‘Hurt Locker’ accurate at time
I would like to go over a few issues or errors in The Rumor Doctor’s Nov. 5 column (“What’s wrong with this picture? Hollywood often has a hard time getting military uniforms correct”) using the film “The Hurt Locker” as an example of flawed efforts. I recall when “The Hurt Locker” came out and I was living with a bunch of Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) veterans while attending college, it came up a couple of times in conversation. When it did there was a fairly distinct line between those of us who loved it and those of us who thought it was crap. I loved it. It is the first movie I recall seeing that made it big time about the time I was in Iraq. Most of the guys, though, served during or after the “surge” and were unaware of the 2003-2004 time frame, in all of its eccentricities.
I personally loved it because I thought it was a very accurate movie. A caveat to that is that I have never worked directly with explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) so whether the EOD-specific portions were accurate I am not sure. Surely it still will have its Hollywood hyperdrama and super-action stuff that is rarely accurate but, in comparison to other movies from a post-Sept. 11 world, I thought it was pretty spot on. I want to respond to the items you pointed out in your column.
Mismatched camouflage: In OIF II 2004–2005 everyone had mismatched uniforms and gear. Recall, this was still within the period when people didn’t have up-armored vehicles, and had mismatched gear (if any at all). When my unit drove into Iraq from Kuwait in early March 2004, we literally sand-bagged our vehicles for protection. We didn’t have armored vehicles. So having a mismatched Kevlar cover is totally accurate. I saw tons of people with the same thing.
Wrong uniform: We wore desert camouflage uniforms (DCUs) in Iraq at that time — that is correct. However, wearing Army combat uniforms (ACUs) is only off by about five months from the first issuance of them in OIF, so that is not too bad. Considering how many media shows and movies where they have people wearing absurdly wrong uniforms like all-black or urban camo, I think it’s pretty close.
Eye protection: OK, I’ll give you that. But the eye-pro issued to us was the crappiest stuff ever and often people just opted not to wear it half the time. Heck, I was not told to wear hearing protection until the last couple months I was in theater. Someone not wearing eye-pro is not a mishap in uniforms considering I do not recall AR-670-1 ever stating we had to wear glasses.
Fingerless gloves: I saw this all the time — totally accurate.
Rolled-up sleeves: “The Army doesn’t roll up their sleeves”? Um, yes they did. Surely not the ACUs and generally speaking in a tactical environment you did not, but an E-6 running his own show? Yeah I could easily see that happen. Mission dictates, it’s that simple. I could easily see an EOD noncommissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) saying, “We do it this way [for such and such reason].”
Again, I think people forget that before the “surge,” even before 2005, this was not a perfect-regulation war. It was a ton of units tossed into a war zone that had mismatched gear, various different equipment and drastically different standard operating procedures (SOPs) and tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs). To the credit of those of us who served during that time frame, we made it work. We took what was given to us and we succeeded.
I am a huge proponent of accurately portraying military uniforms in Hollywood. I am simply amazed that this is the movie that was picked to show that Hollywood screws it up often when there are so many other ones that are subpar and nearly disrespectful of our uniform. If anything, the wearing of ACUs is really the only unbelievable thing, and that’s because pre-OIF “surge” was pre-ACUs — and no one seems to remember the time of the BDU and DCU, the time when we still sang cadences about communists, when we still wore camo paint, when we trained to fight troops and tanks, not terrorists.