“I’ve seen those hush hush looks you give, when you’re talking to him.”-The Spill Canvas
I just finally got around to seeing the movie 13 Hours last weekend. It was quite the spectacle. I can’t say I’m a Michael Bay fan in any sense of the word, but the advisors on the film must have been pretty decent. We wanted to let the dust settle as far as unsolicited opinions go on this particular film. I’m going to try to share my two cents on the flick without spoiling any of it (in case some of you haven’t watched Fox News in the last 3 minutes and know nothing about what happened in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012.)
The short version goes like this: On the 11th anniversary of September 11th, the diplomatic compound in Benghazi was attacked by a shit ton of angry assholes and it ended with 4 Americans dead, including a United States Ambassador, and to this day no one has been held accountable.
I’m not going to get into “how realistic was it?” I’m also not going to sit here like everyone else in the team room and dissect weapons handling and tactics. But I am going to expand on the fact that there were many things this movie got right that I went in thinking would be botched. Not a lot of movies have been made about Security Contractors. During the GWOT, contractors played a massive role in performing (at a ridiculous cost most times) jobs that the U.S. Government just didn’t have the manpower or the capability to do. People hear “contractor” and think of some bearded guy with Oakleys, making $500 a day to sit on his ass and look cool. That’s definitely the case, for sure. But there are people that are contracted to mop the gym floor, purify water, perform administrative duties, fix radios, do construction, and on and on. When I refer to contractors now though, know I’m referring to the former.
Bearded dudes that sit on their asses for $500 a day and look cool. Yeah, that’s about the extent of it for the most part. But, what the movie nailed very well was the relationship between client and contractor. The CIA treated the contractors like unwanted baggage. They saw only what was in front of them. Essentially a bunch of gun-toting dudes who like to work out, play X-box and bitch about not having enough time to call home. I can tell you from experience, as can all of the OAF Nation staff, that this is typical no matter what government agency or even NON-government agency you work for. They don’t see you as the one that may have to take a bullet for them, or get them off the X when shit hits the fan; they see you as a burden that impedes their ability to perform a critical task, the depth of which your uneducated, knuckle dragging, trigger pulling ass couldn’t possibly fathom. I’ve seen this in the Dept of State staffers on the Baghdad embassy and the good ol’ folks over at the DOD in Afghanistan. You are paid well to know what’s best for optimizing their survivability in a shitty environment and mitigating any potential threats. They do not appreciate having to defer to the guy without a Master’s Degree for anything other than their McDonalds order. This was portrayed perfectly from top to bottom. The disdain of the men at arms and the denial of how essential they are is crystal clear in this film.
Another aspect so well portrayed in 13 Hours was the inability of the government agency involved to acknowledge any kind of threat from radical Islamists. I was (un)lucky enough to witness this first hand, two summers ago in Baghdad, Iraq. The State Dept saw ISIS steamrolling across the country and dug their heads far into the sand. They said no repeatedly when my fellow security contractors sat them down and explained the contingencies that needed to be implemented. They wouldn’t hear of parties being cancelled and that sandbags needing to be filled. Nothing to see here, everything is fine. Diplomacy is working. Go Away. If what happened on Sept 11, 2012 hadn’t occured, I seriously doubt the Dept of State would have made the calls to Washington to get the ass we felt we may need in order to protect the thousands of Americans there pretending to nurture democracy in Iraq, and I wouldn’t be writing this today.
The best thing this movie did well was capture the sense of brotherhood that warriors share. A lot of dudes get into the business simply because they miss the camaraderie. The paycheck is nice, but there’s nothing better than being around a bunch of dudes who have a similar background and field of experience as you. Your team “gets” you. It’s a great feeling that is almost impossible to replicate at home. Yeah, dudes are leaving their families to go to a country that’s not at war, to do a job the client doesn’t appreciate, in an effort they don’t really care about. Why? Well, aside from the fact that some of them HAVE TO because they’ ve been doing since the “good ol’ days” and have gotten their kids and wives accustomed to the porsches, private schools, and tennis lessons a six-figure income allows; guys just want to be around their buddies in a familiar setting. I’d have died for anyone on my team in Afghanistan, hands down. I can look back and say it was the best time of my career in the gun club, and that’s something I can’t get at home. The men in GRS are portrayed as brothers who’d die for each other if necessary.
All in all, 13 Hours was a damn good flick and I highly suggest taking your lady to go see it. Warning: she may end up pregnant and you’ll end up growing a third testicle.