by Jeremy Griffith
The American Millennium
Two thumbs way up for the first two episodes of The Fighting Season by executive producer Ricky Schroder. All through the two first episodes I was shouting at the TV non-stop and cheering the Soldiers and their leaders and booing their vile opponents. I felt like I was watching a melodrama, except the action was very real!
The Fighting Season is following elements of the 10th Mountain and the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan as they have a two fold mission there, roll up the carpet and leave things to the local nationals, and continue to fight the enemy insurgents until their last day in country. I appreciated the vignettes transitioning from the warfighters on the ground actually putting rounds on target and taking fire from insurgents, to the American Colonel mentoring the Afghani National Police, to the officers and staff planning the operations. Every aspect of the war effort is covered in this documentary. It is taught and insightful and brutal.
I appreciated one scene early on that was part of an interview with a young captain who was the brigade intelligence officer. He was explaining that the fight we are involved in now in Afghanistan is not against an insurgency that wants to win back their nation and drive out invaders. These opponents are a brutal mob who wants to gain control of the country and restore the brutal regime that was in place before; the one that prevented girls from going to school, who had women in basic slavery day in and day out and would kill Soldiers and civilians, anyone that doesn’t bend to their regressive point of view.
Watching this extraordinary documentary had me emotional even as I think of recent events in Iraq where I served as part of the surge back in 2007. The fall of Ramadi in Iraq is a significant set back for the United States and the world. ISIS is now on the door step of Baghdad and as such, will no doubt take over the country very soon. It illustrates clearly how the successes gained through the blood and tears of our fighting men and women can be so easily lost by short sighted and arrogant politicians.
This is not about war, this is war! – quote from the Ricky Schroder made for TV documentary “The Fighting Season”.
But we are 14 years down the road, I get that, and people are tired of sending young men and women to die in foreign theaters. I get it. In the end of the day, Afghanistan and Iraq has to fight for themselves and maintain the gains that we have given them, we cannot safeguard them forever. So it’s heart-rending to watch the news as thousands of civilians flee ISIS on foot in the heat even as their military and police forces drop their weapons and run.
I think about and fear for the lives of three hundred plus Marines currently stationed at Al Asaad Airbase in Iraq who are there to train the Iraqi Army and police and find themselves surrounded by ISIS. I wonder if they will find relief soon, able to leave their mission before they are unable to leave and are overwhelmed by the terrorists, forced to fight to the last man. Remember that this administration has left people die before, abandoning Ambassador Stevens and four of his brave protection detail in Benghazi, Libya. Will this administration do that again to the Marines and other support personnel now in Iraq?
I worry about the 3rd BCT, 4th ID now stationed in Kuwait out of Fort Carson, Colorado. Is this heavy brigade going to go over the berm into Iraq to relieve those Marines? What dangers will they face? Or will Barack Obama keep them in Kuwait doing training exercises and watching over the berm with bated breath? Will Obama unleash the dogs of war or will he keep them chained?
Ricky Schroader and his team of producers and documentarians have in my mind created the greatest war documentary since Restrepo and Brothers At War. In the first and second episodes I could see, actually see AK-47 rounds pass between the Soldiers and the filmakers as they are taking cover behind thin trees and tall grass. Meanwhile, many miles away, an army Major and his staff at the tactical operations center is listening to radio traffic and watching the action through the eyes of drones even as they try to direct air support to relieve the besieged platoon on the ground.
“This is not “Call Of Duty”! -quote from “The Fighting Season”
In another Vignette, an Army Colonel mentoring the Afghan National Police is driving in convoy with his men and checking checkpoints to make sure the locals are executing their duties properly. Traffic is intense and the Soldiers heads are on swivels, looking out for trouble. The colonel gets out of the vehicle, to the chagrine and horror of his men and he engages local businessmen in the bazaar, buying fruit from the vendors and talking to them about local issues. The men chastise him, fearful he is putting himself at risk unnecessarily. The colonel just laughs them off saying, “you can’t do this job staying in the car! They have to see you doing the job.”
A female Army captain speaks at one point about her work with Afghan women. The strict rules of conduct in that country forbid men to search or even talk to strange women, so the nation is training women police officers and female Soldiers like this young Army Captain is mentoring them. The captain talks about her role as an advisor and shares her admiration for the leader of the local police, a woman of renown, who has championed women’s and human rights in the country.
Meanwhile, at one of the Forward Operating Base, the commander of a brigade combat team of the All American 82nd Airborne is planning an op in a beleaguered part of the country. The snow has melted in the mountains and foreign and local insurgents are returning to fight, the fighting season has begun. The colonel coaches his men through the Army’s military decision making process, MDMP as they come up with courses of action for the spring and summer campaign. He rejects the early COA he receives and tells the staff to go back to the drawing board. The colonel presents a final draft of the plan to his boss, a one-star general who is the deputy commander of the task force. Problems are found in the air logistics piece of the plan; the unit is taking too many turns, about 8 round trips, in helicopters to get to the objective. The brigadier is concerned that the unit might be telegraphing their intent and making themselves too easy a target for insurgents with rocket propelled grenades. The planners of the 82nd are pushed back to their offices to revise the plan once again.
Meanwhile, a female First Sergeant, in charge of logistics for the upcoming mission, is trying to figure out how to best provide material support. She’s loading containers of supplies and equipment for air movement and the containers have become too heavy. She’s got to double check the packing list inside to see what’s in there and what can be removed, and one of her knuckle-heads has misplaced the key to the container lock. She’s pissed, swearing up a blue streak to subordinates on the phone. They better get this right or there will be a woman’s wrath and Hell to pay.
I really like this series and I can’t wait to watch the last three episodes on this week on Audience on Direct TV. I highly recommend it. I covers all aspects of the operations, from the Soldiers on the ground to the planners and leaders, and to the logisticians who almost never get credit for their very important work in providing support for the meat-eaters and trigger pullers. I like how the filmakers are hardly ever heard from in the movie and they allow the stories to be told from the point of view of the servicemen and women.
Mr. Schroder and his small team took enormous risk with this documentary, putting themselves in harm’s way to film it. The film is beautifully shot and amazingly dramatic. This should win an award and I recommend anyone see it who has had a loved one in a combat zone and has asked the question, “what is it like over there?” This series answers that question beautifully and I can’t wait to see the rest. Huah!