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Tech Adviser/Marine Recon SSgt. Eric Kocher talks about HBO's "Generation Kill"
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[QUOTE="Ravage, post: 31650, member: 56"] [B]In the kill zone[/B] New HBO show aims to tell the rough, raw realities of war By Dan Lamothe - [EMAIL="firstname.lastname@example.org"]email@example.com[/EMAIL] Posted : July 14, 2008 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? [B]Capturing a culture[/B] 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!’” [B]Getting it right[/B] 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.” [B]Conflict remains[/B] 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. [B]A part of the lore?[/B] 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.” [URL]http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/issues/stories/0-MARINEPAPER-3608950.php[/URL] [/QUOTE]
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Tech Adviser/Marine Recon SSgt. Eric Kocher talks about HBO's "Generation Kill"