Saturday, March 08, 2014

There's been more than one Lone Survivor

Peter The Kingdom Berg adapted Marcus Lutrell's harrowing account of Operation Red Wings which took place in June 2005. While Berg does use a fair amount of artistic licence in the kill-count and the last 10 minutes is just a Hollywood war-porn and DID NOT HAPPEN THAT WAY - it's no reason not to enjoy this in the spirit it is intended, for Lutrell to tell the world the story of the courage and heroism of his buddies who were lost on an op that went sour.

The cast was brilliant. Mark Wahlberg [as Lutrell] loses his 'Mark Wahlberg' persona to do some 'real' acting for a change and comes out on top. Ben 3:10 To Yuma Foster, Emilie Killer Joe Hirsch and Eric Black Hawk Down Bana all bring their A-game to this fine piece of work. And finally Taylor Kitch has FULLY REDEEMED himself for both John Carter and Battleship and does good service to Lt. Mike Murphy, a name known by every U.S. serviceman today.

In the late 80’s I led a four man Force Recon team into ███████ on a three day Green Op to gather intel so that the brass could plan an operation against the ███████ there. Everything went exactly as planned for the first two days, we had a wooded area for concealment and clean lines of sight on ███████ but little elevation. On day three however everything went to hell. One of the ███████ K9 sentry patrols caught a whiff of some 3-day old Devil Dog sweat or something of ours when the wind changed and began making for our position. The dog handler was out of direct site of the rest of the ███████ but as he seemed to be about to radio in that he was veering off his patrol path, I gave the order to drop them. Three seconds later Gunny Hackett had perforated the handler’s skull with some 5.56, and sent the mutt to doggie heaven too.

We were so fucked. It was almost midday, broad daylight and we had ten minutes, if lucky, before Turner and Hooch were noticed missing. Hiding the bodies was pointless and would have bought us out of cover and probably taken as long as their search party would have taken to find us. It was time to get out of Dodge. Ten minutes seemed optimistic now. We had only gathered our gear and intel, sent our extraction request and were less than half a klick South when the ███████ alert klaxon started wailing – and they had more dogs.

To be honest I thought I was cleverer than the hounds; my egress route took us through a river which would delay doggie pursuit as we’d not enter and exit the river on opposite banks – we’d get out on the same side about a klick downstream! It was an ingenious strategy and I was confident it would enter the Corps' advanced training doctrine for SERE before long. Now if Sergeant Xan just hadn’t triggered that claymore we’d all have escaped intact.

There was nothing left of SSgt Xan save his dog tags, but Sergeant Wieler was very much alive and was pretty vocal about losing his leg below the knee. Giving him a branch to chew on silenced him as we applied a tourniquet but Gunny Hackett and I were under no delusions that the ███████ knew exactly where we were now. As the Gunny's thigh had taken shrapnel, he took the intel and I hoisted Sgt Wieler to begin our downward slope towards the bay before the first bullets began to puncture the foliage around us and we heard the angry barks of well-trained hounds.

The first shell landed about 200 meters in front of us which was bad news because we were running into their range. The dog-augmented force behind us and the several hundred meter sheer drop to the side meant that our best chance was to bet against the mortars. Finally Lady Luck seemed to take some pity on us and we were out of range before we got to the coastline. Alas, our zig-zagging had allowed the ███████ to catch up to us and there was now a heavy machine gun employed with it’s tracers buzzing past us like angry hornets. We stopped a few times to return the favour and dropped a few of 'em before I saw Gunny Hackett’s knee getting blown out and I felt my own stab of pain in my shoulder.

Sgt. Wieler, although unconscious, saved my life because most of the machine gun rounds had chewed him up instead of hitting me. I had met his folks some months back, his death would hit his mom bad but his dad had been a squid in 'Nam and new the score. He’d proudly hang his kid’s Purple Heart above his own and that of his father before him from WWII.

Gunny Hackett grabbed my arm and handed me the intel. “Captain, this is bigger than us! Get it to them!” He was bleeding from his chest now too. I gave him my grenades, spare mags and I saluted him. He returned it saying "Go Sir!" As I ran, I heard him lay down precision covering fire, earning a posthumous Medal of Honor, a photograph of which I'd be allowed to show his wife and daughter some months later. I heard a tremendous explosion from Hackett's position just before I dived into the surf eliminating most of who was pursuing me, and I recall dearly hoping that the extraction sub got our message.

Has this got anything to do with Lone Survivor? No it's just that the sights and sounds in the movie caused a few flashbacks as I watched it. Most Hollywood war movie/action fare won't do that to me. This is no Black Hawk Down but it rides with The Hurt Locker and it seemed real enough from my seat - I don't think it can get more praise than that from someone who's done what I have.

Whopper Rating: *****

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