Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. 2016 Documentary, Citizen Soldier, Freshly Relevant with News

 

45th Infantry Patch ThunderbirdCitizen Soldier is an excellent documentary, from soldiers’ perspectives, made freshly relevant by the infuriating revelations that top Department of Defense officials were blatantly violating their oaths of office and actively lying to the civilian elected leadership, President Trump and the Congress, about troops these excrement heaps in suits were keeping in harm’s way. President Eisenhower was entirely right to warn of the deeply corrupting congruence of profit and career in the name of our national security. To understand on whom the Department of Defense are really imposing costs, watch Citizen Soldier.

I finally viewed Citizen Soldier this past Friday with a group of friends who are not veterans. We were all a little skeptical when we popped the DVD in the player, worried that it would be amateurish and not the subject matter that lends itself to being so bad it is good. Everyone gave the movie a thumbs up. We had briefly talked about the forsworn, lawless leadership at the Department of Defense. This movie captured deployment at the height of the Obama Afghanistan surge. The comments after the lights came up were not entirely printable about the top Pentagon leadership then and now.

Citizen Soldier feels like a multiplayer first-person shooter, always from the perspective of one of the soldiers. The view over gun barrels will look very familiar if you ever played or saw a bit of a game being played on a computer screen. This is because the footage comes from small, light video cameras, like GoPro, mounted on the soldiers’ helmets. So, this was an intentional project, from before their deployment, to tell the story of a company company of “citizen soldiers,” the Oklahoma Army National Guard’s 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, known since World War II as the “Thunderbirds.” A thunderbird is on their diamond-shaped unit patch.

The soldiers deployed at reduced strength, just two platoons instead of three, and the top leadership we see each day is a platoon leader, a lieutenant. Partway through, we see one of the platoon leaders killed and the soldiers recovering his body, all from the immediate, grunt-level perspective of men who were there. The only footage notably different is of the same charter service jet returning first one and then another fallen hero to their home town. Yes, you see the wife meet the flag-draped coffin in one case, and the mother meet the other. This is not an easy movie to watch, even though it never goes for cheap sentiment.

The source material is both the strength and the minor weakness of this film. The beginning and the end of the movie are National Guard messaging, standard-issue remarks, and talking points about the value of not “part-time” but “citizen” soldiers. The closing credits include a roll of the National Guard’s war dead, by state, since 2001. My viewing companions commented that the ages looked higher than what they expected from years of Vietnam movies. Yes, the Guard and Reserve do tend to be slightly older and stay in units at older ages than their active-duty counterparts. The soldier-eye view conveys a valuable perspective. You share the feeling of just how formidable the terrain is, and the frustrating, frightening limitations on what you can see and hear as you are surrounded by mostly unseen dangers. There is not flying into an overhead view. The weakness, if it is one, is the same limited perspective, a lack of larger context which they might have from maps on their Combat Operating Post, their small outpost.

Citizen Soldier is well worth the watch. It is on Amazon Prime, currently requiring a rental fee. You can also directly download it or get the physical media from the movie’s website, linked at the top of this review. While rated R, it does not have gratuitous violence, nor any gore, and the language is less salty than a Hollywood version of soldiers in the field. Check it out.

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  1. CarolJoy, Thread Hijacker Coolidge

    It is such a tragedy that repeatedly over the last 75 years, America’s middle and lower classes have offered up their sons and daughters to serve their nation as they sincerely believed it was their duty to do.

    And yet, it has been increasingly obvious over the years that their admirable sacrifices were thwarted due to the desperate and greedy need of people in the higher echelons to advance their military careers and to make themselves rich.

    I am going to make sure we watch this film, as I hope it exposes some of the painful truths that many of us have been aware of for decades.

    It should be noted that the service people themselves often remain unjaded and willing to do it all over again, if some small part of their many sacrifices manage to make the world a better place.

    • #1
    • November 14, 2020, at 4:56 PM PST
    • 11 likes
  2. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    And this is the so-called “toxic masculinity” that the Left denigrates and fights against. The pampered social justice warriors need a taste of the real battlefield. 

    • #2
    • November 14, 2020, at 5:57 PM PST
    • 11 likes
  3. Boss Mongo Member

    I need to watch the movie. I got comments in my head, pro and con.

    • #3
    • November 14, 2020, at 7:20 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor

    I’m putting it on our list.

    • #4
    • November 15, 2020, at 6:57 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  5. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    I was so disappointed in HR McMasters, after reading his book about Vietnam, to see his failure with a president who wanted to dismantle the war machine. I’ll watch that movie.

    • #5
    • November 15, 2020, at 9:05 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  6. Some Call Me ...Tim Coolidge

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    I need to watch the movie. I got comments in my head, pro and con.

    Looking forward to Boss’s comments. Have not seen the movie nor been to Afghanistan. But like Boss, comments come mind that should be reserved until after seeing the movie. 
    Tim

    • #6
    • November 15, 2020, at 11:27 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  7. Sweezle Member

    A powerful clip. I plan to watch it. Meanwhile I hope Trump brings the troops home from Afghanistan as soon as possible. 

    • #7
    • November 15, 2020, at 1:02 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  8. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    I need to watch the movie. I got comments in my head, pro and con.

    I look forward to your comments. 

    • #8
    • November 15, 2020, at 2:13 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  9. PappyJim Coolidge

    The flick is worth the time if only to expose what this unit endured during its deployment.

    I am shaken that these people are sent into this morass of useless combat. As one of the guardsmen points out the entire “country” of Afghanistan is corrupt. The episode where the Plt. leader refuses to accompany an Afghan National Army unit any further because of his distrust of their loyalty sent shivers across my body.

    Some of this was present in my war but we did make some headway which was ultimately thwarted by the US Congress. There was a perceptible improvement in the RVN political and military affairs as the war neared the end. Today’s conflict doesn’t show me that. The US needs out now even if we don’t pause to declare victory.

    • #9
    • November 15, 2020, at 2:17 PM PST
    • 2 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  10. PappyJim Coolidge

    Sweezle (View Comment):

    A powerful clip. I plan to watch it. Meanwhile I hope Trump brings the troops home from Afghanistan as soon as possible.

    Has anyone else seen/heard the argument that DoD (from the start of Trump’s term with Mattis as SecDef) has slow walked or ignored POTUS orders to get ? Even to the point of lying to the President that the orders had been carried out?

    • #10
    • November 15, 2020, at 2:19 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  11. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown

    PappyJim (View Comment):

    Sweezle (View Comment):

    A powerful clip. I plan to watch it. Meanwhile I hope Trump brings the troops home from Afghanistan as soon as possible.

    Has anyone else seen/heard the argument that DoD (from the start of Trump’s term with Mattis as SecDef) has slow walked or ignored POTUS orders to get ? Even to the point of lying to the President that the orders had been carried out?

    Here you go:

    https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/unelected-federal-officials-have-been-lying-about-us-troop-levels-in-syria

    Referring to original report/interview:

    https://www.defenseone.com/threats/2020/11/outgoing-syria-envoy-admits-hiding-us-troop-numbers-praises-trumps-mideast-record/170012/

    So, praising Trump’s Middle East record, but boasting of hiding truth about troops on the ground.

     

    • #11
    • November 15, 2020, at 2:27 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  12. PappyJim Coolidge

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    PappyJim (View Comment):

    Sweezle (View Comment):

    A powerful clip. I plan to watch it. Meanwhile I hope Trump brings the troops home from Afghanistan as soon as possible.

    Has anyone else seen/heard the argument that DoD (from the start of Trump’s term with Mattis as SecDef) has slow walked or ignored POTUS orders to get ? Even to the point of lying to the President that the orders had been carried out?

    Here you go:

    https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/unelected-federal-officials-have-been-lying-about-us-troop-levels-in-syria

    Referring to original report/interview:

    https://www.defenseone.com/threats/2020/11/outgoing-syria-envoy-admits-hiding-us-troop-numbers-praises-trumps-mideast-record/170012/

    So, praising Trump’s Middle East record, but boasting of hiding truth about troops on the ground.

    Wonder if a Rep Senate would run an investigation? SMH

     

    • #12
    • November 15, 2020, at 2:44 PM PST
    • 1 like
  13. Boss Mongo Member

    Could there be a greater betrayal of the officer’s oath? And the hallowed (not so much inside the beltway and the walls of the pentagon, apparently) ideal of civil control of the military?

    And these butt-nuzzling poseurs are going to keep celebrating themselves as they do the bureaucratic Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies.

    • #13
    • November 15, 2020, at 4:02 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  14. Postmodern Hoplite Member

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    I need to watch the movie. I got comments in my head, pro and con.

    So do I. This documentary was filmed in 2011. I remember the debate among my fellow RC officers at the time regarding the moral deficiencies of the Obama administration regarding the war in Afghanistan (criticisms carried over from the Bush years). I’m not sure that I’ll learn something new, rather only that it confirms what I already know. Also, I note that this was released in 2016. Where the hell has it been for the last four years, and why do I have to find out about it from Ricochet?

    • #14
    • November 15, 2020, at 5:28 PM PST
    • 4 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  15. dukenaltum Coolidge

    I have seen highlights of this film when it was released on Amazon and will watch it at some point. I am reading through various accounts of the First World War and the Second World War and see a pattern. My default respect for the leadership of the US military greatly diminished since 2016 with the behavior of the General staff officers in perpetuating the strategic blunder of the “Global War on Terror” for the last twenty years.

    I have taken to repeating this observation and no one has argued with me…. yet but you are welcome to.

    “Since 1945, American Soldiers have won every battle while their Leaders: Presidents and Generals have lost every war.”

    I have held the opinion since 1991 that every engagement of American Troops should be limited to ninety day with a maximum destructive application of all forces to defeat the enemy applied until day 91.

    No garrisons, No peacekeeping missions and no police action unless they follow the model first mentioned.

    There was never any strategic rationale to stay in the Levant after the defeat of Iraq in 1991.

    • #15
    • November 16, 2020, at 8:44 AM PST
    • 3 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  16. PappyJim Coolidge

    Your ninety day limit is way too short. We already have a Constitutional limit in place. That limit is the two year funding cycle.

    IF we could ever get the HoR to get back to running a government vice a soup kitchen cum androgyny clinic that would be all that’s needed. If Gen’l Washington had to deal with an oversight Congress then the latest faceless bureaucrat in uniform could now do so. But, when was the last time we heard any mention of victory in any war of the past sixty years?

    • #16
    • November 16, 2020, at 3:27 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  17. dukenaltum Coolidge

    PappyJim (View Comment):

    You may be right but the real purpose of a ninety day drop dead date is to force the Joint Chiefs to design a plan with sufficient preparation and training for a near immediate maximum effort for success that will have consequences for their careers if they fail and terrify our enemies when it succeeds.

    Twenty years is unacceptable and wasteful for a modern war.

    • #17
    • November 16, 2020, at 6:30 PM PST
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.
  18. dukenaltum Coolidge

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    PappyJim (View Comment):

    Sweezle (View Comment):

    A powerful clip. I plan to watch it. Meanwhile I hope Trump brings the troops home from Afghanistan as soon as possible.

    Has anyone else seen/heard the argument that DoD (from the start of Trump’s term with Mattis as SecDef) has slow walked or ignored POTUS orders to get ? Even to the point of lying to the President that the orders had been carried out?

    Here you go:

    https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/unelected-federal-officials-have-been-lying-about-us-troop-levels-in-syria

    Referring to original report/interview:

    https://www.defenseone.com/threats/2020/11/outgoing-syria-envoy-admits-hiding-us-troop-numbers-praises-trumps-mideast-record/170012/

    So, praising Trump’s Middle East record, but boasting of hiding truth about troops on the ground.

    My head exploded when I read this story. If this isn’t treason then we need a new definition. 

     

    • #18
    • November 16, 2020, at 6:32 PM PST
    • 1 like