12 Strong–The Horse Soldiers Movie

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

Based on the best-selling book Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton, 12 Strong is the true story of the first US Army Special Forces team to go into Afghanistan to hunt down Taliban and al-Qaeda after the 9/11 terrorist attack that brought down the Twin Towers.

 

 

In this dramatization, twelve Green Berets—Task Force Dagger—are ordered to team up with Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum of the Northern Alliance in the mountains of Afghanistan to open the way through hostile, mountainous territory to Mazur-i-Sharif.

Once the team arrives and makes contact, they find they must proceed on horseback. Oh, yeah . . . And they only have three weeks to do it. Real life team leader Captain Mitch Nelson pretty well sums it up in his famous response to an impatient senior officer awaiting a report: “I am advising a man on how to best employ light infantry and horse cavalry in the attack against Taliban T-55s [tanks], mortars, artillery, personnel carriers and machine guns — a tactic which I think became outdated with the invention of the Gatling gun.”

A Jerry Bruckheimer production, 12 Strong was filmed in New Mexico in and around Albuquerque as well as in caves south of Alamogordo and on White Sands Missile Range. Chris Hemsworth does a great job as Capt. Mitch Nelson, and he’s backed up with excellent performances from Michael Peña, Trevante Rhodes, and Navid Negahban, who play Sam Diller, Ben Milo, and General Dostum, respectively. Both the armaments and the social challenges the team met with in the course of their mission are faithfully portrayed. And speaking of those armaments . . . bring earplugs. LOTS of explosions.

12 Strong is an excellent representation of what US Army Special Forces concentrate on and do best.

As the film accurately portrays, Task Force Dagger did a great job of quickly inserting into a hostile area, meeting up with indigenous forces, and gaining their trust enough to work together to influence the strategic situation in Afghanistan. Such missions are the bread and butter of the US Army Special Forces.

We would only make one critique of the film’s portrayal of Task Force Dagger.

The movie shows these Green Berets being a bit out of their element with the primitive conditions they found in Afghanistan. In real life, US Army Special Forces are always careful to never, ever appear to be surprised by anything or challenged by any environment, whether that environment is geographic, climatic, cultural, or tactical domain. They will be careful to appear to be absolute masters of whatever domain they inhabit. In other words, they would smile and play poker with Satan and pretend to enjoy the warm weather if they found themselves on a mission in Hell.

Unlike many war movies, 12 Strong addresses the impact war has on the warriors’ families.

Families also suffer and sacrifice. According to Holmes, the hardest thing in the life of a warrior with a family is how their children pay a cost that was not of their choosing. It’s hard for them to wake up and find out that dad left at 3:00 a.m. Eventually, the kids figure out dad isn’t on a beach in Maui, and it leads to the unavoidable fact that families bleed, too, in their own way.

As usual with any movie about military success or heroism on the battlefield, some reviewers who clearly have no experience whatsoever with any battle beyond fighting with their lovers for control of the remote dismiss this movie as “flag waving.” We completely disagree. 12 Strong does a great job of recounting the true story of a handful of brave men who got shit done.

While we would love to give 12 Strong our highest rating, a .44 Magnum*, for sentimental reasons, we must give it our second highest rating, a .357 Magnum.

That’s because even though it is a solid war movie with excellent production and acting, it is not particularly life-altering. That being said, it is, indeed, a solid war movie with excellent production and acting, and, therefore, worth seeing. We recommend this movie to those who are prepared for a realistic combat movie with one caveat—don’t take the kids. This is not a movie for children.

 

 

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Bayard & Holmes Movie Ratings

  • Dud Chinese-manufactured ammo: Stay home and do housework. You’ll have more fun.

  • .22 rim fire:  Not worth the big screen, but ok to rent.

  • .380: Go to the matinee if someone else is paying.

  • .38 Special: Worth paying for the matinee yourself.

  • .357 Magnum: Okay to upgrade to prime time if you can stand the crowd.

  • .44 Magnum: Must see this. Life-altering event.

The Life We Didn’t Plan – Most Realistic Combat Video Game

When life gets busy so does Holmes, but don’t worry, he’ll be back soon with more of his foreign affairs analysis and biting sarcasm. In the meantime, I thought I’d lighten things up a bit after that intense and important series on Iran (See Special Edition Iran in the Archives).

This is a piece by The Onion made shortly after the release of Call of Duty 2. Although the real Call of Duty, Modern Warfare 3 is already out, this is still a funny and disturbingly accurate spoof.

All the best to all of you for keeping it real.

Piper Bayard

Tragedy in Afghanistan Not a Surprise

By Jay Holmes

Five members of the United States Army are facing Court Martial for the alleged murder of innocent civilians in Afghanistan.

The facts of the case are not completely known to the Army itself, and I know even less about it. From the information thus far available, it appears that this group of soldiers had been involved in heavy drug use, and had been noticeably unhealthy for months before allegations of murder surfaced. The local command may have some explaining to do as to the condition of their soldiers.

Whatever occurred should not be ignored. I am in no position to judge the facts since I am, for the most part, unaware of what they actually are. What I can see clearly so far is that these soldiers were living in an abnormal situation and under tremendous stress, and that the general orders that every American service person lives by were disregarded. But by whom, why and when? Did officers ignore clear signals that their subordinates were acting outside of standing orders? I don’t know.

The Court Martial members will have the responsibility to determine the facts of the case and to assign responsibility in the form of “guilty” or “innocent.” For the sake of the dead, the accused, and all of us, I hope that the Army does so justly. I do not envy the accused, and I do not envy the members of the court. But the US Army, the Department of Defense, and we as a nation have a deeper responsibility to these men, to the people of Afghanistan, and to ourselves as a nation.

War is an ugly business. It is inevitably a tale of misery, sacrifice, and human suffering in the pursuit of triumph. We, as a nation, are at times willing to enter into that realm of misery with the hope of preventing a tragedy greater than the war itself. In our decision to make war, we should never assume or pretend that the young soldiers that we send to fight our wars are capable of remaining unaffected by the hell that we send them to.

It is in the best interest of the US Army and it’s soldiers to examine this case deeply, not just to determine guilt or innocence, but to better understand the causes of whatever occurred.

As the war in Afghanistan continues on in it’s current form, the military members that are fighting it will continue to face very demoralizing and frustrating conditions. They are exposed to attacks by civilians that are not clearly distinguishable from the innocents, and many of the innocents often are not. They see endemic corruption by an incompetent and seemingly unconcerned Afghan government. Afghanistan is a well-seeded fertile field for cultivating precisely the horrible type of incident that may have occurred.

The question that we have a deep moral obligation to answer is simple. What can and should we do to prevent this type of incident from occurring? The Army might be tempted to answer that the Uniform Code of Military Justice is in place precisely to prevent this sort of misconduct. That UCMJ has been in place a long time, and perhaps has helped to make such incidents rare, but, clearly, our troops need more help than what they are getting from us or the UCMJ.

We owe ourselves a complete investigation to obtain the facts and a thorough, dispassionate analysis of the conditions and causes of the incident.