FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- The documentary film "The Hornest's Nest," which heavily features the combat service and sacrifices of Screaming Eagle Soldiers in Afghanistan, was shown at the Regal Clarksville Stadium 16 Theater in Clarkville, May 12.
Hundreds showed up for the advanced screening, quickly surpassing the reserved theater's maximum occupancy, resulting in a second theater opening for the Clarksville debut.
"The Hornet's Nest" is a film that documents the life of U.S. troops inside one of Afghanistan's most hostile valleys, using real footage captured by father and son journalist team Mike and Carlos Boettcher.
For more than 34 years, the senior Boettcher has reported on the Nation's wars as a network correspondent for CNN, NBC and now ABC News.
"I've done my best to look through the smoke of war to illuminate the causes and cover the experience of the men and women sent to fight and win," said Boettcher in a personal statement. "While they fight and die thousands of miles away, we sit comfortably at home and sacrifice nothing."
The film focuses on the 101st Airborne Division's legendary "No Slack" battalion -- Company C, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division -- and their efforts during Operation Strong Eagle III in 2011.
Colonel J.B. Vowell, "No Slack" battalion commander at the time of filming and current 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans" commander, addressed the crowd comprised heavily of Screaming Eagle Soldiers, Veterans and Family members, prior to the viewing.
"This film is very real, and it represents the efforts, the honor, the trust and the bond of brotherhood that you have for each other," said Vowell. "And if you had friends or relatives that [have deployed], you will gain an immediate, visceral appreciation for what they did."
Staff Sgt. Cal Garcia, one of the Soldiers featured in the film, believes the film can help Soldiers who may not feel comfortable communicating what happens in combat, especially with their Families.
"Some of us aren't really good about talking about this stuff, don't feel comfortable talking about it, and if we do talk about it, we may not necessarily remember everything," said Garcia. "This film is a good look at exactly what happened and what people went through during. It says more than I can ever say."
Staff Sgt. Joshua Frappier, team leader with 1st Platoon, Company C, during Operation Strong Eagle III, was also featured in the film and believes the film can help remove inaccurate typecasts created by the media.
"The news doesn't give the greatest footage and it doesn't capture real life, everyday soldiering in combat," said Frappier. "You don't see us on [combat outposts], you don't see us in a hostile environment. [What is shown] are Soldiers in [safer spots of Afghanistan]. With this film, you can actually see what we go through everyday, on the battlefield and how we bond. Our brotherhood shows through."
The "No Slack" battalion took part in Operation Strong Eagle III, beginning March 28, 2011. The mission, projected to last 24-48 hours, turned into nine intense days of combat in Afghanistan's Kunar province. Boettcher and his son embedded themselves with the "No Slack" battalion and captured the footage used in the film, during this battle.
Six Screaming Eagles were lost during Operation Strong Eagle III: Sgt. 1st Class Ofren Arrechaga, 28, of Hialeah, Fla.; Staff Sgt. Frank E. Adamski III, 26, of Moosup, Conn.; Staff Sgt. Bryan A. Burgess, 29, of Cleburne, Texas; Spc. Dustin J. Feldhaus, 20, of Glendale, Ariz.; Spc. Jameson L. Lindskog, 23, of Pleasanton, Calif.; and Pvt. Jeremy P. Faulkner, 23, of Griffin, Ga.
Retired Command Sgt. Major Chris Fields, who served as the battalion's senior enlisted advisor at the time of filming, spoke to the crowd as well. Fields sees the film as an instrument that can help Soldiers and Families heal from the effects of war.
"You start to talk," said Fields. "Remember in Afghanistan, shoulder-to-shoulder, that does not fade as we leave Afghanistan, it's still here. We are shoulder-to-shoulder in this. You cannot have gone through that and not have an effect, positive or negative. This a start point for the healing."
Also attending the screening was Lt. Col. Chris Hossfeld, current "No Slack" battalion commander, who was deeply moved by the film.
"It is an incredibly powerful film. I can't think of words that would do it justice for what it does, to tell a story for Soldiers, for Families, for sacrifice, for valor, for honor," said Hossfeld. "It tells the story of the battalion. It recharges me, as the battalion commander, in my duties to prepare them for that fight, for that next rendezvous that we have. It speaks to me; it speaks to the Soldiers of the battalion because the battalion still has Soldiers that were in Strong Eagle III."
Boettcher created this film with the hope of bridging the gap between U.S. troops and the American public.
"War is old as time," said Boettcher. "Its consequences are generational. Its effects can ripple for centuries.
"We could have made a documentary and put it in a couple of art house theaters in New York and walked away. That's not what we wanted to do," said Boettcher after the screening. "We wanted to affect change. That's what we are trying to do."
"Our intent is to connect that more than 99 percent of the American public that does not feel the pain of war, with the less than 1 percent that does -- you all," said Boettcher. "That is our mission."
Hossfeld thinks the film has the ability to succeed in that aspect.
"Without a doubt, I think it portrays American Soldiers in their rawest form," said Hossfeld. "That is an incredibly unique talent, that they were able tap into that, to be able to show that, and I think anyone that has a Family member who has ever served -- and it doesn't matter if it was their grandfather in World War II through now, they're going to get a bit of an understanding of what they do and hopefully that will provide a connection that wasn't there. And for someone who wants to know, or may wonder what goes on, I think it will do the same thing."
As "The Hornet's Nest" prepares to open in theaters nationwide May 23, Boettcher and son continue their mission of promoting their labor of love, urging the public to see the film. Of his more than three decades as a news correspondent, Boettcher said, without a doubt, his time embedded with the Screaming Eagles during Strong Eagle III impacted him most deeply.
"You made history, you changed things," said Boettcher. "You may not see it now, but things have changed, whether Americans agree with this war or not, you made a difference.
"It's dangerous to our democracy -- that the gap keeps widening and widening between those who serve and those who don't," said Boettcher.
"I love the American public now, because when my brother came back from Vietnam, no one said thank you for your service, no one," Boettcher continued.
"They say it all the time now, but the next time, they come up to you and say 'Thank you for your service,' they'll know what the hell they are thanking you for."