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6 Things We Still Love About ‘Heartbreak Ridge,’ 30 Years Later
Dec. 5, 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the Clint Eastwood classic, “Heartbreak Ridge.” Some of you millennial types may not have heard of it, much to your disadvantage, though perhaps the saltier ones among you are shouting “Ooh-Freakin’-Rah!” right now. “Heartbreak Ridge” might not be the entire reason I joined the Marine Corps, but it was probably the reason I was so excited to do it.
This film is probably the last major example of the classic war movie formula (spoiler alert!) — a unit of screw-ups gets tough new sergeant whom the troops hate until he earns their respect and eventually leads them successfully in combat.
Gunnery Sgt. Tom Highway, played by Clint Eastwood, is the leader, in what might be his meanest and most scowl-filled performance outside of 2008’s “Gran Torino.” Eastwood has apparently been a hardass 70-year-old for 30 years now.
“Gunny” Highway has had a lot of ups and downs in his career. He earned the Medal of Honor at Heartbreak Ridge in Korea (yes, it was actually an Army battle). That was over 31 years ago in 1983 when the movie takes place, so you know Highway has had a rough time at promotion boards.
When he reports to the 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, he finds himself opposed at every turn by his CO, a martinet major from supply. Some will find humor at a gunny being in charge of a platoon with barely enough Marines to form a squad, and other inconsistencies. Still, “Heartbreak Ridge” is damn motivating as Highway takes his band of misfits from zeroes to heroes, culminating in combat during the Urgent Fury invasion of Grenada (yes, that was a big deal at the time). Highway didn’t just influence those fictional Marines, though.
Here are six of the lessons he taught every military-minded youth of the mid-1980s.
1. Make an entrance.
Shock and awe isn’t just for bombing campaigns. Sometimes you have to let them know you mean business. When Highway meets his platoon, he lets them know, in no uncertain terms, that things are about to change. There are times a soft approach is best, but when there are big problems, one has to be tough and tell people that “I’m not doing this because I want to take long showers with you assholes!” (That exact phrasing may not go over as well in 2016 as it did in 1983, for a variety of reasons.)
2. Improvise, adapt, overcome.
I don’t know if “Heartbreak Ridge” started this phrase or not, but it certainly took root after the movie was released. Combat demands one be willing to improvise, adapt, and overcome, which the movie shows by having the platoon commander call for an airstrike via a collect phone call to Camp Lejeune (in real life that was an Army Ranger). To get to that level, one has to require that level of ingenuity every day, even if it just means forcing one’s people to figure out what t-shirt the gunny is going to wear to PT.
3. Realistic training is essential.
Even when your PT (or a Hollywood filmmaker’s imagination) takes you through the famous scrub-brush and desert terrain of Camp Lejeune, you can still keep a sense of realism by shooting at your men with an AK-47 when they don’t expect it. Shoot at them enough, and eventually, they’ll be okay with it. It may be a little riskier, and may even get you in trouble with your superiors, but realistic training will keep your people alive in combat.
4. Take pride in your appearance.
At one point, Highway tells his men, “When you start looking like Marines, you’ll start feeling like Marines, and pretty soon, God dammit, you’ll start acting like Marines.” This is probably the most true thing anyone has ever said. Oftentimes, taking care of uniform issues and cleanliness is perceived as administrivia. In reality, it’s one of the biggest things that distinguish bad units and organizations from great ones, both in and out of the military.
Of note, “Heartbreak Ridge” was also very forward thinking environmentally for the time. As Highway stomps on a Marine’s non-regulation sunglasses, he informs the Devildog that “You shouldn’t litter, Fagetti, it’s ecologically unsound.” Don’t litter. It’s bad for the planet.
5. Stick up for your friends.
Even if they are only your friends because they are the only other Marines there, it’s worth it. It may mean fighting for them. It may mean just taking care of them, but you have to ensure that your people are okay, because hopefully, they’d do the same for you. This is especially true when it comes to dealing with locals in sketchy bars in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
6. Don’t give the prick the satisfaction.
Sometimes there is no high-minded or lofty motivation to give people. Sometimes it all comes down to pride. Whether it’s a prick major from supply making you PT until you drop, or just the world in general telling you you’re not good enough, never let them know they’ve beaten you. That’s as true in battle as in life.
‘Take what’s inside and get it outside’ — Air Force psychologist reminds airmen of mental health resources
Kirtland Air Force Base isn't much different from the world beyond its gates when it comes to dealing with mental illnesses, a base clinical psychologist says.
Maj. Benjamin Carter told the Journal the most frequent diagnosis on the base is an anxiety disorder.
"It's not a surprise, but I anticipate about anytime in the population in America, about 20% of the population has some form of diagnosable anxiety disorder, and it's no different in the military," he said.
Leading the way among the anxiety disorders, he said, were post-traumatic stress disorder "or something like panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder."
The DNA of a niece and nephew, who never met their uncle, has helped identify the remains of the Kansas Marine who died in WWII.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced that 21-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Pfc. Raymond Warren was identified using DNA and circumstantial evidence. Warren had been buried in a cemetery in the Gilbert Islands, where he was killed when U.S. forces tried to take secure one of the islands from the Japanese.
The Battle of Tarawa lasted from Nov. 20 to Nov. 23, 1943, and claimed the lives of 1,021 U.S. marines and sailors, more than 3,000 Japanese soldiers and an estimated 1,000 Korean laborers before the U.S. troops seized control, the agency said.
Arizona lawmakers are vowing to fight a plan by the Air Force to start retiring some of the nation's fleet of A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack jets — a major operation at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base — as part of a plan to drop some older, legacy weapon systems to help pay for new programs.
U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., a former A-10 pilot, and U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., both vowed to fight the move to retire 44 of the oldest A-10s starting this year.
During a press briefing last week, Air Force officials unveiled plans to start mothballing several older platforms, including retiring some A-10s even as it refits others with new wings.
MOSCOW/SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea, whose leader Kim Jong Un was filmed riding through the snow on a white stallion last year, has spent tens of thousands of dollars on 12 purebred horses from Russia, according to Russian customs data.
Accompanied by senior North Korean figures, Kim took two well-publicized rides on the snowy slopes of the sacred Paektu Mountain in October and December.
State media heralded the jaunts as important displays of strength in the face of international pressure and the photos of Kim astride a galloping white steed were seen around the world.
North Korea has a long history of buying pricey horses from Russia and customs data first reported by Seoul-based NK News suggests that North Korea may have bolstered its herd in October.
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A high-profile local Taliban figure who announced and justified the 2012 attack on teenage Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai has escaped detention, Pakistan's interior minister confirmed a few days after the militant announced his breakout on social media.
Former Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, who claimed responsibility on behalf of his group for scores of Taliban attacks, proclaimed his escape on Twitter and then in an audio message sent to Pakistani media earlier this month.
The Pakistani military, which had kept Ehsan in detention for three years, has declined to comment but, asked by reporters about the report, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah, said: "That is correct, that is correct."
Shah, a retired brigadier general, added that "you will hear good news" in response to questions about whether there had been progress in hunting down Ehsan.