By Mrs. Martha Yoshida (Leonard Wood)November 25, 2015
After spending years to gain acceptance as a female in the world of mixed martial arts, Gina Carano, now an actress, was put to a different test when she recently visited Fort Leonard Wood last month in preparation for her next possible movie role in "Shadow Warrior."
"I was introduced to acting one week after I lost my first MMA fight," Carano said. "I welcomed the break. I had just spent years and years in gyms and in fights and dealing with promoters and the public's complete confusion of females being accepted in this world of MMA. No female had gotten to the level I had. There was no path; just a ton of shrubbery, and I was the first to get hit hard."
While Carano still trains every day and considers mixed martial arts an important aspect of her life, she is eager to continue to expand her acting career.
"I came to visit Fort Leonard Wood through my friends, Caspian Tredwell-Owen, director, and Jasmine Reid, producer," Carano said.
Tredwell-Owen wrote "The Island," and "Beyond Borders," and wrote and directed "Profile of a Killer," while Reid produced "Profile of a Killer" and line produced "Stuck Between Stations."
"We are doing research for a possible movie about a Soldier returning home from war," said Carano, a Dallas County, Texas, native. "We wanted to observe and participate in Soldiers' everyday lives and hear their stories."
Tredwell-Owen added, "I wanted to prep Gina for playing the role of a battle-scarred Soldier returning from Afghanistan by immersing her in the experience she would have gone through in training, the bonds she would have made and the hardships endured. We also wanted to gain insight on the experience of female Soldiers versus male; to discover differences, if any."
The 1st Engineer Brigade accepted the challenge to provide Carano, who is best known for her roles in "Haywire," "Fast and Furious 6," and "Deadpool," with a glimpse of military life.
Carano's first day started at 5:30 a.m. as she joined more than 800 engineer Soldiers for a battalion run.
"I had never seen anything like it," she said. "They put me right in the front, behind the flag holders. It all felt very surreal."
"I loved the sound and the beat of all the Soldiers' feet and voices going together as one during cadence," Carano added. "The cadence called 'When My Granny,' struck a chord, because my grandma is pretty hardcore, too."
"Now, whenever I run, I think about my left foot and the grandma that we sang about," she said.
After the run, a Soldier explained to Carano that members of the Army do more before 9 a.m. than most people do all day, and with that, Carano headed out to the Confidence Course where combat engineers were training.
"I looked at the course and thought there is no way I'm going to do this," she said, as she confessed she had a fear of heights. "My whole body was shaking on every one of the height obstacles."
Following a stop at the basic rifle marksmanship range, Carano rounded out her 16-hour day patrolling with Sapper Leader Course Soldiers.
It was an adventure to watch sleep-deprived Soldiers work together to solve problems to complete their mission, Carano said.
Sapper Leader Course cadre showed Carano how to apply a tourniquet, heat up an MRE (meal ready to eat) and sling on a 90-pound ruck sack.
"I tried on some of the ruck sacks and realized that this is what these men and women have been carrying for days," she said. "I was just glad I had been doing my squats, so I could stand up with the ruck sack on and walk around for a few minutes."
The second day of Carano's visit provided additional introductions to combat skills training with a visit to the weapons simulator, bridging operations and more time in the rainy woods to observe breaching operations with the Engineer Basic Officer Leader Course.
Having missed out on dinner the night before, Carano graciously accepted a home-cooked spaghetti dinner, which was made by a military spouse.
Carano took time out to show respect to fallen engineers by visiting the Engineer Memorial Grove.
The third day of her visit wrapped up with a tour of the barracks and a stop at the post combatives training facility.
"Gina seemed down-to-earth and very eager to learn what she could about Soldiers in the military," said Sgt. 1st Class Phillip Rhoades, 1st Engineer Brigade, operations noncommissioned officer in charge. "Gina was not afraid to face her fears and participate in some of the obstacles on the obstacle course, or to put in a 16-hour day observing training to better understand the life of Soldiers. She never hesitated to ask questions. She was hungry for knowledge for this role."
Carano was motivated by the entire experience.
"I wish more people would get to have the experience I did," Carano said. "I will hold this experience close to me for a lifetime."
Tredwell-Owen added, "Our visit illuminated the personal side of military life, the level of commitment, conscience and faith in purpose that is required not only to succeed, but survive in a combat environment."
Carano looks forward to preparing for her future role and said she was most inspired by the sense of purpose that was demonstrated during her visit.
"There's something you have when you do something like this with your life that I respect more than anything else, and that is, you live your lives with purpose. Each person I met at Fort Leonard Wood walked, talked, laughed and marched with purpose. And by hearing all of your stories as to what that purpose is, all I can say is thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to you all."