I have just started watching the Showtime series “Homeland.” The premise of the series is irrelevant to this except to say that one of the central characters, Marine Sergeant Brodie, was a prisoner of war during the Iraq War and was freed in 2009. Sgt. Brodie is played by Damian Lewis who was 40 years old when the series started. And that is the start of my problems with Hollywood.
Lewis plays a marine infantryman who was captured in 2003. His rank is sergeant, the lowest non-commissioned office rank. In the military, regardless of service, there is a policy called “up or out.” Simply put, that means you must attain a certain rank within a set number of years of service. A marine can expect to make sergeant in 2 to 4 years. A marine who is full-time infantry can expect that rank in minimal time. But this is complicated by who enlists in the service. The marines, by far, are toughest on their recruits and, as any service, prefers recruits in boot camp who are no older than 20. The reason is simple, as you get older you ability to perform physically decreases. The character, Sgt. Brodie, would have been close to 30 at the time he entered the service. It is likely the marines would have dissuaded him from enlisting in their infantry, and would have put him into a combat support role at best, supply, signal, etc.
All military organizations are conservative by nature. The marines are the most conservative of all. They live to fight and look good, and they do a really good job of each. Marines, all, have one idea of a haircut.
The man above typifies what a marine haircut looks like. They not only do it as a matter of personal pride, they do it because it is expected of them. They do not make exceptions. In the series, Sgt. Brodie looks like this:
His haircut would not only have been unaccepted to the Corps but to himself as a marine.
What kills me about Hollywood is that the military is really pretty easy to understand, if you take the time. Uniforms do not change very often or very much. Even so, each service has a regulation covering uniforms, easily obtainable, called “fitting and wearing the uniform.” Not only that, there are thousands and thousands of veterans from every service and from every war for the past 80+ years who can expertly analyse such situations. Why is it so difficult for Hollywood to find and employ such people? Most veterans would be thrilled the help out so Hollywood could get it right.
Hollywood loves to use Army Special Forces and Navy Seals like they are in the thick of the fighting everyday. That just is not the case. Each of these groups has a very narrow mission each time it takes the field. And that mission has a very short life as well. That is part of what makes them special. Most of the “action” in a war zone is conducted by regular infantry troops, armor, and artillery. In “Homeland,” Sgt. Brodie is recovered by special forces which, while not impossible, but unlikely unless they knew beforehand they were seeking a particular target and need to get in and out quickly. Otherwise, he would most likely have been discovered by a regular infantry group, army or marine, in the course of their normal duties.
While particular operations within any branch of the military are frequently classified, their day-to-day affairs, how they operate and what the look like doing so, is not. I would really like see Hollywood, for a change, pay a little more attention to detail and get it right.