29 June 2010

Red Bulls Get Exclusive Sneak Peak at 'Restrepo'

CAMP RIPLEY, MINNESOTA--More than 50 leaders and staff of the Iowa Army National Guard's 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th "Red Bull" Infantry Division attended an exclusive sneak-peak of the documentary "Restrepo" Sunday, June 27.

The Sundance Award-winning film, which depicts how one company of U.S. soldiers conducted counterinsurgency operations in the hotly contested Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, opens in theaters nationwide from now until early July. While previously shown in special screenings on active-duty military bases, the Red Bull "Restrepo" event uniquely offered an opportunity to Army National Guard soldiers in a pre-deployment training environment.

The audience comprised much of the brigade's Headquarters and Headquarters Company (H.H.C.)--the non-commissioned, warrant, and commissioned officers who will lead and support the unit during its deployment to Afghanistan later this summer.

By repeatedly embedding with the same platoon of soldiers in 2007 and 2008, film co-producers Sebastian Junger (author of the books "War" and "The Perfect Storm") and Tim Hetherington (author of "Long Story, Bit by Bit") sought to document the emotional experience of U.S. soldiers in combat.

In discussions that followed Sunday night, Red Bull soldiers combined the terrain, conditions, and strategies depicted in "Restrepo" with their own experiences, expertise, and expectations. (Approximately 60 percent of the brigade's soldiers have deployed at least once before.) Here are some highlights of their reactions:
"We have to remember that we, as staff--the decisions that we make and help make, are going to put other people in these situations."

"Never once did it seem like the captain [in the film] asked the elders what they wanted. It seemed like U.S. troops came in and made promises, but never asked the village what they wanted. Some higher somewhere apparently made the decision they they needed roads, and never asked."

"We tell [Afghans] that we're going to make them rich, and then we can't pay for a damn cow?"

"It's important to realize the separation of what these soldiers went through and what we may be going to. As a lieutenant or platoon sergeant, I might live [in the way depicted in the film]. But if you're on Bagram [Airfield], when you're living in a B-hut or CHU or whatever, remember that there are guys out there living in the dirt, burning their own crap, looking for a hot meal every once in a while."
One soldier wished that more soldiers could have taken part in the special screening, including lower-ranking ones. "The time is now. A lot of soldiers aren't taking it seriously yet. This would open a lot of eyes."

At the same time, other soldiers expressed concerns that family and friends might worry that the film represents conditions in Afghanistan nationwide, rather than a particularly gritty pocket. "Every one of us will see a different piece of the puzzle, a different patch of ground, have a different story to tell. In other words, our mileage may vary."

For a few moments, however, thanks to the producers of "Restrepo," Red Bull troops were able to walk in other soldiers' boots--before they travel to Afghanistan themselves.


  1. As you know, I’ll be going to Ft. Benning, in Columbus, GA, in a couple of weeks for the screening. I look forward to it and meeting some very cool people. I’m glad you and your peeps had a positive reaction to the movie and (kinda) give you a glance as to what you could be going into.

  2. As a member of the 133rd, I didn't hear about this until Tues after the show. It would have been nice for the line units to see this inteasd of the FOB support people (noticed how I avoided "fobbit", oops)

  3. @ Mark: Roger that--I'm a former Ironman myself, I would've loved to have heard to hear a pure-11B take on Restrepo. I think it came down to a matter of timing--the pre-release copy of the film needed to be returned to the movie company--and some sergeants major were concerned about showing it to soldiers below E6, this close to deployment.

    I'll keep an eye and ear out for more opportunities. Zap me a message at Facebook or sherpa (AT) redbullrising.com and I'll keep you posted if/when anything breaks loose.



Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.