Returning To Iraq To Screen 'Range 15' Was One Of The Best Experiences Of My Life

Community
Photo courtesy of Offset Films, XR

I still remember what was playing on my iPod as the helicopter lifted off the helipad of the Iraqi Old Ministry of Defense compound: Smile Empty Soul’s “Silhouettes.” It was the summer of 2007, and I was leaving the White Falcons and Blue Spaders behind and heading home after serving as a joint terminal attack controller with those units. The smells, the heat, the sounds of choppers, UAVs, and fast movers — all of it was too normal to me by that point. Baghdad had become home for a while.


When the helicopter landed at Baghdad International Airport, I was overcome with excitement seeing the familiar faces of my TACP team together again. It had been 10 months since we had all split for our respective combat outposts. Boarding the C-130 to Kuwait to catch the rotator home, I was filled with pride. I had just completed my first deployment as a solo JTAC, experienced real battles, and our whole team was going home in one piece. Looking out across the terminal ramp, I didn’t think I’d ever see Baghdad again.

Top left: Mat Best and Nick Palmisciano pose with soldiers assigned to a hospital in Baghdad. Top right: Jarred Taylor sits atop the roof of the old BAF building in Baghdad's Green Zone. Bottom left: Palmisciano and Best are escorted to visit soldiers unable to view 'Range 15' due to shift schedules. Bottom right: 101st Airborne soldiers anxiously await the screening of 'Range 15.'Photos courtesy of Offset Films, XR

Nine years later almost to the day, I step off the ramp of a Hercules and onto that very same terminal ramp. Now, instead of an ACU uniform, I am dressed in a t-shirt, cargo shorts, and Chuck Taylors. I am here to meet the troops and show them this movie project my friends and I have spent the last two years working on. It’s still very weird to me that people get excited to meet us. We’re civilians now, but still stuck in the enlisted mindset. Walking around the base, I half-expect to get yelled at by some sergeant major for what I’m wearing.  

We immediately head to the chow hall for dinner. A tidal wave of flashbacks hit me just from the smell alone. Oddly, it feels good to be back. Less than two hours after we touch down in Iraq, the MWR has already set up for the first screening of RANGE. The room is packed, and there are quite a few soldiers standing in the back because all the seats have been taken. I can’t believe this. Here we are — Mat, Nick, and I — in Baghdad, in a room full of U.S. and Coalition troops who are all here to see this crazy thing we created. It’s overwhelming.

The next day we take a helo to the Green Zone for the next showing. As we transit from BIAP to another base, the cityscape rushes back to me. As a JTAC, I stared at the imagery of this area every day of my life for 10 months. It’s funny — I know exactly where we are the whole way. At one point, I catch myself searching for my rifle when I realize I don’t have it with me and start to panic. Then I remember they didn’t give one to me this time.  

Top left: Baghdad. Top right: Nick Palmisciano, Jarred Taylor, and Mat Best await pick up from a helicopter to the Green Zone. Bottom left: Taylor prepares to board a C130 in Kuwait. Bottom right: Best sits aboard a helicopter en route to the Green Zone.Photos courtesy of Offset Films, XR

We spent a total of 10 days touring Iraq, Kuwait, and the Horn of Africa. The experience was a once in a lifetime type of feeling. That’s really the only way to describe it. The hospitality with which the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines welcomed us at every stop was nothing short of amazing. Seeing them laugh like hell at “Range 15” was all the return we needed on this project. So many people thanked us for coming over, but in reality, this group wouldn’t have it any other way. We will always make ourselves available for our deployed troops. In fact, we cannot wait to get invited back again.

Jarred Taylor is the president of Article 15 Clothing.

Casperassets.rbl.ms

Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.

Take $75 off a Casper Mattress and $150 off a Wave Mattress with code TASKANDPURPOSE

And no one knows that better than military service members and we have the pictures to prove it.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Karl Munson pilots a 26-foot boat while Petty Officer 2nd Class Gabriel Diaz keeps an eye on a boarding team who is inspecting a 79-foot shrimp boat in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of New Orleans, La., on April 27, 2005

Radio transmissions to the U.S. Coast Guard are usually calls for help from boaters, but one captain got on the radio recently just to say thanks to the men and women who are currently working without pay.

Read More Show Less
REUTERS/Carlos Barria

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Saturday to receive the remains of four Americans killed in a suicide bombing in northern Syria.

Trump, locked in a battle with congressional Democrats that has led to a nearly month-long partial government shutdown, announced his trip via a pre-dawn tweet, saying he was going "to be with the families of 4 very special people who lost their lives in service to our Country!"

Read More Show Less

A low-flying C-17 gave Nashville residents a fright on Friday when the aircraft made several unannounced passes over the city's bustling downtown.

Read More Show Less
George W. Bush/Instagram

This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

Former President George W. Bush is calling for an end to the partial government shutdown, which is about to hit the one-month mark and is currently the longest shutdown in US history.

In an appeal made on Instagram, the 43rd president called on "leaders on both sides to put politics aside, come together, and end this shutdown." The caption was posted with an image of him and former First Lady Laura Bush giving pizza to their Secret Service detail.

Read More Show Less