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The Thin Red Line--Training
Since the CO was occupied with Saving Pvt. Ryan when the Producers wanted to shoot The Thin Red Line, Executive Officer 1st Lt. Mike Stokey got the call to design and implement training for the men who would portray soldiers fighting on Guadalcanal in this film. The XO did an extensive amount of research on the 25th Infantry Division (Tropic Lightning) and the 27th Infantry (Wolfhounds) to come up with a two-week curriculum that brought a crew of 30 actors and extras up to speed.
The XO had a free hand in drafting his Warriors Inc. cadre since the CO was already working with a crew of three in England and Ireland. He chose six veteran NCOs to accompany him to North Queensland, Australia where they began to organize a standard U.S. Army infantry company circa 1942. As usual, training involved both day and night operations including long-range patrols up and down jungle-covered mountains. With a Warriors Inc. Cadre NCO in charge of each squad and two leading platoons, the XO began with weapons handling and firing positions. The weapons package included M1919A4 machineguns, M1A1 Thompson sub-machineguns, M-1 Carbines, M-1 Rifles and M1911A1 pistols.
Since the script called for the soldiers to spend much of their time assaulting Japanese troops dug into fortified positions, the XO spent a great deal of training time working to establish base of fire with one or more elements of his command and then maneuvering to a flank with other elements to reduce hard-points. He taught his people to let terrain drive their tactical choices in these drills. Hasty ambushes, meetings engagements in restrictive terrain and anti-sniper tactics were also major portions of the tactical training in mid-level training exercises. As usual by now, each rugged training day was followed by an evening Stand Down in which troopers could learn the psychology of a combat soldier and ask any question that might benefit their performance. The XO spend a great deal of Stand Down time teaching early WW II history and the background to the battle for the Solomon Islands.
Once filming commenced, the XO and the Warriors Inc. Cadre were also called on to train and control actors portraying Imperial Japanese Army troops in the last ditch defense of Guadalcanal. They rapidly learned - and reported to the CO - the value of conducting simultaneous training for both allied and enemy forces in preparation for a film project. We incorporated that into many subsequent projects.