Copyright John T. Reed

Because I have written about the Navy SEALs on a number of occasions, people were already asking me what I thought of the new movie Act of Valor.

I was not going to see it because I think the SEALS are the most overhyped military unit in history and I figured this movie was just more of that. But I was surprised to find that I have a close personal connection to a guy who has a professional relationship to a guy who was important in the making of the movie. That close personal connection urged me to see it. So I did.

It’s just another action war movie. It was advertised as a SEAL movie. Not really. It’s just a movie about guns and explosions and parachute jumping with occasional references to things unique to SEALs.

I am not a theater critic. I am a military critic. I will just give it my usual knowing-a-bit-more-than-a-layman comments about incorrect or dubious military stuff. By way of full disclosure, I am an airborne ranger Vietnam veteran West Point graduate.

Family values

One thing I never saw before in a war movie is mucho time devoted to proving to the audience that U.S. Navy SEALs are perfect family men who love nothing more than combat except being a father and a husband.

Oh, really?

Well, I was in the elite units and in the Vietnam war and before I saw Act of Valor, if you had asked me if SEALs were great fathers and husbands I would have said this.

Me: Not likely. For one thing, they spend a lot of time away from their wives and kids.

You: Are they faithful to their wives?

Me: (laughing) Well, I do not know any SEALs. There was one in my ranger class but we had no opportunities to demonstrate faithfulness out in the woods in Georgia or the swamp in Florida for two months. You might want to read my web article on the military’s vaunted “work hard play hard ethos.”

Generally, the military is known for whoring. Camp followers do not restrict themselves to single military personnel. I knew guys who were faithful husbands and fathers in the military including the “elite” units. But the military has more than its share of guys who cheat on their wives. And within the military, I would say that the percentage of cheaters is greater in the so-called “elite” units than it is in the regular units.

I call your attention to the so-called Tailhook incident, which was Navy fighter pilots behaving like they were entitled to have sex with every good looking woman they saw at their annual conventions. John McCain was a Tailhook member. He cheated on the wife who waited for him to come home from the Hanoi Hilton POW camp. His current wife was his lover before he got divorced.

Let the record show that recent hype notwithstanding, fighter pilots who operate off aircraft carriers are several notches up the evolutionary chain from SEALs. They are all college grads and go through far longer and higher-attrition-rate evaluations than SEALs. (See Top Gun.) SEALs are blue-collar masochists who lift weights and practice shooting guns a lot. Pilots, have lots of technical training on things like navigation, aeronautical engineering, guided missiles, and so on. But I must add that if you could buy the typical naval “aviator” for what he’s worth and sell him for what he thinks he’s worth, you would have a substantial capital gain.

The most elite military unit in history was probably the original Mercury Seven Astronauts. I was in high school and college back then. But there was a book and movie by the name of The Right Stuff to which I commend you if you have not already read or seen it. The book and the movie are non-fiction. There is a scene in each where astronaut John Glenn—later senator and presidential candidate—chewed out his six fellow astronauts—all married—for using their celebrity to get laid with Cape Canaveral groupies. Glenn was the first man American to orbit the earth. Alan Shepard was the first American into space. He told Glenn to mind his own business in the confrontation about adultery.

The original Mercury Seven astronauts were about twenty notches above current blue-collar Navy SEALs, notwithstanding the recent hype about SEALs. Astronaut training was almost unceasing for about seven years, not the two and a half or whatever the SEALs claim is proof of their wonderfulness.

When I was in Vietnam, a great many of the colonels and generals had house trailers to live in. We lieutenants lived in hooches. I do not know why a colonel or general would need so much more space, but rumors were they were using them to sleep with Red Cross girls and Vietnamese prostitutes. One of my company commanders in Vietnam was married but also had a Vietnamese girlfriend whom he repeatedly took on in-country R&R to Nha Trang. I never knew anyone else who went there once. He went all the time, taking her with him.

When we West Point class of 1968 guys were stationed at Fort Gordon Georgia together at the same time, the bachelors among us (I was one of those) compared notes on our love lives. Only one of us met a woman. He met her at a honky tonk. Turned out she was the wife of a sergeant who was in Vietnam at the time. He was horrified when he found out and immediately stopped seeing her. I once roomed with a fellow lieutenant who had been in my battalion in Vietnam. We were in the states when we were roommates. His first tryst, in our apartment, was with a very pregnant woman of about twenty. She was married to an enlisted man in Vietnam at the time. My roommate was sheepish about it and said he usually had far more appropriate lovers but was having a little trouble getting started.

Both the soldiers and the spouses in the military engage in far more adultery than I have sensed or heard about in civilian life.

There are many faithful husbands in the military. But my impression is that the percentage of adulterous ones far exceeds the civilian norm to the extent that anyone can know. And as I said, the more “elite” units have even a higher percentage of members who feel entitled to more sex, sex to compensate them for risking their lives and/or going through difficult training, and some groupies who want to brag they had sex with a fighter pilot or SEAL or whatever. See the movie An Officer and A Gentleman.

The “I am not at liberty to discuss” nature of much of SEAL operations creates an additional moral hazard in the adultery business. They apparently can not go home at night and merely tell their wife they are not at liberty to discuss where they were and what they were doing. The implication of that is they were doing some SEAL stuff. But it could be used to cover plain old shacking up. Has that ever happened? I would not know. What is my expectation after having spent eight years in the Army—most of it in “elite” units, and in a war? Very likely. But I have no first-hand knowledge of any SEAL cheating on his wife.

When they were about to go on some combat mission in the movie, one SEAL said to another, “The only thing better than this is being a dad.” I chuckled. I had hear that “only thing better” line many times in the Army, but it always referred to sex; never being a dad. One memorable time was when our Army basketball team had defeated Navy. Our basketball coach, Bobby Knight spoke from the poopdeck in the mess hall at supper the next night. He said, “I love sharing victories over Navy with the Corps of Cadets. There’s only one thing I like better and I’ll be damned if I’ll share that with you.”

My reaction to the numerous family values scenes in Act of Valor was “methinks the SEAL protest too much.”

Starts with a night HALO jump, maybe HAHO, whatever

The movie starts with a night HALO jump, maybe HAHO. Very impressive. Do you have to be a SEAL to do that? Nope. Civilians do it all the time. Colleges have clubs that do it. Couples get married while free-falling. Some have sex while free falling. I would not be surprised if the HALO/HAHO jumpers in Act of Valor were civilian non-SEALs. Certainly there are plenty of non-SEALs within and outside the military who can do that and many who probably can do it better than SEALs.

When they landed, they immediately walked off toward their military mission.

Not in the real military. Step one when you hit the ground is to gather in your chute. For one reason, the damn thing may drag you to death if you do not instantly collapse it and gather it into the bag you carry for that purpose. Those guys were supposedly dropping into enemy territory into a drop zone with grass about four feet high. In that situation, you would have an additional important reason to gather that chute. To hide it from the enemy. If you just walk away, it will probably blow along the ground until it gets tangled up in a tree or fence. If there are a dozen or so military parachutes suddenly billowing from neighborhood trees, it tells the bad guys you are there. They should have buried the chutes. Some may say how do I know they did not. Watch the movie and see for yourself.

In the movie, they all landed together. If it is a moonlit night and they are highly practiced at HALO jumps, they might all land together. But in the real world, paratroopers land all over creation. See the non-fiction movie The Longest Day.


People in the military use a lot of jargon. It is a typical behavior pattern when you isolate a gorup of people inside or outside the military. When I was a West Point cadet, there was a booklet we could buy to send to our girlfriends before they came to West Point. It said to wear sensible shoes because there was a lot of walking and all that, plus it had a section on cadet slang.

I once wrote a play based on my experience in the military. (I never published it and do not plan to.) I put in a lot of jargon to ad verisimilitude, and readers said they liked it. Gave them a feeling of eavesdropping on real military guys. But I also tried to restrain myself so people could understand what the hell was going on. I was not trying to impress anyone. Just trying to make the dialog sound real.

Act of Valor, I thought, went way overboard on the jargon stuff. It sounded like the rule they were following was to use as much as possible for mystique-generating purposes. I don’t even think we talked that way in the military when no civilians were around. I reviewed a book called I Love a Man In Uniform. In that, the officer’s (not a West Point graduate but he was stationed at West Point when she was married to him) wife liked to use a lot of the military jargon and I criticized the guy for using that shit around his wife. It sounded to me like he was trying to impress her.

My wife knows a little military jargon, but that’s after our being together for 39 1/2 years and our spending a lot of time with my West Point classmates. For example, one of my classmates’ daughters entered Harvard Business School in the Fall of 2011. My wife and I, both Harvard MBAs, were at supper with my classmate and his wife (who had both been stationed at West Point when my classmates was a professor there). The father of the current MBA student said she went through a pre-school for incoming students who had no financial training or experience. There was no such thing when my wife and I went there. “Corps has,” said my wife, cracking up the other three of us.

“Corps has” is a shortened version of the sentence, “The Corps of Cadets has gone to hell.” The Corps of Cadets is the West Point student body. The phrase is used perennially by old graduates of West Point commenting on how much lower the standards have gotten since we graduated.

But unlike Lily Burana, the woman who wrote I Love a Man in Uniform, my wife has never made a comment like, “I’ve got your six.” That means I’ve got your back, six referring to the six o’clock direction—directly behind you. To be saying stuff like that to your wife strikes me as adolescent melodrama. Maybe real SEALs actually use as much jargon as in the movie because they are melodramatic and immature. There is some evidence to support that.

To those like us—damned few of ’em

I have heard this before—from the mouths of recent West Point graduates actually. It is a toast, and a self-aggrandizing one to boot. There would be more if you would stop arbitrarily and dishonestly flunking them out of BUDS just so you can brag about how many flunk out. Same goes for ranger and a bunch of other so-called “elite” training schools.

And don’t get too full of yourselves. You have some extra training over and above other military personnel, but otherwise, you are regular guys. The fat that you have fooled a lot of media and teenage boys into thinking you are supermen is neither dispositive nor to your credit.

SEALs as actors

As I had been told, the SEALs acting is lousy. I am surprised they actually used SEALs in speaking and starring parts. I thought they would just be in the background. They are too flat and lacking in personality. Their inability to do an adequate job was especially evident when they tried to be funny.

I do not know which were SEALs and which were real actors. I’m guessing the woman who was rescued was a real actress and the chief who interrogated Christo was a real actor. The rest of the SEALs were stiffs and if any of those were professional actors they should not quit their day jobs.

I am not a director, but let me make some suggestions for them here. Former marine sergeant R. Lee Ermey was discovered during the filming of Full Metal Jacket. They did not script him. They just let him do his well-practiced marine drill instructor act, filmed it and that’s a wrap. He has since made a lot of money on TV and in movies.

So if you want real military guys in a movie, just have them do the act they have perfected already. Do not write script for them. When I was a senior at West Point, you could have put any of my classmates in a movie doing what we did on a daily basis—like dressing down a plebe or giving orders in formation—and we would do it better than any Hollywood actor.

The other way to put real military personnel in a movie is to put them somewhere that generally relates to the scene, turn a camera on and let them shoot the shit until they forget about the camera. Do that with a lot of active-duty guys until you get down to the best ones and just use the best footage from the candid camera routine. All military units have characters and comedians but not everyone in the military is entertaining. And at least initially, none can be entertaining on cue, only when they are not being self-conscious. Do not ask them to say words from a script!

Elvis was discoverd that way. He went to Sun Records, played some songs where he was imitating Dean Maritn or some established star. The Sun Records guy told him the world did not need another Martin and asked if he had anything new and unique. Elvis shrugged. The Sun guy went to the bathoom or some such. Elvis and his back ups started playing some stuff they had screwed around with, not as an audition, but just because they thought it would be fun while the head of Sun was gone. He heard it, said what’s that, and the rest is history.

THAT, is how you use real life Navy SEALs as movie actors, not by having them read a script.

Mr. Delta Force

I had supper once at West Point with Colonel Charlie Beckwith. He was the first head of the famed Delta Force.

Afterward, my roommate, who was also at the supper table in the cadet dining room said, “Wow! What a fantastic officer!”

I said, “I might have more impressed if every single damned word out of his mouth had not been some stupid Army cliche.”

My roommate was taken aback, thought for a moment and said, “You know, you’re exactly right. I can’t think of a single thing he said that was not ‘Shoot, move, and communicate’ or ‘Drive on’ or “All the way’” or some other cliche.”

The thing was he said these stock phrase with such conviction. He was an air head. His main claim to fame was he headed Operation Eagle Claw, the disaster in the desert in Iran during the hostage crisis. He retired after that. Good career move, Charlie.

25% black?

There were two blacks in the about 8-man group. That is more than the actual percentage in the SEALs. The Navy is embarrassed by how few blacks they have.

Talking too loud

They were always talking out loud on the radio even at night when they were near bad guys. Jesus H. Christ! You can’t do that.

In Vietnam, the listening post guys would just squeeze the push-to-talk button on their radio handset to send a message. Maybe one squeeze, which would make a coming on noise back inside the perimiter, meant “I am awake and just telling you everything is all right.” Two clicks might mean “the enemy is walking past me right now heading toward you.” I am guessing that real SEALs on real missions have some quieter ways to send and receive messages. Once in the movie they seem to be delivering guys secretly at night behind enemy lines and they were talking to them with a public address from the chopper or so it seemed.

That is suicidal.

What is the depth?

As was seen in the trailers for the movie and in SEAL recruiting commercials, they were constantly screwing around in shallow water. We learned in World War II that we had to chart water depths before landing on a beach or taking boats in close to a beach. Indeed, the predecessor unit of the SEALs, UDT, was started for precisely that purpose.

In Act of Valor, they were constantly tromping around in water so they could rise out of it silently. What bullshit! They also had high speed boats maneuvering around in narrow rivers. You cannot do that without charting the depths of the water including the tides. I guarantee you the film crews knew the depths of those waterways cold before they started shooting. But the SEALs in the movie were just flying all over the place going into and coming out of shallow water and doing high speed fights and rescues in it. Utter nonsense, you cannot risk it being too deep for guys to walk up out of it or risk your high speed boat running aground.

I could probably write about 30 pages on what nonsense these SEALs rising silently out of water with guns ready in broad daylight. Try doing it in your backyard pool. Try going to a firing range that has machine guns. There are some in Las Vega. And ask if you can shoot an M-4 or M-156, just after lifting it out of a water tank—when it’s still full of water. I’ll bet they will not allow it. Ask the manufacturer of that gun if they recommend that. Look at a diagram of how the gun works and see if you think it would work under water or when full of water.

The SEALs going back under water with their guns a the ready is maybe dumber. Where are they going? How do they breathe? How to they coordinate all rising out of the water at the same instant? How long does it take for their eyes to clear so they can see? How can they know there are no armed bad guys looking at the water when they come up? If they do know there are no bad guys, why are their guns at the ready? Etc. Etc.

The translations from Russian to English in the movie are inaccurate. I studied Russian at West Point and before. In one scene, a woman asks for the coat of a Muslim. Christo says in Russian, “Nyet. spasibo.” That means “no thanks.” It is translated as “No. He’s good.” I could not keep up with all the Russian but it sounded like the attitude was as long as it sounds Russian we can say it means whatever we want it to say.

There were some scenes of SCUBA and a submarine in the movie. Why? Dunno. It seemed to be a SEAL recruiting commercial unrelated to the movie plot. I have said about the same thing about the SEAL missions in the Panama “war.” I think every time there is some sort of military action nowadays, the SEALs are clamoring to be able to use their SCUBA and special submarines. “Please Daddy, please let us use the sub.” “It’s fucking Afghanistan, dammit! How are we supposed to use the sub!?”

On one scene, a SEAL is on the deck of a carrier talking to his wife on a cell phone as a jet is taking off. Very melodramatic. From what I understand, they would be one of the dumbest things ever. The only people on the flight deck of a carrier have to be there. There are plenty of places in the open air above and below decks to get a cell signal. Not to mention the noise. Was he trying to impress–or scare—his wife? Or us?

They attack a village at night. Everyone is asleep but one breast-feeding woman. There are dogs, but they only bark listlessly as if unaware of the SEALs. See my recent article about the limitations of SEALs and other special ops especially regarding dogs and lots of people around.

In that attack, they were wearing helmets than reflected light and there were both electric lights and a full moon at the time. You cannot have anything shiny on at night around lights, even if the only light is muzzle flashes and explosions and flares. Also, you cannot wear helmets at night because they make noise whey come into contact with brush, twigs, buildings, floors, etc.

They may have helmets on to use night vision goggles. I do not believe those work around electric lights and the flashes of fire fights.

As I complained about in my Hollywood weapons sounds and sights article, the explosions are far too big for the weapons used and the guns are too loud. They make grenades explode like 50-pound bombs. A grenade is more like a cherry bomb in real life.

At the end of the movie, they attack bad guys who are going through a tunnel from Mexicali to the U.S. Much resistance from Mexican drug cartel guys. Why not just wait at the other end of the tunnel in the U.S. where there are no or few bad guys?

A guy throws himself on a grenade. See what I said about that in my weapons sounds article. Short answer, never throw yourself on a grenade. It will kill you and probably no one would have been killed if you had yelled “grenade” and dove AWAY from it. Because they put in that scene, the Act of Valor movie is going to get one or more young Americans killed foolishsly in the future. it will be imitated and young men will die and contrary to what has been represented here and in other type about throwing yourself on a grenade, no lives will be saved by the guy who does it. If you doubt me, read what I said about Max Cleland in my Hollywood weapons article.

At a funeral at the end of the movie, each SEAL takes a SEAL badge and pounds it into the top of the casket one by one. When the camera pulls back, the insignias are all in perfect alignment as if a sign painter did it with a plumb line, which they probably did. Would it be too much trouble not to insult our intelligence every single minute of the movie?

Below is what I wrote before I saw the movie. In fact, they were not hyping the SEALs as much as I expected. Basically, nothing in the movie could not have been done and has not been done by regular Army paratroopers or rangers or Marines. Except for the why-is-that-in-the-movie SCUBA sub stuff, and frequent mention of SEALs, it was not really a SEAL movie. It was just a Marine/Army/Paratrooper movie.

The fact that they could not even find SEAL stuff for SEALs to do in a movie intended to glorify them shows how few actual combat missions they are really needed for. The SEALs are fundamentally a public-relations unit, like that marine drill team that throws rifles back and forth. Military-ish, but not actual military skills.

What about killing bin Laden? you ask. I wrote an article about that. He should have been bombed. Alternatively, any Army or marine unit could have done the mission. It required no SEAL skills.

What about killing the three pirates? I think any snipers—army, marine, SEAL—could have done it unless only SEAL snipers are trained to work from ships.

What about SEALs rescuing the damsel in distress and Danish guy? Standard ranger operation like they did the the Great Raid movie about Cabanatuan in World War II

.SEAL training—all that freezing the ocean off Coronado and swimming with their hands tied behind their back—is designed to get them publicity, not to carry out real combat missions. Few real combat missions need that nonsense—maybe checking beach water depth before landing on Iwo Jima.

The main problem with war movies

The main problem with war movies, including Act of Valor, is they dishonestly depict the details and the basic nature. In Act of Valor, few things go wrong. Contrast that with the real SEAL operation to kill Bin Laden where a high tech chopper went down for reasons the U.S. military first lied about and now won’t discuss. Or look at the Operation Redwing battle where all but one SEAL were massacred. Or Operation Eagle Claw or Blackhawk Down which were total clusters in which many Americans died.

In real SEAL combat operations, there are a high percentage of screw-ups. The movie, like all war movies other than a few that are based tightly on a non-fiction book, shows the enemy taking huge amounts of casualties and the Americans taking very few. That can happen where there is a structural weakness in the enemy approach, like Desert Storm wher the Iraqis positioned themselves in trenches out in the desert wearing olive drab uniforms. We vaporized 100,000 of them in 100 hours. We could have and should have left the ground forces home and thereby avoided almost all U.S. casualties.

But in the sort of fire fights depictied in Act of Valor (which is fiction), the high enemy casualty rate annd the low U.S. rate is absurd. In the first battle, a sniper is quite effective and belivably so—at killing bad guys who are standing around outside as guards. The SEAL plan for dealing with enemy reinforcements was horseshit in that first battle, but that was because they wanted to stage a dramatic battle scene between U.S. swift boats and enemy truckloads of cartel fighters. The proper way to deal with them would have been to set up road blocks and claymore mines and SEALs with anti-vehicle weapons.

‘Clearing’ buildings

But the scenes of SEALs running around inside buildings killing enemy who rarely kill an American are not believable and encourage American teenage boys to try to join the SEALs. The SEALs seem to exhibit skill at clearing a building. I do not believe such skill exists. Read We Were One about the real-life clearing of houses by the marines in the Second Battle of Fallujah. Seems to me that the only way to clear buildings of enemy fighters is scout dogs and heavy weapons like tanks, artillery, anti-tank weapons. It appears to me that kicking in doors and going through some choreographed routine of pointing your rifle left then middle then right is suicidal. Reminds me of that dopey Muslim swinging his sword at Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Last Ark before Jones casually pulls out his pistol and shoots the guy dead. If the room is empty, you do not need that. If it is not empty, blow it up from outside. The Fallujah Marines did that bullshit choreography until they got tired of marines dying for it. Then they switched to tank guns and satchel charges as way of “clearing” buildings. It’s called common sense and the U.S. Navy SEALs have none of it.

The experts on clearing buildings were the World War II GIs who did far more of it than any curent military unit. They did not mess around or do anything choreographed. They mostly did what in Vietnam was called reconnaissance by fire—throw a grenade into the room to clear it. If a bigger weapon is needed, use tanks or artillery or .50 cal. machinegun, but you never go around kicking in doors that might have armed enemy on the other side, or who might booby trap the doors if you get a reputation for kicking them in.

But, you say, they had to rescue the damsel in distress. That is an extremely difficult thing to do. When it is done well, usually by civilian SWAT teams, they typically are using tricks like tiny pinhole cameras that show them what is going on inside the room in question before they go in. They also take a day or more to prepare on scene. The tactics in Act of Valor only work in a Hollywood script.

Change magazines

SEALs actually change magazines in the movie—welcome reality compared to the bullet-hydrant-hose fed guns typically seen in Hollywood—but with the massive amount of firing in the movie, where the hell did they get all the magazines they were pulling out?

When I saw the speed boats in the movie had gatling guns, I immediately wrote “Where all ammo” on my note pad. That’s because the military love to brag about the rate of fire of their gatling guns. For example, the GAU-17/A Minigun fires at a rate of 6,000 ounds a minute. That sends a thrill up the legs of teenage boys.

But it makes a combat veteran shudder at the thought of carrying all that ammo. You say the battle will last at least 10 minutes. No problem. Just carry 60,000 rounds of 7.62 mmx 51 mm bullets (your basic rifle bullet) and metal belts into the battle. Each cartridge weighs 25.4 grams. 60,000 x 25.4 grams = 1,524,000 grams. 3,359 pounds plus 13.5 ounces a.k.a 1.7 tons. And remember that’s the amount that leaves you empty and running for your life after just ten minutes of firing.

If you want to shoot a machine gun, there is a shooting range at Las Vegas that will let you. Do it there. Insist that they let you clean the gun in the solvent bin afterwards. You want the whole real deal. Leave when you’re tired of it, not when the military says your multi-year, “multi deployments to the arm pits of the world” commitment is up.

But in Act of Valor, the Gatling gun guys have a grand old time blowing away drug cartel fighters by the dozen while taking no casualties. Never is anyone shown reloading that gatling gun. So some teenage boy in the movie audience signs up for combat duty and two years later is walking around with a steel band where his left lower leg used to be from a wound he got in a war that we ended without winning.

Real combat is a cluster of smoke, noise, screaming, gunfire and explosions, wounded men, body parts, blood, reloading, running out of ammo, calling for rescue or artillery or air support, etc. It most resembles an injury car accident, but Hollywood does not glamorize those.

Months of boredom…

The above discussion was about how combat is depicted. But as soneone once said,

War is months of boredom puncutated by a few moments of terror.

My tour in Vietnam and that of most vets in all wars matches that description. Act of Valor depicted the SEALs as the military equivalent of a fire house where there is always a fire.

Of course, you’ll say they can’t put boredom in a movie. Actually they do occasionally in small doses where it is part of the story like to explain why some guys let their guard down.

But not puting it in movies causes young men to volunteer for a an organization—the U.S. military—most would not volunteer for if they knew what it was really like. Saying they can’t bore movie audiences is saying

You’re right. They dishonestly depict military life, but the end of not boring the movie audience justifies that means.

The end of guys getting killed or maimed because Hollywood felt entitled for box office reasons to deceive teenage boys justifies no such thing.

Hurry up and wait

In the military, there is hurry up and wait. Paratroopers won’t admit it outside the military, but they hate to jump in the military because they make you get to the airport at 0400 or some such—for no apparent reason. Then you sit or stand around in the sun on the concrete tarmac in summer heat and humidit in North Carolina in my case for hours. They they put you on teh plane covered with your main chute, reserve chute, gun bag, pack, web gear, ammo, canteen,etc. and once again you sit for hours. The plane is not air-condititioned and gets extremely hot sitting in the sun. And why do you have to do that? If you asked a paratrooper while he is doing it, he’ll snarl “Fucking Army.” You probably won’t have to ask. Plenty of he guys in the plane will be volunteering it.

Then, at maybe 1300 hours, you finally jump, after soaking your clothes with sweat and throwing up. On the drop zone, you have the arduous task of gathering your parachute into a carrying bag and dragging it and all the other equipment and your sorry drowned rat ass to trucks to be taken back to main base.

By the time they hit the ground, paratroopers are so sick and wrung out from the heat and the waiting wearing heavy loads that they do not use them in demonstrations. Once at Fort Bragg home of the 82nd Airborne, I saw a VIP demonstration where the paratroopers landed behind a rise. Moments after the last chute disappeared behind tha rise, the paratroopers came charging over the rise toward the bleachers yelling and firing their rifles which had blanks. Only they weren’t the guys who had just jumped. Thy were a second set of paratroops who had been hidden behind the rise before the jump. They were in teh shade sipping mint juleps when the jumpers started arriving. Their charge over the rise occurred when the real jumpers were just beginning to gather up their damned chutes and drag the chute and all their other equipment to the unseen trucks to get them back home.

You won’t see any of that reality in Act of Valor, real SEALs acting in it or not. In Act of Valor, everything occurs with White House staff like precision. No one ever waits a second.

When Obama spoke at West Point, my undergraduate alma mater, in December 2009, the cadets had to go to the auditorium at 1600. They could only take one book, no electronic devices. They were allowed to go to the bathroom, but otherwise had to sit in their seats until and through the speech which started at 2000. To do this, I assume they missed mandatory intramural sports games scheduled for that day, as well as supper and hours of their mandatory study time. No wonder many were caught dozing off by cameras. I understand the cadets who dozed off on camera were punished for it. I tried to confirm these things, which people at West Point told me about. West Point PR deparment would not respond to my inquiry.

That’s hurry-up and wait. It happens all over the militry inlcuding at such elite places as West Point. See my article about it for the explanation of the mind set that causes it.


The main activitiy of real military officers is ass kissing. See my article “The 30-year, marathon, single-elimination, ass-kissing torunament” or “How American Selects its Generals.” I did not see one second ass kissing in Act of Valor. Gimme a freaking break!

I did not kiss ass. As a result, I also rarely had a real position (I was typically assistant to a guy who was not authorized an assistant) and was one of only a handful in my West Point class who was not promoted to captain. Since the guys who were in Act of Valor were not kissing ass, they should have suffered the same fate I did. They do not. That’s bullshit.

I graduated from ranger school and was recomended by the ranger school instructors to be brought back as an instrutor. I volunteered for a Long-Range Reconnaisance Patrol unit in Vietnam—D Company 75th Rangers—and was sent to Vietnam on the appointed day and to the appoointed unit to fill that slot but one of my classmates arrived the day before me and got it instead in spite of the fact that he never indicated the wanted it. Typically military SNAFU. At that point, my refusal to kiss ass had not been known because I was in Army schools for more than a year after graduation from West Point. Ass kissing is not required of students in Army schools, only officers in Army units. I did not get to units until after all the schools and volunteering for D C, 75th ranger was over.


I also did not lie—typically by signing false documents routinely. I do not know that SEALs do, but I would be amazed if they do not. It is ubiquitous in the U.S. military. It occasionally makes the media like in the cover-up of the Pat Tillman friendly fire death or the Osprey helicopter maintenance record falsification. It also penetrates civilians minds—if they think about it—in such common military phraseology as “midnight requisition” (stealing equipment from your fellow U.S. military units), “I’ll deny that I said this but,” “If you are captured, the secretary will disavow all knowledge of your mission,” “I was never here.”


Did you hear the phrase SNAFU in Act of Valor? How about FUBB or FUBAR or SUSFU? Me neither. But I’l bet you’ll hear them at least weekly if you join the SEALs. The U.S. military is an inept cluster fuck morning, noon and night and the SEALs are no exception. They are government employees like at the DMV. SEALs die regularly because of it, but not in Act of Valor. They were too busy defrauding teenage boys into thinking supercompenent U.S. government bureaucrats exist for box office reasons.

The best way to measure the bullshit quotient of Act of Valor is to compare it to the gold standard, most realistic war movie of all time: Generation Kill, a 2008 HBO TV miniseries. To the extent that Act of Valor is different from Generation Kill, Act of Valor is bullshit. In fact, it is enormously different.

Some may say the Generation Kill unit was regular marine recon.

Yeah, so what?

But they’re not SEALs.

So what?

SEALs are better than marines.

Bullshit! They have more training but almost their entire act is stealth and surprise. Surprise is just one of the nine principles of war. Regular Army and marine units use all nine. SEALs and other special ops guys are all surprise. Once discovered, they are close to the equivalent of a downed pilot in need of rescue. They are lightly armed and provisioned. They can only do hit-and-run missions against lightly armed isolated, tiny enemy locations in a very narrow rage of weather and terrain circumstances. They have virtually no staying power and, as a result, very little ability to adjust to things not going according to plan. Things not going according to plan is the norm. The SEALs are lots of hype. Furthermore, SEALs are more often used in situations where they are not needed, that is, they generally perform not SEAL missions, but regular Army missions, because true SEAL missions are so few and far between that SEALs an other special ops guys strat whining and yelling “Send me in, coach.” They would rather have a regular Army mission than no mission.

Generation Kill is the real deal. It is what combat is really like and what U.S. military units are really like.

I wrote the following before I saw the movie:

SEAL units have done some good things. I have complimented them for them. They have also made total fools of themselves in other missions. I have pointed those out. Type the word SEALs into the search box in the upper right of this web page to see all my articles that mention SEALs.

Invisible failures

Failed missions thus far seem to be invisible to the adoring media and public. They either ignore them or spin them as successes. For example, Operation Red Wing is spun as the heroic tale of a “lone survivor” of a SEAL operation.

Okay, but doesn’t that mean the rest of them were all killed? So what was the point? Why were they there? How did this group of highly trained and equipped supermen all get slaughtered except for one who was saved by an Afghan villager, not by the U.S. military? Why is this disaster spun as a success?

Panama cluster

Same with the SEAL missions to destroy Manuel Noriega’s private yacht and plane. They tried to do it with elaborate SEAL bullshit. Why not just bomb them, which were out in the open in well-known locations? Or just shoot an anti-tank weapon at them from 1,000 yards or so away?

I saw a Military Channel documentary about the SEALs Panama action on 4/14/12. Apparently, stupid State Department rules of engagement prohibited damaging the yacht and plane more than necessary to prevent it from taking off—specifically, they were directed to only slash the tires on the private jet. What utter morons!

Why? The jet would be the property of the new Panamanian government and they wanted them to not have to replace either.

You gotta be kidding me! A Lt. McCarty said that was bullshit and refused to “sign off” on it. He was “dismissed.” He said it was unnecessarily making the mission a suicide one. He was right. Moral courage. He may be only the second or third officer in the history of the U.S. military to ever exhibit moral courage. None of the other SEALs did and four of them died for the bullshit State Deparment. Let the fucking State Department do the mission. The SEALs have physical courage, but other than McCarty, apparently no moral-courage balls. U.S. military officers will risk their lives, but not their careers, and apparently the mighty SEALs, other than McCarty, are no exception to being just another unit populated by timid, olive-drab bureaucrats who will die carrying out stupid orders and send their men to do the same.

Also, the SEALS could not make radio contact with the AC-130 gunship that was supporting them. Ever hear of a commo check, morons? In Vietnam, I led a patrol. Before we left, we did a commo check. No answer. I sent a runner to the Corps Tactical Operation Center. They forgot to turn the radio on and forgot about our patrol. Morons. They turned the radio on. We did the check. “Lima Charlie” (loud and clear) and did the patrol maknig progress reports throughout. All went well.

I do not know why the SEALs had no commo with the AC-130. But the fact that they did not have commo with the AC-130 was absolutely incompetence by someone and the SEALs should have either not been incompetent or discovered the incompetence of the AC-130 in time to correct it.

As in Act of Valor, the SEALs in the Panama documentary are talking out loud on their radios, in the dark, on a runway. That is suicide.

The SEALs at the Panama airport just walked across the tarmac bunched close together like some dopey British red coats in the Revolutionary War. The enemy were expecting them and ambushed them with automatic weapons. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Why bother with all that training and recruiting if you are just going to commit suicide as if you were a group of second graders—or State Deprtment junior commandoes—assigned to combat with no training?

The Panmanians had cover and armor-piercing bullets that renedred the SEAL bullet proof vests useless. That is competent military training. The documentary said the SEALs superior marksmanship enabled them to prevail. Okay. I believe that. It’s about time the mission actually involved some pertinent SEAL skills.

Ultimately, the SEALs used the anti-tank weapon I said they should have used all along. They only had it in case Panamanian Armor attacked them. Congrats to the SEALs for belatedly showing some common sense and the balls to override the stupid orders—after four of their guys had died and nine were wounded because they did not have the moral courage to protest the rules of engagement in time to avoid the casualties.

The “quiet professionals” needs to spend more time on their professionalism and less about quiet and bragging via leaks about how great they are.

They finally made contact with the AC-130 when it was too late. No explanation in the documentary about why they could not communicate earlier.

Mixed record

The truth is the SEALs are like a run-of-the-mill baseball team. They win some. They lose some. And some get rained out.

I criticize various military units and tactics and strategies a lot. I am not opposed to giving the military credit for good stuff they do. Indeed, I think it is important that they get credit. It helps to motivate and reward them for good work.

Hype causes real problems

What I oppose, is the military getting credit they do not deserve. It is not jealousy. I actually got the military stamp of approval from a number of the top elite units available when I was an Army officer See the “about the author” in the navigation bar at the top of this web page. The problem is giving military more credit than they deserve causes real problems.

• It recruits teenagers to join the military for inaccurate or improper reasons like adventure, proving one’s manhood, dealing with insecurities, short cut to “hero” status, and so on.

• It causes problems in the military not to get corrected in a timely manner if ever.

• It causes so-called elite military units to believe their own bullshit which results in their taking on missions or engaging in tactics that are doomed, like Blackhawk Down, in which 19 Delta Force and Rangers and snipers were killed.

• It causes military decision makers to believe the bullshit about U.S. military units and to assign them to loaves-and-fishes missions based solely on the insane notion that the special ops men are supermen.

• It has even recently—last month—caused the president and Department of Defense to decide to increase the number of special ops troops and decrease the number of conventional troops. In another a recent article—The Somalia Hostage Rescue—I listed the eleven severe limitations of special ops troops. Obama seems to have decided that the special ops guys have more success therefore they should become a larger part of the military. That is nuts. Their limitations are quite striking and those limit how SEALs and other special ops units can be used. For the vast majority of military missions, conventional troops are needed. The notion that we should increase the number of special ops troops at the expense of conventional forces is a clear manifestation of lack of understanding of the capabilities and limitations of special ops and the belief that they are all-purpose supermen, not just ordinary military personnel who have weeks or months of extra training in a few specific, rarely-needed skills. Plus, as I said in the Somalia Hostage Rescue article, no sooner do the SEALs and other special ops troops fire a shot or set off an explosive or inspire a dog to bark than they get on the radio frantically calling for the conventional forces they spend most days putting down to come rescue them.

Two classic mistakes

Also, I think the special ops unit—especially the SEALs—are setting themselves up for a fall by making two very big, classic mistakes:

• There is only one way to do a good job and have people unhappy with the job you do. That is to promise more than you deliver.

• Live by the media, die by the media.

Promising more than you deliver

By encouraging bullshit hype about SEAL capabilities and accomplishments and mystique, SEALs are promising more than they, or anyone, is capable of delivering, especially if they fail to balk at missions beyond their capabilities like Blackhawk Down. Obama, being an overage naif in 2008 made this mistake. He promised more than any president could possibly deliver—lowering the oceans, fixing the economy, making renewable energy cost-effective, and on and on.

Predictably, he failed to deliver. I said that would happen back in 2008 in my article shortly after his victory. And when the Republican primaries are over, the Republicans will run TV commercials endlessly replaying all of Obama’s absurd campaign promises. Those ads, set up by Obama himself, will turn what some think was a decent job performance into a total failure because he promised far more than he did, or anyone could, deliver.

Pundits sometimes call this the “expectations game.” Obama was an utter incompetent when it came to playing the expectations game. By raising expectations he insured that even good performance would be seen as lousy. The special ops units, especially the SEALs, are now making that same mistake.

Live by the media…

Be careful when you decide to ride the tiger because you may end up inside it.

The Marine Corps has been riding the public relations tiger for decades. Part of the reason is they have no reason for existing separate from the Army. So they are constantly trying to use public relations and politics to avoid being folded into the Army. But that’s no excuse. They ought to just do their job and have nothing to say if the Pentagon decides to move them to the Army. Such decisions are “above their pay grade” as the bureaucrats in uniform like to say to avoid responsibility. They work for the American people. Preserving the current table of organization of the Marine Corps is not the mission of the Marine Corps.

The marines are sort of a subsidiary of the U.S. Navy, although they now have their own seat on the Joint Chiefs which is nothing but pure interservice rivalry politics and a waste of taxpayers money through duplication and costly sibling wars.

The SEALs, are also a subsidiary of the U.S. Navy, and, like the marines, they also have no reason to exist as separate from the Army and Marines. Their frogman capability relates to amphibious operations, which is the purview of the Marine Corps, to the extent that amphibious operations are separate from the Army, which got pretty amphibious when landing in North Africa, Sicily, Salerno, and Normandy. SEALs also do parachute jumping and sniping and such, all capabilities that have long existed in the Army and Marine Corps.

So the SEALs have to hype themselves to continue to exist in the face of the the occasional intelligent life that manages to get into the Pentagon where they notice that the Marine Corps and SEALs duplicate the Army and asks out loud, “Uh, why are we wasting this money having these capabilities in both the Army and the Navy?”

But the SEALs have now gone way beyond the marines.

Insatiable greed for mystique

I am a Harvard MBA and have spent almost all of my adult life in the business and investment worlds. We often hear the word “greed” hurled at us. But we rarely use it among ourselves. There is not much greed in the finance world. It is more status and competition for competition’s sake. Money alone has little utility after a certain fairly low point and no one knows that better than successful finance people.

But as I watch the SEALs PR operation, the word greed occurs to me. I have never seen any group so manically eager for media hype. They seem greedy beyond all rationality for more and more hype. Akin to the occasional individuals you see trying to get their own TV reality show and engaging in all sorts of craziness to accomplish that. SEALs also seem oblivious to the dangers of climbing so high on that tower of cards.


The first rule of journalism—my self-taught profession—is get your facts straight. The second rule is only write man-bites-dog stories. Dog-bites-man stories are not news so they are boring. Journalists are not allowed to be boring.

Okay, initially, “SEALS pull off great dangerous mission stories” are man-bites-dog, aren’t they? The SEALs came on the national scene with the advent of the Magnum, P.I. TV series. Magnum was shown as a SEAL in Vietnam in the opening sequence every week.

They were new, novel. The media likes new. That’s why they call it the news.

Continuing, SEALs are running out of new. If you’re not new, you’re not news, unless…

Unless something unexpected happens to a SEAL unit—man bites dog 2.0—like them screwing some operation all up.

As I said above, they screw up continuously in between the successes. But they use selective secrecy—“not at liberty to discuss”—and spin and so on to keep the media from covering the failures, sort of like the Soviet space program where they would never say anything about a flight until it was successful. People joked about earth orbit altitudes being full of dead cosmonauts.

The SEALs are also protected, for the time being, by the fact that we are now a nation of draft dodgers who are afraid to criticize the military. But the media include a broad spectrum of individuals and agendas.

Eventually, a journalist who is not afraid to criticize the military will recognize that the new story, the man-bites dog story is no longer SEALs pull off great operation, but “SEALs screw up” or “SEALs screw up an awful lot and no one notices.”

You have probably heard it said that the media likes to build a person up when they are on the way up, then tear them down after they get to the top. Indeed, if the media gives you fabulously favorable publicity for a while, they often feel guilty about it, especially if they suspect they have been conned even a little bit. Then they do what is called a make-up call when a sports ref makes a bad call then makes up for it with a favorable call later for the team that was hurt by the bad call.

Ah! I see the light bulb starting to flicker as it comes on in your brain.

Just do your job

What the SEALs and any other military unit needs to do is their job, period. They need to stay away from the hype and they need to keep it real. Do not appear in movies about SEALs. When others say things about them that exaggerate their accomplishments or capabilities, the SEALs need to correct the record, not just smirk at each other.

They need to stay within themselves and their training and equipment and physical capabilities vis a vis the challenges of combat, including bullets and explosives. They cannot allow a can-do attitude to metamorphose into suicidal bravado. They cannot say “Can do, sir” when the truth is they can’t do in that particular situation. They must not agree to loves-and-fishes missions. Suicide missions are sometimes militarily correct. But they need a rather valuable objective to warrant the deaths of the men on the mission. Being suicidal every day regardless of the value of the proposed mission is mental illness.

SEALs are not supermen. They are just ordinary guys with some extra training. To the extent that they have above-average weight training strength and aerobic fitness, they might occasionally be in a combat situation where that physical fitness is decisive, but generally, in the world of bullets and explosives, the size of your biceps and your body fat percentage are irrelevant to your success or your survival.

Their greed for hype piled on hype piled on hype is doing neither them, nor teenage boys, nor the nation any good.

What has possessed Rush Limbaugh when it comes to Act of Valor?

I heard Rush say Act of Valor had to use real SEALs instead of stunt men because professional Hollywood stunt men could not do the needed stunts but the SEALs could.

I laughed out loud in my car when I heard that. When I repeated it to my wife, who thinks I am often too harsh a critic, she said, “That’s bullshit.”

Later, after listening to Rush go on and on about this movie, she wondered out loud if he is part owner of it or has some other financial interest in pumping up the box office of it.

I am no expert on stunt men but I have seen some documentaries on them so let’s apply some logic to Rush’s contention.

1. Professional stunt men are true professionals at what they do. I surmise they get paid a lot of money and they have been doing this for years. SEALs do some repetitive training, but their basic job is to kill enemy fighters and blow stuff up. Stunt men, on the other hand, generally specialize in things like falls, diving through windows that are not open, vehicle crashes, and so forth. However wonderful the SEALs are, those things are simply not what they do. Whatever they are professional at, it is not acting or falling or sending a motor vehicle with them in it flying through the air.

2. 99% of the time, stunts in Hollywood are filmed in extremely short time segments. High-speed chases and other actions can be filmed slowly then the film speeded up for the final version. With camera angles, cropping, and blue screens, Hollywood can make something that is utterly safe look unbelievably dangerous.

3. Loud sounds used to coordinate actors, like that moronic scene where the SEALs rise out of a pond of water, can simply not be recorded for the film, making it look like the SEALs in question somehow silently came out of opaque water simultaneously.

4. I have done some pro photo shoots with Money Magazine, 60 Minutes, and so on. The reality of that sort of stuff is a zillion takes (not at 60 Minutes—they only did one retake—at Morely Safer’s request). One of the great skills of professional models, stunt men, actors, and so on is the ability to do the same little thing over and over while maintaining the same necessary facial expression of surprise, excitement, anger, or whatever the script calls for throughout. Normal people get bored and annoyed with having to do it over and over. Pro models comment that continuing to hold some position when their limbs are falling asleep from lack of movement is part of their job. One pro model I met said she did a Coke commercial once to be broadcast in Japan. She had to pour some Coke into glasses for her kids and they made her do it over and over to get the liquid to flow in just the right photogenic swirls and bubbles—smiling the same gorgeous, motherly smile every single time.

5. Hollywood is all about illusion and safety. The macho men in the SEALs tell us they are frequently exposed to great danger—real danger. I agree. I think they are exposed to far too much real danger too often. That is not what stunt men do. They are helping producers and directors achieve a great scene while avoiding endangering the highly paid and insured actors unnecessarily—or themselves. The skill of stunt men is to make things look dangerous while keeping them as safe as possible. For example, if there are any open flames in a scene, there are, just outside of camera view, five to ten guys with fire extinguishers and fire blankets and fire hoses are standing at the ready. When there still is some irreducible danger, they cannot financially let the big star do it.

6. SEALs have no business engaging in Hollywood stunt men work. They are not trained for it. They are not equipped for it. And hype notwithstanding, they probably are not the athletes the professional stunt men are.

I actually was in some military movies

Now that I think about it, I was actually in some military movies as the SEALs are in Act of Valor.

My wife and I took our kids to Disneyland in California in the 1980s. There was a theater where the movie was projected onto screens all around you 360 degrees. The film was a sort of tour of the most photogenic stuff in America. Some of it was acrobatic flights like through the Grand Canyon. You had to hold onto a rail to avoid losing your balance and falling down in the theater. Suddenly, what was all around us was a West Point full-dress parade. A second or two later, I remembered that I marched in that parade.

No one warned us about it that day at West Point. We were just doing another damned parade. We did three a week in the spring and fall. But after we got out onto the parade ground in front of the spectators, an Army jeep came driving out onto the grass and zoomed around between the various cadet company formations. That never happened before or after that day. I thought someone had gone crazy. Then I noticed eight movie cameras on the roof of the jeep and realized they were shooting some unique perspective movie. The authorities at West Point did not say anything about it afterwards, either. I guess we cadets had no need to know.

So why did they use us instead of actors? Well, actually because what Rush said was actually true in this case. Hollywood actors could not reproduce a West Point cadet parade. For one thing, it would be enormously expensive to hire, train, and costume 4,000 cadet actors and a 100-person top notch military band and rent a parade ground. For another, we knew how to wear that uniform, how to march and do manual of arms significantly better than the average army unit. How? We did too damned much of it. We were way overqualified for such simple-minded nonsense.

Recruiting film

On another occasion, I was given my own scene in a movie being made to recruit students to West Point. A real Hollywood film crew came to West Point to shoot it. Our company was chosen to do the close-up scenes of cadet life. I suspect because we had a blue-eyed, blond, All-American company company commander.

The film crew was shown the most recent but now out-of-date recruiting films, a series starring a perfect cadet named John Reed. That, you may recognize, is also my name. Before I went to West Point, one current cadet who was a friend of a friend told me I would catch hell for that name if I went there. He was right.

When the film crew came to our company, the company commander brought them to me and introduced me as “the real Cadet John Reed.” I was a blue-eyed, blond, broad-shouldered, six-foot tall sophomore if I recall correctly. They were big on blue-eyed, blonds back then. I have a view book from those days. The painting on the cover is of the iconic recruiting poster cadet—a blue-eyed blond. Nowadays they would have as much gender and ethnic diversity as they could fit into the small group in the picture.

They had a prank scene they said they wanted me to do.

Oookay. In the scene, I wore a plebe uniform and sneaked into a senior’s room. I then duct-taped a mechanical, wind-up alarm clock into the inside top of his full dress parade hat. The prank being it was set to go off in the middle of the parade when the company commander was leading the company for the pass in review.

Of course, the whole idea was ridiculous. He could not miss seeing and feeling the weight of the clock when he put the hat on. In typical Hollywood fashion, they were distorting an actual West Point prank. The real version had a cut-up cadet tape the clock into his own hat for that purpose. The only surprise was for the other cadets who did not expect it. The clocks were mechanical, wind-up types for the same reason we had slide rules instead of calculators. It was 1966. Digital stuff had not yet been invented.

I had no speaking lines. I was a stealth soldier in the scene if you’ll pardon the expression. We had to do a lot of takes because a shadow would obscure something or whatever. In the event, I never saw the movie and heard my scene ended up on the cutting-room floor. But I still want to thank the Academy and all the little people who helped me along the way and denounce the increase in the size of government and you see, this is my life! It always will be! Nothing else! Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark!... All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up.

TV for the Army-Navy Game

In the fall of our senior year, a TV sports crew came a week before the Army-Navy game to do an up-close-and-personal piece about our team captain Bohdan Neswiacheny. As his name suggests, he is Ukrainian. That got him assigned to the Russian language at West Point. I was in his class. They filmed us arriving at the class and the class itself. Normally, when we arrived, we would kid around in Russian as we were putting our books down. But with all the cameras and lights and the focus supposed to be on Bud, we came in as silently and unobtrusively as possible. The camera crew got mad at us for doing that. They wanted normal—but there was no time for a second take because the instructor arrived “Room attention!” and we had to hustle to another class afterward. I never saw that TV show, but I guess I was in it. I think I had a speaking part in the sense of being called on by the instructor while they were filming. I was a top Russian student and was especially good at pronunciation, which was good TV for that program’s purpose—to show what college student supermen we were.

So why is it wrong for SEALs to be in Act of Valor but not me to be in those Hollywood productions? The SEALs are already in the Military Channel documentaries about their training. They may be in recruiting films and TV commercials about SEALS although the PR-oriented Navy would probably use professional models and actors for that. If TV does an up-close-and-personal they probably will be in it. That’s fine. But a Hollywood feature film where actual active-duty military have speaking parts and the film brags about it!? Gimme a break.

Over the decades, active-duty military people like me have been in thousands of movies, TV shows, documentaries, etc. There usually is a statement at the end where the producers thank the U.S. Navy and the men of the USS Ronald Reagan or the officers and cadets at the U.S. Military Academy or some such for their cooperation and assistance in the filming of the program. That’s enough. Don’t hype the damned SEALs as if their acting and faces were worth moviegoers’ time and money.

I would appreciate hearing from readers who have seen the movie. I could use some motivation to go see the damned thing because it seems like a waste of my time and money and encouraging the hype in a small way.

Reader feedback

One guy posted this review:

He makes it sound like a TV commercial for family values. I did not expect that.

A reader also sent me this email:


Don't waste your money. You're already jaded (so was I) prior to going in and that bias won't be help by watching bad acting and marginal screen writing. You'll walk out before the movie ends. I did.

Jay Vandiver Nix

Apparently, the SEALs got speaking parts and scenes where they actually had to act. You gotta be kidding me! The only time that ever worked, having a non-actor speak other than “Aye aye, Sir” or some such, was director Rob Reiner’s mom saying, “I’ll have what she’s having” in When Harry Met Sally.

John T. Reed

Link to information about John T. Reed’s Succeeding book which, in part, relates lessons learned about succeeding in life from being in the military

John T. Reed military home page