The "real" in reality: "Profiles from the Front Line," Episode 1
There is no immunity idol to spare them from elimination, no roses or jewels as a reward for advancing to the next round, and the only surprise trip they receive is definitely not to Cabo San Lucas. The winners on this show don't get a million dollars, a fiancee, or a recording contract for their victory. The reward on this show is staying alive.
But this show isn't what we have all come to know (and enjoy) as "reality tv" programming. This is reality life, a 6-week edutainment docuseries, so to speak, about the actual events that took place during Operation Enduring Freedom last year in Afghanistan.
Those that know me certainly would not be surprised at my interest in this show. Afterall, it is produced by an idol of mine, Jerry Bruckheimer, who also happens to produce 2 incredible television shows, The Amazing Race and CSI. And my FORT "handle" was inspired by my love of Bravo squad from the military reality show, Combat Missions (a Mark Burnett production) that aired in early 2002. However, even with a set up like that, I must say I had my doubts. I mean it was airing on the same network that has a show called "Are you hot?" on it's schedule. ;)
Each week the series is set to feature actual footage of US forces in the Afghan region as well as personal stories of the men and women who bear the burden and dangers of keeping our nation free.
We start off the series meeting Captain Chris Cirino, a straightforward leader in charge of the 144 soldiers of the 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division based at Fort Bragg, NC. It's deployment day, and the scenes we are shown are of family members saying good-bye to their loved ones. It's not a good sign for me when we're only 7 minutes into the show and I'm already tearing up as an unidentified soldier is shown gently rubbing the belly of his pregnant wife.
We hear from Kyle Walton a platoon leader that says their group is tight and looking forward to starting the operation. We are introduced to Alvin Fields, a friendly looking guy with a smile that makes me smile. He looks like he could be your best friend.
One of the commanders tries to rally and focus the troops and ends by telling them, "The American people expect you to be at the sphere so this (9/11) never happens again."
The troops then depart Pope AFB on the way to Kandahar, their transfer point and eventually arrive at Chapman Airfield in Khost, Afghanistan (18 miles from the Pakistan border).
The living conditions are atrocious, but you don't hear the soldiers complain. In fact, many of them state "it's not too bad." The temperatures are 108 degrees, there are stagnant pools of water everywhere, and the living quarters need some serious work.
We learn from Cirino that his job with his troops is to secure this area as a safehouse so spec ops (special operations teams) can go do their job.
Kyle (who is just cute as a button) is in charge of telling us the priorities. When they are on defense, the priority is clearing the area and building an area of fighting position. When on offense, they will conduct missions with spec ops. He explains that the spec ops team and the 82nd go hand in hand.
Cirino comments on enforcement of standards at the base. The spec ops guys wear different clothing and operate much differently than his team. The men and women of the 82nd is really regimented and structured, and they always wear uniforms. Spec ops wear civilian clothing because they are going into the local community to gather intelligence.
Spec Ops mission
We are then introduced to the Spec Ops team of 3 identified only as Mark, Mike and Drew.
Mark is the leader of the team and we are able to see why right away.
Mike is a good-looking family man, married with 3 children.
Drew actually moved to the US from Australia 10 yrs ago. He tells us that his children and family are in the US so he feels that's who he should be fighting for.
Their mission is to find and apprehend for questioning, Muli Yakub, an Al Qaeda officer. They feel he is not a huge threat, but that he will be able to lead them to bigger fish.
The team sets out by car, and end up stuck in town by vehicles that have blocked them in. I sit on the edge of my seat worrying with them as they discuss the precarious position they are in, and how they can get blown up by a hand grenade in an instant. My heart is racing as they get out of the car to try to get traffic moving and get around them. Stay alert, stay alive, they repeat to themselves. Fortunately the scene is relatively short and they get out of there.
They then rendezvous with AMF (Afghan Military Forces). The AMF are an extremely important part of this initiative. The US has trained them and worked with them over the last 3 months. They are integral in helping to identify the Al Qaeda and Taliban members, which is the largest obstacle the forces face.
The spec ops team arrive at the target (Muli's home) but are unable to immediately find anyone.
Mike and Drew provide the lookout cover for Mark who is basically walking in blind. A minor confrontation occurs with someone they find at the house when the person lies to Mark about the whereabouts of Muli. Muli heads into the compound and Drew immediately tries to get Mark on the radio to give him the heads-up.
As Muli walks in, Mark starts negotiating with him through a translator to persuade him to go peacefully with them. Mark explains that they want him to go as a willing cooperative person so that he will not have to be taken forcefully. They guarantee no harm will come to Muli. They are all followed to the vehicle by 3 very suspicious looking men. The spec op teams talks about how nervous they are in the current location with all the roofs, walls and the layout being against them. Finally Muli gets in the back of the truck and Drew hops in with him. As they pull away, the mother starts yelling at the 15 year old son to try to retrieve the father. As the boy chases after the vehicle Drew tells Muli to command the son to stop so he won't be shot.
They leave Muli with the AMF for questioning, giving specific instructions on the only people that he should be released to. They reiterate again that it's not Muli they want, but the information he can provide. Our spec ops team has a successful mission under their belts.
We leave the mission with the update:
Muli Yakub was transferred to Orgun where he was detained and thoroughly interrogated by US government officials. He was eventually returned to his home.
That's actually his title, not necessarily me describing Corporal Peter Savis at Bagram Air Base. Although I have to say in fact, Mr. Savis is quite a good-looking man.
His role is refueling apache helicopters as they arrive at Bagram Air Base. Peter is from New York and jokes he now works at a "big gas station." His responsibilities are for refueling the birds It's extremely important and time sensitive as touchdown can only be for about 5 minutes because they are such a big target.
When Peter was 17 years old and just out of high school, he joined the Army reserves for 6 years. In 1999 he ended his time in service and got an accounting degree. He then got a job as a broker working for American Express and married his wife on September 8, 2001. We see footage from the wedding and his wife is an absolute beauty that he knew back in high school.
3 days after their wedding ceremony would be a tragic day in history, September 11. A day or two later Peter told his wife he felt like he needed to go back into the military. He knew many people that were affected on that tragic day and felt he had to do something to protect his country. "One second I'm in an air conditioned office in suit and tie and now I'm in camouflage in extreme heat and danger. But this is where I feel I need to be."
The hunt for Al Qaeda pushes into hostile territory near the Pakistan border. Corporal Sarvis is ordered to run the refueling operations on the front line.
Peter and one of his coworkers start packing some things knowing they are going to more dangerous territory. He calls his wife who is (understandably) very emotional on the phone. He tells her that he is going to a different place for a little while. He is able to communicate this without worrying her, but I myself am extremely worried. I can't imagine how difficult it must be not to be able to tell his wife where he's going and for how long. At this point, I've got the Kleenex box out, and it's a good thing. I can't imagine being in either position. Peter gets to talk to his wife about 2 minutes every 10 days and says it's the hardest 2 minutes out there. He says he looks at the pictures of people he knew that were killed in the World Trade Center when he needs to focus on why he's here.
On patrol in the North Arabian Sea
Mission: USS Hue City Destroyer enforce UN sanctions by boarding and inspecting all ships sailing into and out of Iraq.
Captain Rick Hoffman explains that using these vessels to make money is in direct violation of the UN sanction on Iraq. Their duties are to board each ship to see if oil or contraband products are being smuggled in or out. Surveillance is done, intelligence is assessed by Chief Petty Officer Kevin Anderson. We meet our first woman, Navarro, who is responsible for coordinating which boarding teams go to which ships.
Kevin Anderson explains why he does this: "So my children won't have to."
Aboard the vessels they find crack cocaine, some navigation maps and address books that they will use as intelligence. While it may seem small, the intel they acquire is extremely useful in the big picture.
You don't see Tom Cruise and "Goose" on deck, these guys are the real deal, not actors pretending to be.
We do meet John "Champ" Killen, an F-14 Maintenance Supervisor on station in the Arabian Sea.
We see jets getting ready for departure. The seriousness of the job is evident, even though the personality of "Champ" is lively and loose. I really hope we get to see more of him in future episodes.
My overall analysis: :up It's a good show, definitely worth watching.
Do we deserve to be tarred and feathered if we don't watch it, or if we enjoy reality tv programming? Of course not. The only person that deserves that is the programming "genius" that slated "Profiles" in the time slot opposite Survivor.
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