Sunday, June 27, 2010

At the Movies

The following stills are from movies that have portrayed MPs, APs, SPs, and SFs during war time and peace time. A brief synopsis of each movie is given, and you are welcome to either rent or buy each movie.

Note: The stills presented are copyrighted, and are presented here on a "fair use" basis wherein the movies are commented upon.

Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Producer: Stanley Kubrick (producer)
    Philip Hobbs (co-producer), Jan Harlan (executive producer)
Writers: Gustav Hasford (novel)
    Stanley Kubrick, Michael Herr, and Gustav Hasford (screenplay)
Distributor: Warner Brothers
MPAA Rating: R
Year Depicted: 1967-8
Quality: 4 out of 4 stars

Full Metal Jacket follows U.S. Marine Corps recruits through Basic Training, then on to deployment in Vietnam.

Title Sequence
Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Anyone who's been through Basic, will recognize the situations portrayed in this movie. There's the recruit who messes up repeatedly. There's the dressing down by the Drill Instructor (DI) who intimidates and harasses the recruits, even those who seem to be following his orders. Of course that's intentional as a way to "weed out" those who can't follow orders, and those who can't handle the stress.

Real life USMC Staff Sgt (E-6) R. Lee Ermey starred as the DI during Basic. In real life, he received a medical discharge in 1972, and subsequently received an honorary promotion to Gunnery Sgt (E-7) in 2002 for his many portrayals of military personnel.

"I'll be watching you!"
Private "Joker" Davis (Matthew Modine) Dressed Down by Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)

"What is your major malfunction, numb n**s!?!"
Private Leonard "Gomer Pyle" Lawrence (Vincent D'Onofrio) points a loaded M-14 at the DI (R. Lee Ermey). "Joker" (Matthew Modine) looks on in the background, unable to intervene.
Full Metal Jacket (1987)

After Basic, the Marines are assigned to various specialties, and many are deployed to Vietnam. The movie features two scenes of USMC MPs. At the Da Nang Air Base gate, MPs are seen guarding the entrance. In another scene, MPs are seen in a Jeep driving through the base.

USMC MPs at Da Nang Air Base Gate
Full Metal Jacket (1987)

USMC MPs in Jeep (probably with the M-60)
"Joker" (Matthew Modine) with Rafterman (Kevyn Major Howard)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)

While in Vietnam, the 1968 Tet Offensive breaks out. One of the Marines who is assigned to a "Stars and Stripes" type publication, requests to go into the field where he encounters some old Basic Training friends.

Marines Responding to Tet Offensive Incoming
Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Movie Credits
Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Related Links:

Twelve O'Clock High (1949)
Director: Henry King
Producer: Darryl F. Zanuck
Writers: Sy Bartlett, Beirne Lay Jr., and Henry King
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
MPAA Rating: NR
Year Depicted: 1942
Quality: 4 out of 4 stars


Set in World War II, this film depicts the interactions among officers of the fictional 918th Bomb Group at the fictional U.S.A.A.F. Station Archbury in England.

Title Sequence
Twelve O'Clock High (1949)

Brigadier General Frank Savage (Gregory Peck) is tasked with taking command of the unit after it loses 5 of 21 bombers during a bombing sortie. Gen Savage has several confrontations with both enlisted men and officers, and sets about to whip the unit into shape.

This movie emphasizes personal interactions and conflicts, although there are several depictions of missions, and actual WW II aerial combat footage is used.

Two scenes depict MPs: In the first, Gen Savage confronts a lax MP, and in the second, Gen Savage has the base MPs arrest an officer.

Real Counterparts:

Gen Frank Savage (Gregory Peck) confronts a lax MP Sgt Keller (Kenneth Tobey)
Twelve O'Clock High (1949)

MP Sgt Keller (Kenneth Tobey)
Twelve O'Clock High (1949)

Gen Frank Savage (Gregory Peck) has LtCol Ben Gately (Hugh Marlowe) arrested by MPs (uncredited)
Twelve O'Clock High (1949)

Super 8 (2011)
Director: J.J. Abrams
Producers: Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk
Writer: J.J. Abrams
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Year Depicted: 1979
Quality: 4 out of 4 stars

Paramount Pictures Web Site

YouTube version of Trailer

The movie Super 8 is a drama/adventure/science-fiction movie set in small town Ohio in 1979. The plot revolves around a group of five young adolescent boys who are making a "zombie" home movie using a Super 8 mm camera ( thus the title ). They recruit a young teenage girl to play a part in the movie. Late one night they are filming at a train station when a train accident occurs which launches the main action sequences of the film.

Security Police Depicted in 1979
Super 8 (2011)

USAF Security Police are an integral part of the plot. Although they are never explicitly identified as SPs, they are wearing the SP blue beret throughout the movie. During one scene, an MP (apparently with the National Guard) is seen directing traffic. In the home movie within the actual movie, the character Joe Lamb is seen playing an SP in one scene.

Character Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) portraying an SP
Super 8 (2011)

Air Force bases depicted include Nellis AFB, NV, in 1963, and a fictional Greenville AFB, OH, in 1979. Note: There was a Greenville AFB, MS (Mississippi), but not one in Ohio. Also, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH, can be inferred as the train's destination, since the city of Dayton, OH, is shown on a map.


Trailer Credits
Super 8 (2011)

Women At War (1943)
Director: Jean Negulesco
Executive Producer: Jack L. Warner
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Year Depicted: 1943
Produced with the cooperation of the U.S. Army
Quality: 3 out of 4 stars

The movie Women At War was produced in 1943, and is a docudrama representation of Basic Training for recruits of the Women's Army Corps (WAC). It takes place at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. This short movie is included in the special features of the movie Air Force (see below). It is included here since it contains a scene wherein an Army MP is monitoring the arrival of the new recruits.

WAC History Site

Title Sequence
Women At War (1943)

Military Police with "MP" Brassard and Sam Browne
Women At War (1943)

Military Police Monitoring WAC Recruits
Women At War (1943)

Air Force (1943)
Director: Howard Hawks
Producer: Hal B. Wallis
Executive Producer: Jack L. Warner
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Year Depicted: 1941
Produced with the cooperation of the U.S. Army Air Corps
Honors: Oscar® Best Film Editing
Quality: 4 out of 4 stars

Warner Bros. Home Video Trailer

The movie Air Force is directed by Howard Hawks, and follows the crew of an Army Air Corps B-17 as it departs Hamilton Field, CA, en route to Hickam Field, HI. It arrives the morning of December 7, 1941, in the middle of the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. The movie then follows the crew of the B-17 (named "Mary-Ann") as it proceeds to Wake Island, Clark Field, PI, and on to Australia. Other Army Air Force bases mentioned in the movie include Randolph Field and Kelly Field.

Title Sequence
Air Force (1943)

Octopussy (1983)
Director: John Glen
Producer: Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli
Distributor: MGM/UA
Year Depicted: 1983
Quality: 4 out of 4 stars

MGM Official Trailer

Octopussy was the 13th official James Bond movie from MGM. The plot revolved around the sinister Kamal Kahn (Louis Jourdan), stolen Fabergé eggs (and fake copies), and the mysterious title character Octopussy (Maud Adams).

Air Force Security Police Featured Prominently
During the last third of the movie, 007 rushes to "Feldstadt Air Base" (fictional) in West Germany to warn of impending disaster. That segment of the movie contains numerous depictions of USAF SPs. It appears that actual SPs served as extras, either chasing Bond or in the crowd at the circus. The real RAF Upper Heyford air base was used for the filming of the fictional "Feldstadt Air Base". There is even a Cuban MP in the opening sequence, and an Army MP in another scene.

Notable Mistakes
SSgt Lancaster (actor unknown), a USAF Security Policeman, is shown with a Colt Python as his sidearm. Additionally, as all well trained SPs know, one does NOT fire a weapon up into the air. This mistake is noted in the IMDB "Goofs" section for this movie. When Octopussy (Maud Adams) takes a gun from an SP at the circus, that weapon is a Smith & Wesson Model 36 snub nosed revolver. SPs actually carried Smith and Wesson Model 15 "Combat Masterpiece" .38 weapons during that era (click on the "Weapons" link at the top).

James Bond enters "Feldstadt Air Base" in West Germany
Octopussy (1983)

Bond approaches an Air Force Security Policeman
Octopussy (1983)

Bond confronted by SP armed with Colt Python
Note: SPs actually carried the S&W Model 15
Octopussy (1983)

SSgt Lancaster radios for assistance (actor unknown)
Octopussy (1983)

SP questions Bond (disguised as a clown)
Octopussy (1983)

Bond slips past three SPs
Note that one SP casually has his weapon out, in violation of regulations.
Octopussy (1983)

Bond struggles with SPs at the circus
Octopussy (1983)

"M" (played by Robert Brown) enters car near East Berlin
Note an Army MP in the background
Octopussy (1983)

Bond passing a Cuban MP ("PM")
Octopussy (1983)

Related Links

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Executive Producers: Kathleen Kennedy and George Lucas
Producer: Frank Marshall
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Year Depicted: 1957
Quality: 2.5 out of 4 stars

Paramount Pictures Official Trailers

The movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is set in 1957, and it begins at secret, and unnamed, U.S. Air Force base in Nevada. A convoy of U.S. Army trucks approaches the main gate, which is the form of a sally gate (with two barriers instead of one). An Air Policeman informs the soldiers that the base is closed, but is then approached by an Army colonel. The "soldiers" turn out to be Russian KGB Agents disguised as American soldiers. The Communists kill all the APs, then enter the base where information is obtained from Indiana Jones.

An Army Convoy Approaches the Main Gate of a fictional AFB
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

An Air Policeman Informs the Convoy that the Base is Closed
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

KGB Agent (disguised as an "Army Colonel") Approaches the APs
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Iron Eagle (1986)
Director: Sidney J. Furie
Executive Producer: Kevin Elders
Producers: Ron Samuels and Joe Wizan
Distributor: TriStar Pictures (now owned by Sony Pictures)
Year Depicted: 1985
Quality: 1.5 out of 4 stars

Sony Pictures (TriStar) Iron Eagle Web Page

A fictional account of a teenager whose father is shot down and captured by a middle eastern nation. Stars Louis Gossett, Jr. as an Air Force pilot. His character acts as a mentor for the teenage boy, as they hatch a plan to rescue the boy's father. The two of them manage to steal two F-16s, then depart on their mission.

Air Force bases mentioned include the real Ramstein Air Base in Germany, the real U.S. Air Force Academy, CO, and the fictional "Beecher AFB". Units depicted (perhaps real or perhaps fictional) include the "32nd TAC Training Squadron" and the "71st TAC Fighter Squadron". The real 71st Fighter Squadron, Langley AFB, VA, has the nickname "The Ironmen", thus that may be how the screenwriters derived the film's title. The real 32d Flying Training Squadron is part of the 71st Flying Training Wing based at Vance AFB, OK.

71st Fighter Squadron History Web Site

Information garnered from Internet postings indicates that this movie was shot in Israel with the cooperation of the Israeli Air Force. Apparently the USAF did not wish to cooperate, since the movie depicts lax security at almost every level and function.

As far as the movie quality goes, I would only rate this at 1.5 out 4 stars. It is somewhat interesting in its depiction of dog fights, and will be of interest to former SPs. The plot is farcical in that a group of teenagers could not pull this off. Instead, this movie might be believable by young kids and teenagers.

Main Character Runs Past Security Checkpoint
Iron Eagle (1986)

Main Character Speeds Past SP at Gate
Iron Eagle (1986)

Prisoner Escort
Iron Eagle (1986)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Gear and Equipment

Below are some items of gear and equipment that many of us wore or used. Some of our gear was optional, such as Kevlar® vests, speed loaders, and speed strips.

Utility belt
Below is a picture of a utility belt worn by SPs (it is in the process of having a high gloss black lacquer applied to it). The belt was kept in place by about three belt stays that looped through your trouser's belt. There was a holder for a flashlight, two pouches for six rounds of .38 ball ammo, a pouch for handcuffs, and a holster.

Some SPs used either speed loaders (later banned) or speed strips. The speed strips fit into a regulation ammo pouch, but allowed one to reload with two rounds per insertion. Other optional gear included a "high rise" holster, and oversized grips for the S&W .38 revolver.

Utility belt with standard holster, "high rise" holster, flashlight holder, belt stays, ammo pouch, and handcuff pouch ~ 1978
(photo by Philip "J.P." Brown)

SpeedGun® Doppler Radar
For those of us who were real "go getters", we loved running radar using the SpeedGun®. The SpeedGun® had to be calibrated before use, and tuning forks were used for that purpose. One could also "clock" the fan in the vehicle and get a reading of about 120 MPH. We were cautioned to never try and clock an incoming jet, as the jet's radar would "fry" our small unit.

During tech school at Lackland, we were instructed on how to use it, along with the older VASCAR™ system. VASCAR™ cost about $2,000, but was essentially a calculator, stop watch, and an odometer combined into a single unit.

SpeedGun® Doppler Radar for speed detection ~ 1978
(photo by Philip "J.P." Brown)

Kevlar® vest
Kevlar® vests were introduced in the mid 1970s, and many of us SPs at Maxwell AFB and Gunter AFS station purchased them out of our own funds. This was especially true after the line of duty murder of TSgt Tom Campbell in March 1978. The vest pictured below had front and back panels that were hermetically sealed. The panels were inserted into a cloth jacket which had Velcro® straps. It was hot, but could be a life saver.

Kevlar® bullet resistant vest with front and back panels (but no side panels) - 1978
(photo by Philip "J.P." Brown)

Typewriters, NCIC Terminals, and Alarms
Pictured below is the Desk Sergeant's office at Maxwell AFB (with A1C Jim Potter). The typewriter was electric, and you had to fill out the SP Desk Blotter in triplicate via good old carbon paper (Note: Carbon paper was used to make "carbon copies", thus the "CC" you have in e-mail). If you made a mistake, then you had to erase, manually, all three copies!

The alarm panel was electronic, and may have had micro-processors, but was probably a fully analog system. An alarm activation resulted in the issuing of a "10-31" for the building affected, and usually the closing of the base.

The NCIC "dumb" terminal was used to make inquiries for wanted persons and stolen vehicles. Only a SSgt or above was allowed to input BOLOs (Be On the Look Out) into the system, and we were cautioned to not make ad hoc inquiries just to see what we got back. During training, I was allowed to run my own name ("James P. Brown"),and since it was so common, the NCIC terminal "lit up like a Christmas tree", churning out many pages of dot-matrix print.

Desk Sergeant's office, Maxwell AFB ~ 1978
A1C Jim Potter
(photo by Philip "J.P." Brown)

SP Desk Blotter (sample) - 1975
(USAF SP Handbook, scanned by Philip "J.P." Brown)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Lackland AFB and Camp Bullis

After Basic Training, training continues at Tech School. First at Lackland AFB, then at Camp Bullis.

Bexar County Map showing Lackland AFB and Camp Bullis
(Map via City of San Antonio)

Lackland AFB, TX - October 1963
Air Police Class 11093
(courtesy of Dr. James E. Griggers - 2nd row, far left)

Lackland AFB, TX - 2009
CMSgt of the Air Force James A. Roy fires the M-240B medium machine gun during the "Movement Over Urban Terrain" training, Security Forces Tech School
(USAF photo Joel Martinez)

Lackland AFB ~ 2000
Security Forces Tech School Dorms
(photo courtesy of Jon Brady)

Camp Bullis, TX - 2009
TSgt Eric Thomas, 343rd Training Squadron Instructor,
preps M-67 hand grenade training simulators
(USAF photo by Robbin Cresswell)

Camp Bullis, TX - 1968
Amn Varner and Amn Wagner
(photo courtesy of Dave Wagner)

Camp Bullis, TX - 2009
Live Practice at the Grenade Pit
(USAF photo by Robbin Cresswell)

Team 13 Camp Bullis Video -

Camp Bullis History

Camp Bullis was named for Brigadier General John Lapham Bullis who earned his reputation as a lieutenant leading the Seminole Negro scouts in clashes against hostile Indians during the Indian Wars in the 1870’s.

Camp Bullis ~ World War I Era

Camp Bullis was used for medical, combat, and security training throughout the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The Air Force Security Police Training Site, known as Victor Base, was built in 1977 and the Air Force was the largest single user of Camp Bullis until 1987. Since then, the Army has become the primary user of Camp Bullis as a military training site.

Camp Bullis is located at the far north end of Bexar County. It's about 20 miles from downtown San Antonio. Growth in the area has encroached to the edge of the camp, therefore a "Joint Land Use Study" was conducted to address how to maintain the camp and its missions, while accommodating growth in the area (click HERE to see the study).