoon on Friday and we were looking forward to the weekend. Everyone had different plans ranging form trips to Mexico to Mountain climbing at Big Bear. The Battalion stood in front of the barracks waiting for the Sgt. Major and Lt.Col. to give the liberty call speech on what not to do during the weekend. All four companies are called to attention by the Sgt. Major and the Colonel posts. “Gentlemen, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is we’re going to war; the bad news is we have 4 hours to pack up all our stuff, get everything into supply and check out weapons. All company commanders will meet for a briefing in 1 hour.” He told us how proud he was of us and some other stuff but no one heard anything more after that. We were all trying to figure out who we were going to war with. After the formation it was a scramble to our rooms to see what CNN was reporting. No mention of us going to war with anyone, just the same news chatter, all but a little mention of Iraq invading Kuwait.
With all of our gear locked up in storage and last minute phone calls made we headed to 29 Palms for acclimatization for two weeks then air lifted to Jubail Airport near the boarder of Kuwait. 29 Palms was cut short due to the loss of communication with the 82nd airborne, we had to go in early for fear the Iraq army might have already crossed and taken the airport. The flight which took about 38 hours aboard (4) C-141 transports was freezing, it must have been right at 36 degrees and some Marines were still in green camouflage, not a great way to start a war in the desert. During the flight we were briefed on Iraq and their tactics, customs and language. Keep in mind the battalion only had 4 HUMMV’s and basic equipment. We couldn’t run any missions other than a small firefight against light infantry at best. A few hours before touch down we planned to retake the airport if needed from the Iraq army to ensure troops and supplies could land; all of our chain of command was separated between the planes making each landing on their own to come up with a plan of attack. We did have a general rally point to the NE side of the runway but that’s it.
On approach to the airport we prepared the equipment and order in which we would get off the plane, it would stop but only for a short time while we debarked. This was for two reasons, 1. To ensure the plane wasn’t a sitting target and 2. Make way for the next planes inbound. The ramp went down opening up to a black sky until finally we could see the tarmac. Once the aircraft was stopped we all pushed the HUMMV out the back and exited. The back blast of the jet engines was incredibility hot. We ran for the rally point expecting some enemy fire, searching the lit buildings and berms for muzzle flash but only encountered an open runway. As we secured the rally position we noticed all the birds lifting off, it wasn’t the back blast of jet engines causing all the heat but the normal temperature for this country. It was midnight and a temperature of 136 degrees. The Bn commander linked up with the 82nd and we moved to the aircraft hangers which would be our new home for the next few days.
Our stay at the airport only lasted a few days of which was resting and drinking massive amounts of water. Several tried to PT but the heat would cut short most attempts. How anyone could fight in this was inconceivable. The flies were even starving for water as they swarmed our eyes, nose and mouth for any moisture. The command elements of our battalion were trying to find out any information on anything, which was a major undertaking, no one really knew. The one thing they did find out was Marine supply ships would be at the port about 8 hours away. They coordinated busses to take us there, now we could be supplied with the equipment we needed to do our job. The busses picked us up around midnight and we headed for the port. During the ride everyone slept except our officers and a couple of gung ho sergeants. The trip was uneventful with no stops…until just at daybreak. All the busses pulled over at once on the side of the road and stopped. The drivers stepped off followed by all the Marines, everyone lined up along the side of the road to relieve themselves from the four quarts of water and seven hours of riding. As we looked around we noticed the drivers were praying, kneeling on their rugs bowing their heads then looking at us. We boarded the busses and continued to the port.
The port was massive, filled with ships offloading military cargo and storage buildings everywhere. The battalion set up home in a warehouse on the north side, right next to the water. It took a little persuading the Sgt Major but finally we were given permission to conduct waterborne missions down from the warehouse after dark (Swimming!) A platoon of us would go to the water at a time with two Marines armed for security and shark watch. The water was about 80 degrees, it was like jumping into a giant bath and the salt was so high everyone floated almost on top of the water. We soon found a small office with the door unlocked and air conditioning. Several of us would take turns in the office while others were in the water. Word spread through the battalion of the little office but after a couple of nights they put a pad lock on the door and guard outside. We stayed there for less than a week and were sent to a Saudi Military barracks about 300 miles south of Kuwait. By this time the battalion had eight HUMMV’s and six 5 ton trucks, still not enough to be effective at anything but waiting.
The barracks were nice, real showers, beds, AIR CONDIONING! This was to be short lived; once the Marine Corps found out where we were, they split up all the units staying there and sent us out into the desert. A few months later that very barracks we called home was hit in a Scud attack killing all 300 inside. Recon battalion was sent to the boarder to an outpost used by the Saudi military on the Kuwait boarder. One company would stay there while the rest of recon set up a fire base (Manifa) further south. Each company would spend about 30 days there then rotate back. C company was the first to occupy the outpost. We set up a perimeter and communications back to the Battalion. The out post looked like it had been abandoned for years with a couple of buildings and a fenced courtyard. From the roof we could see the Kuwait outpost about 1000K to our north. Iraq had occupied these posts to prevent anyone invading. For days on end we watched the Iraqi’s watch us. Finally we were giving permission to call an airstrike on their position. Everything went calmly and professional with a tone of melancholy. The nine line brief was checked then rechecked; location of enemy, friendly’s…check…check…check! The birds would come in from I.P.Eagle about six miles out, one bird with four 250 pounders. As the bird came in it was off from our projected location but heading in the general location. As it made the run it would fly just over us then the enemy, “In the pop!” Everything looked good; our air panels were out so we were marked. “Wings level!” The aircraft was now in the sun and no one could see it, the pilot called “Wings level! Cleared hot was given and we watched the sky as the bombs were dropped. At first they looked like tiny black dots that grew quickly. Everyone watched to see how they would hit, and then we noticed they were coming right at us! “INCOMMING!” everyone jumped into their makeshift bunkers, trying to get as low as possible. Our corpsman was away from the main building running for his bunker when all four bombs landed. He was hit by fragments in the shoulder sending him into a cartwheel. Dust and smoke was everywhere making it impossible to see the damage. There was no sound except the high pitched ringing in our ears. After the daze numbness left our bodies we began calling out to see who got hit, Doc didn’t answer. His body was face down in the sand about 20 meters from the bunker. Marines ran over to pull him into the main building. He was ok aside from the two nickel size pieces imbedded in his shoulder. A medivac was called but turned down; we were inside the 500 mile no fly zone so no helo. The Battalion would have to medivac via 5 ton to Manifa then to the army med station. Charlie Company would be relived by Alpha the next day; we would all ride back to Manifa with doc. Once at Manifa doc was evac’ed and that was the last we would see him. We did find out he was the first purple heart of the war. About this time Delta Company arrived in country bringing a lot of experience from the teamleader up but green Marines throughout the teams, there recon schooling would be on the battlefield.
Manifa was not something to look forward to; it was a battalion size firebase with everything you would expect in the middle of the desert. The only good thing about it was your fields of fire were as far as you could see. On night, we were alerted by one of the positions watching an Iraqi recon patrol probing our lines. Everyone was on edge and other positions started calling in the same all around the firebase. Patrols were sent out to engage the enemy but found nothing but open desert. The positions were still reporting the enemy location and our recon teams weren’t out far enough. Finally the teams were brought back in and to our amazement we found out that the Iraqi sapper’s were really desert mice. The positions that radioed the sightings all had thermal optics; they saw heat signatures moving like sapper teams probing the perimeter. Although exciting at first it was humbling in the end.
One morning we awoke to a caravan of civilian trucks headed our way. We watched as about twenty trucks plowed through the desert on a direct course to our firebase. They pulled up 100 meters outside of the wire and set up tables. They were Americans; we came to this conclusion when they set up American flags, and now a few of them were walking to our position. We sent a team out to find out who exactly they were. Turns out they live and work here with RAMCO. They found out Marines were on the boarder and decided to greet us with a picnic American style. They told us about the invasion, how everyone was in a panic to leave until they heard Marines were on the boarder. “Yes it’s always great to know Marines are here!” They were caught off guard when we explained that during a war Marines are sent to the worst of the fight, where all is about to hit the fan, so to speak. Everyone laughed and enjoyed the home cooking. Sometime during the picnic the civilians talked our battalion commander into letting us rotate back to their compound for a day. The arrangement was one platoon for eight hours one day until all of us were rotated back. The compound was like being back in the states, houses, schools, shopping centers all with in the walls of the compound. They let us call home, feed us, and talked about where we were from before the Marines. For eight hours we forgot about our beloved Manifa and the vast sea of desert filled with the hoards of Republican Guard.
After the RAMCO visit it didn’t take long before we fell back into the day to day operations of owning a firebase. Patrols sent out at night for three and four day OP/LP missions, manning fighting positions around the clock, and building up the perimeter. The recon missions were a blessing, a chance to get away from the firebase and do your job for a few days. Teams would go out on patrol and before sunrise dig holes down into the sand, covering the opening with burlap to conceal their positions. This would be practice for real missions that would hopefully be coming our way. The battalion also did a lot of mobile recon patrols, pushing further north and eventually running both mobile patrols for insertions of foot patrols. We out grew our boundaries of the firebase, and found it relocating as the patrols pushed north. Eventually there was no fire base and all three companies had become autonomous with exception of one common link, H&S Company. We didn’t have enough vehicles to move, resupply and conduct patrols without linking up with H&S. It was a disheartening return knowing you would have to give up everything just to follow the command element in the back of a 5 ton truck while another company carries out its patrols.
The battalion linked up as a whole bringing all four companies together for resupply and preparation for a sand storm bearing down on our position. The storm lasted throughout the night during which a CH-53 carrying 105 shells decided to drop them of in the middle of Charlie Company. No one knows how they found us, or what happened to them afterwards, but somewhere and artillery unit was going to be pissed. By morning the battalion decided that it would split into three groups, H&S and Bravo would head just south of the outpost on the boarder, Charlie Company would occupy the out post and Alpha would go to an Army resupply depot to the SE for fuel, food and whatever they could bring back. Don’t think the battalion commander really thought it through when he sent Alpha Company off with the orders, “and whatever you can bring back.” A few hours pasted bringing a cold night with Charlie Company occupying the previously bombed out post. For most of the night we recon the radio waves picking up a few Army units on the new satcom radio. Around 2200 Alpha called in to all recon companies requesting frequency change via S.C.U.B.A.D.I.V.E.R, alpha 0. Instantly everyone wrote down the coded message and changed frequency. Apparently, Alpha Company found not only the fuel depot but the Army’s staging area for vehicles. Each Company put together an element for recovery of appropriate supplies needed and sent them to the depot. By morning the battalion had the necessary equipment and HUMMV’s needed for conducting mobile patrols. A couple of days later everyone was alerted that Iraqi troops had stolen vehicles and uniforms to possibly pass themselves off as Americans. This was a great scare in the United States and it would soon be found out that the entire Marine Corps had raided the staging area for needed supplies.
Back at the out post, Charlie Company was awarded the guest appearance of a now famous late nite talk show host, Jay Leno. His group was looking for the division staging area to perform a show and took a wrong turn landing them with us instead. After telling him where he was and the initial shock of becoming a POW for the Iraqi army he cracked a few jokes. He spent about six hours talking and watching the enemy watch us, then he was off to the 1st MarDiv. A few more days passed when we got another guest on the boarder, a white chevy suburban pulled up, out came an older heavy set man. He introduced himself to our Company C.O. and explained he was a field agent for the CIA. For several days he stayed with us, occasionally giving us satellite photos of the Kuwait boarder. He would become a permanent part of the post and his aerial resupplies cherished by all there, (He had ICE!)
Several mobile recon patrols were launch into Kuwait to track enemy movement, Scud locations, and strength of build up. On one such patrol I stopped the team and gathered everyone around. I pulled out seven plastic cups decorated with holy leaves and placed them on the hood of our HUMMV, and then poured rum followed by eggnog. I handed everyone in the team their cup and told them “Merry Christmas,” it was midnight December 24 and know one knew what day it was other than 902512. We sipped the nog and talked about Christmas past and our families back home. After the drink was finished a warm Merry Christmas was given to everyone and with that we all returned to our vehicles. Rum warming or chest and smiles on our faces it was now 902512 again. I will always remember that day because even during a war in a country on the other side of the world, I still spent Christmas with my family.
It was Charlie Company’s turn to man the out post once again but we wouldn’t be a full company this time. 3rd platoon and Bravo Co. were conducting recon patrols on a Republican guard tank unit to the north. Apparently Iraq was planning to strike early; this was confirmed by Force Company to our east. 1st Force Recon had set up home in a boarder town called Al Khafji and conducted patrols on enemy positions moving towards the boarder. Bravo Co. while returning from a patrol was hit by an Army artillery unit. The artillery unit spotted the convoy and decided they were Iraqi’s crossing. The first round hit just meters in front of the lead vehicle, “smoke.” The bracket of the artillery was off so it gave some valuable time for the platoon to react. The senior team leader radioed the fire control officer who searched for the unit giving the fire mission; meanwhile the bracket was getting smaller with rounds landing within 200 meters. Finally the call came through to check fire, and the final rounds stayed in the guns. (ICBM’s) That night back at the out post, Charlie Company found themselves facing a company size tank unit moving directly to their position. The call went out to the Battalion and reinforcements were requested but no tanks were in our area. LAV’s were about three clicks’ south of our position setting up an ambush and we were told to stay in our positions. When the tanks came across we welcomed them with all we had, 50 cals, AT-4’s, even thermite grenades. Didn’t even faze them, the tanks headed south towards the LAV’s position with recon in pursuit. Charlie Company followed the tanks until we realized we might be mistaken for enemy. We watched from a distance radioing to battalion of there position. Once the tanks ran into the LAV’s voiles of TOW missiles streamed to their targets. Secondary explosions erupted in the center of the tank formation; the confrontation lasted only minutes leaving behind the best Russian tanks burning (T-72’s) and nine fellow Marines whose LAV was hit by a TOW in the confusion. I would later find out one of those Marines was a friend from Infantry school. Force Company was encountering the second part of the push south by the Iraqi’s but they would have to stay. An Army convoy was in the town after getting lost and there was a lot of attention put on finding a female soldier. Force Company was tasked with locating the convoy while Saudi (backed by Marines) destroyed the enemy.
During the month of January all Marine units were pulled back to the boarder into staging areas so the air campaign could start. This was also the worst month for 1st Recon Bn. We were all called to formation for the last time as a battalion, the Sgt Major stood in front of all four companies with his head down. He called the battalion to attention but there was a crack in his voice, we all looked straight at the Sgt Major not knowing what was about to happen, then the battalion commander posted. As he gave us his farewell speech we watched the Sgt Major hoping he could do something, wondering what was going to happen to the battalion. It honestly felt like we were orphaned, our parents taken and we were left thrown out on the streets. Rumors of the battalion being disbanded started before the formation was over. Later that week we would be introduced to our next commander LtCol Matta.We saw him only once, and then the battalion was spilt up in to recon companies. Former Charlie and Delta Company were attached to Task force Ripper as support, Alpha and Bravo went to Task Force Terrell. We stared at the horizon as the Iraqi’s destroyed the oil fields; a black cloud was covering the sky as far as you could see. It was though the black cloud engulfed 1st Recon Bn giving all of us a glimpse of our future.
February 21st, all Marine forces moved into pre invasion position for the ground offensive. Recon company commanders were briefed on their missions. Recon would be split up into five groups; group one would provide security on the left flank of task force Ripper, group two would be the point for Ripper, group three would provide security for the flanks of both Ripper and Terrell down the middle, group four would be the point for Task force Terrell and group five would provide security on Terrell’s right flank. The build up was massive, the entire Marine Corps was ready to plow through the Iraqi army and Recon was on point. We had two lines of defense covered with mine fields to go through before we could split for the capital and airport. Rumor spread quickly that 3rd Marine Division would cross over what would be left of 1st and 2nd to complete the taking of Kuwait. The news media was out with cameras to film the invasion, suddenly an explosion and mine excavators plowed through the mine field. Several small pops with an intermittent explosion then we were off! At first it was a bottleneck to get through the minefield but once clear the race was on. There was no contact until later at night, just destroyed tanks and abandoned APC’s. Most of the day was filled with Cobra gunships and fixed wings making passes overhead. The order of movement started with Recon backed by LAV’s with Tanks and support bringing up the rear. Once at night Tanks were spotted and relayed to the LAV’s and tanks. The whole operation took about 48 hours and we reached the objective mainly unopposed. After a couple of days of waiting on the word to continue into Iraq we were briefed on the return to Saudi. Recons next mission was mop up; to recon the areas missed by the invasion for pockets of Iraqi’s and call in their positions for Cobras. Recon stayed in their original groups and headed south towards the boarder. Our unit came across deserters and small camps with wounded hit during the invasion. We stopped and gave what little food and water we had while our corpsmen treated the wounded. We radioed their position and headed south.
The trip back to the border took forever putting everyone in a semi catatonic state. We reached an ocean of oil that would rise to the top of or wheels and stared at the towers of fire spewing skyward, causing a hellish effect. In the distance we could see what looked like a black and white milk cow on a small island surrounded by oil. As we drove closer we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. Someone broke the eerie silence and asked our gunner on the 50 if that was a cow? Suddenly we heard Thump, thump, thump, and the cow turned into a mist of red and pink then was gone. “Yep!” Was the answer to everyone’s question? We finally reach the boarder and stopped at the original breaching point into Kuwait, The Division still had a resupply active and we pulled in to find out what our next mission or home might be. We were told that the Marine Corps had set up Division Staging Areas (DSA) and to just pick one. We headed to DSA 3 in hopes of connecting with the other companies.
DSA 3 was in the middle of no where just off the main highway that leads to Al Khaifji. As we turned in the Marines asked us our unit but couldn’t find it on the roster. We had to park our HUMMV’s and take all our gear to tent city there we would be shown our new homes for the next few months. Slowly tent city filled up and every so often units would get sent to camp 5 for R&R. Camp five had an Olympic pool and a few shops but getting in the water was near impossible. We spent about five hours there then sent back to tent city. Over the next few weeks a phone call center was set up then a couple of weeks later Pizza hut and so on, not a good sight. We later found out that 1st Recon Bn wasn’t put on the list of units to return home because it didn’t exist. Several of us informed the DSA commander that we were disbanded and were still trying to find out what unit we were with; finally we were put with the tanks. Now we had a leave date!
Charlie Company returned home to Camp Pendleton in June of 91, it was midnight when we stepped off the airplane. We looked at the Stands and banners that littered the street of what looked like a homecoming. As we got on the bus we saw the phone numbers of random girls, a lot of Marines kept them, and headed home to los Floras. As the bus pulled up to the barracks several family members waited as formation was called then dismissed. The rest of the battalion showed up during the week. Recon still had the original barracks but lost the CP to the LAV Bn. Over the next year all companies of the former Recon battalion were split up, Anyone with at least two years left on their enlistment went to 1st LAR to start the reconnaissance element and all that were left went to Battalion 1/4 to form Recon Company at Horno. The 1st Recon Battalion colors and all remaining assets were officially turned over to the new 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion in June of 92.
This is probably the first story of 1st Recon Bn during the gulf war and not to many of us kept in touch since the loss of our colors. This was a bad time for a great battalion with a great history full of great operators. We were fortunate to have a fully trained battalion with good officers and leadership through the enlisted ranks. I will say we had our unsavory moments, but the team leaders kept that down plus we didn’t have a reporter with us listening to our bitch sessions’, which ALL lower enlisted like to do to pass time.
All that has been written is from the view and information as remembered at Lcpl level. 90% if not more of 1st Recon Bn at that time was filled with Marines that had all training and schools required for the position of reconnaissance marine (ARC or RIP, Jump, Scuba, and other specialty training)
I would like to give thanks to the Recon Marines of 1st Recon Bn and to a great Commander LtCol Kershaw; it is the greatest honor to call you brothers and I will never forget the blood, sweat, and tears.
Sgt Howard CJ (Coon’ta)
C co. 3rd Plt (89-93)
Luncheon information is here http://www.1streconbnassociation.org/Sp08/Sp08.htm
Please contact Charlie Kershaw at firstname.lastname@example.org if you will be at the luncheon. He needs a head count.
Rob Dunagan email@example.com is looking for GySgt Dan Carrier who was with B-Co mid 80s and retired from recruiting duty around 1995. Thank you. SF Rob Dunagan
I'm really getting into this Gen Kill series. I have to watch each episode
about 5 times to catch all the stuff they sneak in. Didn't know the Battalion
Colors were lost on that supply truck until I heard it on that Combat
Right now, Cpl Person (James Ranson) see link below (one whacked out smart a**) and LCpl Trombley (confused but a natural killer) seem to be the most interesting. I could go down the list of our teammates in Dublin City and come pretty close to matching each real Recon Marine to their character in Gen Kill.
I have to say this series is well done. Don't like some of the officers being classified as sharp or s*** birds based on one or two actions. In my experience, I only know one s***bird L.T. up at Phu Bai - and Paul Young wrote about him in his book without mentioning his name on page 172 in 1st Recon, Second to None. Obviously "Captain America".
I also can look back and see Reconners I served
with who closely resemble those depicted in GK. The exception being
the Iraqi Reconners were tame to what the guys I knew were. In Iraq
there was no beer, booze, skive broads, skive runs to places like Dog
Patch, going to the Steam & Cream at the airbase, no CS attacks
from other companies, and a host of other exhibitions of unhonorable
and unprofessional Corps values. My best Bud who was my APL was a bigot,
drunk, had serious problems with women, and was a hair's breath away
from being a psychopath. He was however one of the best Recon warriors
I served with. Had a 100% truthful book been written and movie made
back then the Corps would have taken the same stance. It would have
echoed how they had been commercial productions filled with inaccuracies.
Reconners are Reconners no matter what era they serve. When not in combat they will fill their time with whatever comes to mind but when the time comes to get serious about their profession they will do what needs to be done and more. This is exactly what Bravo company did in Iraq. They did in fact hold up the honor and professionalism of not only the Marine Corps but all the Reconners who came before them. That Bravo platoon reportedly had more valor awards and combat meritorious promotions than any other platoon in the battalion during that tour.
I am in no way defending Evan Wright or HBO. My opinion is based on what went on in my time, the facts as I know them, and Capt. Nate Fick's book. If you throw out Wright's book, HBO, and only accept Flick's book you will see the men of Bravo Co. measured up to Recon expectations and standards in a combat situation. Capt. Fick has a high respect for his men and they for him. End result is it really doesn't make any difference what everyone else outside Bravo Co. thinks. If the men can look at Capt. Fick and tell him he did his job and Capt. Fick can look at them telling them the same no one else's opinion matters.
My main concern is the history value of the two books and the movie. They are a recording of a brief moment in 1st Recon's history. If you would like to send your Generation Kill opinion contact me Cayenne6@peoplepc.com
If you are anywhere around St Simons, Ga. stop in and visit with Jim and Barbara Barta http://www.barbarajeans.com/
The Tenth Annual Reunion of "Charlie" Co., 1st Recon will be held at the Bar Harbor Inn, Bar Harbor, Maine on the following dates: Arrival Date, Thursday, September 3, 2009 Depart on Sunday, September 6, 2009 We have a block of 12 rooms set aside at the Bar Harbor Inn, Bar harbor, Maine. Room rates are in a package deal as follows: Non-Ocean View $899.00 includes tax and gratuity Ocean Front Ground Floor $1,349.00 includes tax and gratuity Ocean Front 2nd Floor $1,384.00 includes tax and gratuity Includes the following: 1 Full Dinner 1 Down East Lobster Bake 3 Full Breakfasts 2 ½ hour harbor cruise Or Acadia Park Tour $20 Gift Shop Credit Reservations must be made no later than June 1, 2009. Call the Bar Harbor Inn at 800-248-3351 to make reservations. Please inform them at the time of reservation that you are a part of the "Charlie Co., 1st Recon group. Please remember to tell them whether you want a ground floor room or a second floor room. Ocean front rooms offer two queen beds or one king, and a private balcony directly overlooking the ocean – with a Spectacular View. Non-ocean view rooms offer two queen beds or one king with patios or balconies overlooking the grounds. All rooms have air conditioning, heat, touchtone phones, voice mail, wireless internet access (nominal fee), remote control cable television and VCRs or DVDs, refrigerators, coffee makers, hair dryers, in room safes and robes. Average Temp for September 3 – 6 - Hi 73 - Low 52 Check-in Time – 2:00PM Check-out Time – 11:00 AM Deposit – Reservations require an advance payment by check or credit card equal to one night's lodging. Refund – For cancellations received at least ten days prior to confirmed arrival date the deposit is refundable, less a $25.00 administrative fee. Bar Harbor Inn Oceanfront Resort Newport Drive, Bar harbor, ME 04609 207-288-3351 800-248-3351 www.barharborinn.com The Bar Harbor Inn was awarded "One of the top 500 Hotels in the World" by Travel & Leisure Magazine, January 2008. Bar Harbor, Maine is located on Mt. Desert Island, approximately 50 miles southeast of Bangor 175 miles northeast of Portland 290 miles northeast of Boston 350 miles northeast of Providence 512 miles northeast of New York City 575 miles southeast of Montreal By Car Take I-95 to Bangor, exit 182 A (formerly exit 45A), continue on I-395 to exit 6A, and drive East on Rt. 1A to Ellsworth, then Rt. 3 to Bar Harbor or Take I-95 to Augusta, exit 109 (formerly exit 30), and follow Rt. 3 to Bar Harbor (A bit longer, but more scenic). By Air The Bar Harbor - Hancock County Airport is 12 miles from the Bar Harbor Inn. The airport is served by: US Airways 1-800-428-4322 with direct or connecting flights from Boston. Bangor International Airport served by: American Airlines 800-433-7300 Continental 800-523-3273 Delta 800-221-1212 Northwest Airlines 800-225-2525 US Air 800-428-4322 Bangor airport is only 50 miles from the Inn. This is the Tenth Annual Reunion of "Charlie" Co., 1st Recon We would like to see a good turn-out guys! Remember you're not getting any younger! And for those who have been putting off attending the reunions, always saying maybe next year, well this is next year and it's time you said "I'm Going!". This is a very popular place and will fill up quickly, so I encourage you to make your reservations early. We only have 12 rooms set aside based on past attendance but we would like to see twice that many make reservations and join us at our tenth annual get together. We can do this if everyone will make their reservations early. Let's all of us do a little arm twisting and get someone who has not been attending to make this one. I would like to see everyone make their reservations by November 30th of this year, if possible, because the Inn closes for the winter on November 30th and doesn't open back up until March of 2009. I will be sending out emails to let you know how it's coming along and to bug you to make those reservations
Kenneth King Charlie Co. 66/67
Below: 1st Recon Bn. SgtMaj Lehew tests the new special reconnaissance stealth vehicle. The SgtMaj has given the vehicle a thumbs down. He says the vehicle's ability to approach an enemy position is excellent but the ability to chase the enemy or E&E from them is very poor. The SgtMaj was also concerned about the exhaust material littering a team's hide and providing the enemy with a source of smell to locate a team. Seems the fuel (MREs) is harsh on the vehicle's system. SgtMaj Lehew says 1st Recon will not be adopting the vehicle until all the problems are properly remedied.