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Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Marines’

Last night I completed watching the science-fiction, war series: “Space: Above and Beyond“.  The series ran for one year back in the mid-1990’s.  The basic storyline is that some outer-space Earth colonies are attacked by an alien race and so Earth is thrown into an intergalactic war.  There are five young folks who join the U.S. Marines for various reasons and they are the focus of the series.  They become Marine Corps pilots, but throughout the series, they seem to spend as much time fighting on the ground as they actually do in space.  The pilots become the 58th Squadron and are nicknamed: “The Wildcards”.
In addition to the principle story line of the war and the sub-arcs for each of the five pilots, there is a sixth principle character (their squadron commander) and multiple sub-arcs which include racial prejudice and subjugation, corporate malfeasance, and a prior war between humanity and a race of artificial intelligent androids/robots.
When I say I “completed” watching the series, that’s a bit of a mis-statement.  The series is available on Youtube.com, but three of the twenty-four episodes are missing.  The series is actually listed as having twenty-three episodes because the “pilot” is a two-part combined episode.  As it stands, watching the available episodes are more than sufficient to give you the flavor of the series.
I am a bit of a history buff and military history in particular.  I like this and the fictionalization of it in all formats – books, movies, songs, poetry, TV series, whatever…  This series is right in my wheelhouse / comfort zone!
About one quarter of the episodes are based on some historical occurrence, fictionalized and then referenced back to the history.  This is one of the classic ways civilizations use their “current” media to create / promote the heroes / legends of their past.  So as someone with a degree in Political Science, I find it is interesting to see a TV series do this “myth-making” for current generations.  I’m sure somewhere (in Heaven) Joseph Campbell is smiling.
One of the interesting sub-arcs is the proposition that a corporation has placed a colony on two planets they “knew” belonged to the alien species.  The colonies are owned by the corporation, but lightly defended by national troops – in one case, by the U.S. Marines.  When attacked (and slaughtered), the corporation demands the Earth go to war in retaliation for the “unprovoked” attack on their employees / “civilians”.
Another interesting idea from the main arc is the aliens make a point of mutilating our dead.  Earthlings, of course, assume this is an act of barbarism by a dark-hearted enemy.  In fact, we come to discover the aliens have no concept of an afterlife and “discover” this concept only by monitoring our electronic transmissions.  They don’t know how we manage to “rise from the dead”, but they are positive we believe we can.  So their act of mutilating the dead is actually just an attempt to ensure our soldiers don’t rise to fight again.
The series fell victim to time-slot shuffling and poor ratings and was cancelled late in the first season.  However, because the show was allowed to complete the season, the writers were able to come up with a terrific last episode with explanations (leading to more questions) and cliff-hangers galore.
While some of the acting is poor (particularly in the early episodes), the actual battlefield tactics are amateurish (if not suicidal), and the special effects are dated by today’s standards, the series remains very viewable and I highly recommend it.  I’ve read on the internet that the show is frequently re-run on the Sci-Fi channel and I will be keeping my eyes out for it so I can catch the three episodes I’ve missed.
Ooo-rah!  Semper Fi!!
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On This Day In:
2014 Winning?
2013 Still Inventing
2012 Motivated
2011 Waiting In Line At Starbuck’s

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Thursday I completed the novel “Ender’s Game” (1985©), written by Orson Scott Card.  The novel is an expanded version of a short story Card wrote back in 1977 for a SciFi magazine.  The book is fairly well know in SciFi circles and won both the Nebula and Hugo awards for best novel.  Both awards are for best SciF novel with the Nebula being the American award and the Hugo being the international version of same.  In addition to the “normal” SciFi crowd, the book is popular in the military community and is “expected” reading in at least one branch (U.S. Marine Corps).
Basically, the book is a coming of age story for a young (pre-teen) Caesar / Napoleonic / Alexander character who, through an undiscussed eugenics process, has been bred to lead the combined Earth forces in an interplanetary war against a race of giant ants called the “Formics”.  They are more “affectionately” called “bugs” or “buggers”.  The story traces his (Andrew “Ender” Wiggin) life from just before he leaves his family, through his “growing-up” at a military academy to the end of the war.  To say much more is to give away a substantial amount of the ending.
Despite the implausibility of a story about an 11 year old being granted the authority to lead an interplanetary armada and the short span of time between “know-nothing” to force commander, the story is a pretty good one.  The story is very much “Lord of the Flies” -In-Space, but I still found the book and the twist at the end enjoyable.  In fairness to the reader coming at the book for the first time, I must admit, I saw the movie version first and enjoyed it too.  The movie (same name) was released in late 2013, and having seen the previews, it piqued my interest.  In the end, I never saw it at the theater because I thought it was going to be a “young Harry Potter saves the world from aliens” kid’s movie.  Anyway, I remembered the movie preview and when I got a chance to catch it on the tube, I took advantage of the opportunity.  I was pleasantly surprised to have enjoyed it as much as I did.  This in turn led me to be on the look-out for the book(s) – there is a whole series – which I have finally gotten into.
The movie tracks the book pretty accurately, so the book’s ending wasn’t the surprise it might have been, but I felt (as usual) the book had the time and space to explain what was happening a lot better than the movie did.  This isn’t a criticism of the movie as much as it is an acknowledgement that action movies don’t lend themselves to narration accept at the beginning and ending.  In between, it’s the action which is supposed to tell the story (normally).
I found the military tactics, personal combat, team building, working on one’s craft, and the personal/internal conflict about the morality of inflicting pain and death on an enemy to all be accurate within my (very) limited experience of each.  Fortunately, I was never placed in a position to shoot / kill someone, but I still have distinct memories of basic training and realizing there was a reason the “targets” were silhouettes of the enemy instead of simple concentric rings.  We were being trained to shoot at other humans, not at bull’s-eyes’.
I found the movie interesting and enjoyable, but also troubling.  Because the book explains more, it is more troubling.  So my final recommendation for the movie is recommended, and, for the book, highly recommended.  If it’s good enough for the Marine Corps “Recommended Reading List”, it’s good enough for me!
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On This Day In:
2014 Two Thoughts
2013 RIP – Dear Abby
Half-Life Problems
2012 To The Soul…
2011 Reverted!!

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“We are at a period where our enemies respect us, but they don’t fear us,” McChrystal told his audience at the 2014 Maneuver Conference Wednesday.  McChrystal is the former commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan.
“The specter of American power is no longer enough to get somebody just not to do something.”
“When I joined this organization – an elite collection of forces — I thought I was joining an unbeatable team,” he said.
“In 2004, JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) was extremely well resourced and highly efficient, McChrystal said.  “What we did, we could do better than anyone had ever done it before,” he said.  “When we went on operations, we had good results, but we were losing the war.”
Al Qaeda, on the other hand, focused on being adaptable, McChrystal said.
“Al Qaeda in Iraq became a very resilient, flexible organization, and they were adaptable … and when you pitted adaptable against efficient, surprisingly to us, adaptability won.”
  —   Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal (Ret.)
Speaking of his five years in Joint Special Operations Command.
[Found on one of the blogs / websites I follow:  http://www.military.com/
The specific posting was at: http://www.military.com/daily-news/2014/09/11/armys-combat-leaders-prepare-for-new-war.html?ESRC=dod.nl
If the above quote is true, not only has the military learned little in the last ten years of conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. Army (in specific) hasn’t been talking much to the U.S. Marines – one of their mottos being: “Improvise, Adapt and Overcome.”  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2013 Disappeared
2012 Fuller
Life On The Range
More Classics
2011 Stoned Again?
2010 Insubordination… And That’s Why I Love Her!
Losing – Week One

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