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Pendleton Marines Applaud New Iraq-Combat Mini-Series

Pendleton Marines Applaud New Iraq-Combat Mini-Series

This Sunday night, HBO premieres a new miniseries that captures what it’s like to be a Camp Pendleton marine in a war zone.  It’s called Generation Kill and it’s about an   elite marine recon unit stationed in Iraq at the start of the war.  Since the series is about Camp Pendleton, HBO screened the film for marines on the base. KPBS’ arts producer Angela Carone was there.

It’s a familiar sight; a red carpet, complete with TV cameras and photographers.  But this spectacle wasn’t in Hollywood, it was at Camp Pendleton’s base theater. (Story continues below)

Web slideshow: Pendleton Marines Applaud New Iraq-Combat Mini-Series
Pendleton Marines Applaud New Iraq-Combat Mini-Series

On the other side of the velvet ropes, marines watched and waited.  They’d come to see a special screening of Generation Kill.

This is the story of the Iraqi invasion told from the view of the guys on the ground. Rolling Stone journalist Evan Wright was embedded with the First Reconnaisance Batallian and he went everywhere with them, including deep into enemy territory in a lightly armored humvee.

The result was a book that producers David Simon and Ed Burns decided to turn into a miniseries. They told Wright they wanted to use real names and real stories and not make a Hollywood version of the book. That sat well with Wright and he signed on as a consultant and co-writer.

Evan Wright: When I started this and I started writing the scripts with David Simon and Ed Burns my intent was to focus on the characters and the language and the humor.

These are marines in wartime where the humor is raw and often profane.  There are also intense combat scenes in the series.

But there’s also a lot of down time when marines tell jokes and verbally taunt one another.

David Simon: There’s a lot of wit, I think in any profession, and certainly an intense profession like the military. 
David Simon: Human beings manage to create their own narrative, their own argot, their humor.  That’s true in anything I’ve ever written, whether you are a drug addict or a homicide detective or whether you are a recon marine.

Erik Kocher, served two tours in Iraq as a recon marine and worked as a military advisor on the series.  He says Generation Kill is different from other war films because it focuses on the characters and reigns in the drama. 

Erik Kocher: The focus is Brad Colbet, the focus is Trombley, the focus is all these guys  and the struggles they go through day to day and the decisions they have to make both good and bad.  This shows it all. There are no heroes in this series, it’s not Brad Colbert  jumping on a hand grenade  every time trying to save everybody.

The marines at Camp Pendleton laughed throughout the screening, especially at the inside jokes., like the charm candies that marines consider bad luck. It was the focus on daily life in combat that seemed to ring true for many of them.  For former recon marine Corporal Evan Stafford the show was a bit of a mirror. He was depicted in the series.

Corporal Evan Stafford:It’s more realistic in the sense that it’s actually like a marine, and not a glorified war hero depicted off of Saving Private Ryan or something like that.]

Producer David Simon is a former journalist and in the end, he wants Generation Kill to tell us something about the world we live in.

David Simon: But the impulse is the same, to capture pieces of the world, and bring it back and then say this is what is going on, this is the dynamic these are the problems, these are the arguments and the contentions and to be fair about it and not to overdramatize where you don’t have to.

Generation Kill faced perhaps its most critical crowd at Camp Pendleton,  but when the lights came on, so did the applause.

For KPBS, I’m Angela Carone.