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SKYBIRD:
Dale Brown’s Ops Report
Copyright © 2003, TDPI

STRATEGIC DOCTRINE: Morality and following orders

If you've not seen the Bruce Willis movie "Tears of the Sun" and you don't want me to spoil the story for you, skip ahead.

In "Tears," Bruce Willis is a Navy SEAL lieutenant ordered to go into Nigeria to rescue an American physician and two American clergy from a refugee hospital and take them by helicopter to waiting aircraft carriers. It's a straightforward mission: go in, get the targets, avoid enemy contact, and get out.

Drama is conflict, so let's bring on the conflicts:

AirBattleForce.com Skybird: Dale Brown’s Cameo Shot The doctor is not American-born, and she resists, lies, and opposes Bruce on almost every decision. She's also dedicated to her work despite the extreme danger brought on by marauding rebel government troops--unrealistically so, in my opinion. She knows her patients are going to get slaughtered if they stay, yet she does not tell them or help them to flee. The clergypersons, a priest and a nun, also don't want to leave.

For some weird reason, Bruce's character does not assert himself. It is clear to us in the beginning that he is the best of the best--yet right away, he gives in to every protest and every argument.

Now I have never before been a commando leader, or a leader of any other team of soldiers, or even of any other team at all save for brief stint as the president of a small non-profit board of directors. But he's what I'm certain of:

If you call in the Navy SEALS to do a job, you don't want to rescue civilians or help relocate a refugee hospital--you want somebody dead or you want something blown up. Although the SEALS are certainly capable of doing a rescue, that is not what they are usually called upon to do.

SEALS also rarely make up new missions while in the field. SEALS plan, prepare, are inserted, do their thing, and get out. They try to stick with the objective. While details about the plan may and do change, the mission and the objective is the key. They stay hidden, silent, and try not to do anything that might give away their presence, numbers, or capabilities.

Unlike SEALS, a Special Forces or Green Beret team is inserted in an area and usually stays, lives among the locals collecting information and organizing resistance and friendlies. They sometimes speak the language. They are called upon to set up and build facilities, offer medical care, and even help organize security and other government-type functions. They are out in the open, visible to good guys and bad--even openly challenging the bad guys on their own turf.

I'm not saying that Bruce's character should have been a Green Beret instead of a SEAL--maybe it was originally supposed to be so, but it was changed by some know-nothing studio exec (they did get to shoot some scenes on the deck of a carrier--maybe the Navy just offered more support than the Army). My objection is that Bruce Willis agreed to portray a character that made absolutely no sense at all.

Twelve commandos were supposed to go in, grab three people, and helo them out. Sounds fairly straightforward--but it didn't happen. Hollywood-ism? Maybe. But we REALLY wanted Bruce to ACCOMPLISH THE MISSION first. The goal was in sight. Yet he didn't do it.

That's not leadership. Moreover, it's a faulty portrayal of our military forces, showing our leaders as men willing to risk the lives of their comrades and failure of the assigned mission because of some personal whim.

I know what you're going to say.

I'm one to talk, right? Look at Brad Elliott, Patrick McLanahan, and Kevin Martindale. All they ever DO is launch off on their own. Why am I squawking when another writer pens a script that follows my own plot lines?

The difference: my guys aren't Navy SEALS. They wear Air Force uniforms, but they are not in regular Air Force outfits. I'm very careful to make my regular soldiers perform exactly as they are ordered. My fictional units are something else entirely.

It may seem like a difference that makes no difference, but the distinction is important to me. I sometimes portray individuals, especially generals, admirals, and senior politicians, as a little "over the top," mostly because I've seen plenty of examples of this. But for the most part, my "regular" military men and women are seen as strict, disciplined, focused, and professional. They have a mission, a target, a plan, and an objective, and they do the job to the best of their ability and go back to base.

Bruce didn't do that. He was not a frazzled, beleaguered, give-a-shit John McClain from "Die Hard" in this movie--he was a regular soldier, well-respected and professional. I fully expected him to go in, do his thing, and get out. I was of course also waiting for the twist that would send him unwittingly into the real heart of the story. For me, that twist was unsatisfying, mostly because Bruce's character did something I didn't expect or want him to do: fail.

Maybe I'm just blowing off steam because I like Bruce Willis--he would make an excellent Brad Elliott--and I was hoping to sit back and enjoy "Tears of the Sun," and I didn't, and I'm trying to figure out why. Or maybe because I reacted so strongly to the portrayals of Bruce's leadership style and I'm worried because I never would have written his character that way, and so therefore I'll never have a movie made. Maybe I shouldn't be watching movies and just stick to working on my novels. Or maybe I'm just babbling.

What do you think? Let me know, okay?

And Bruce? Let's talk, OK? I've got the rights to all my Brad Elliott books waiting for ya!

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Air Battle Force (MAY 2003)

Maverick Pilot Patrick McLanahan Takes aerial warfare into unknown territory in a heart racing new adventure.

Still smarting from recent losses, the brilliant but unpredictable former USAF Major General is accepted back into the fold and assigned a simple task: devise and build the air combat unit of the future. McLanahan's answer: the Air Battle Force - a rapid-response team of elite commandos protected by state-of-the-art body armour and supported by an armada of anmanned planes.

His idea is soon put to the test when the oil rich Republic of Turkmenistan becomes a battleground between Taliban insurgents, former Soviet overlords, Iranian opportunists and American oil companies and politicians. But can a handful of commandos half a world away, aided by an unproven force of robot warplanes, fight and win a war in which semingly everyone - even 'friendly' forces at home - want them to fail?

'Whe a former pilot turns his hand to thrillers you can take their authenticity for granted. His writing is exceptional and the dialogue, plots and characters are first-class... far too good to be missed.'
--Sunday Mirror

‘Dale Brown is a superb storyteller’
--WASHINGTON POST

‘Dale Brown is the best military adventure writer in the country’
--CLIVE CUSSLER

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