Soldiers support filming of Transformers sequel

By Grafton PritcharttJuly 14, 2009

Transformers battle scene
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, July 14, 2009) -- Soldiers are saving the world against alien attacks -- or at least they are helping in the new movie "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen."

About 20 Soldiers from the 5th Brigade, 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Texas, traveled to White Sands Missile Range, N.M., last fall for two and a half weeks to help director Michael Bay with the battle scenes for the film which opened June 24.

First Lt. John Auger and Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Buettner were in charge of Soldiers supporting the movie from the unit which has served as the Army Evaluation Task Force for Future Combat Systems. Auger and Buettner also coordinated equipment and tasking details for the Army's support of the film.

"It was dumb luck," said Beuttner about being selected to help with the movie. And Auger echoed similar sentiments, "Luck of the draw being the tank platoon leader."

Film Liaison Officer Lt. Col. Gregory Bishop of Army Public Affairs-West was in charge of ensuring the depiction of Soldiers in the movie was accurate. In addition to behind-the-scenes advice, the Army provided two M-1 Abrams tanks and two Bradleys from Fort Bliss, a Humvee, an M-113 armored personnel carrier, and arranged live-fire shots that were used in the film.

The film also included a Black Hawk helicopter and Apache helicopter from the Pennsylvania National Guard, a Black Hawk from the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii, a CH-47 Chinook from the Nevada National Guard, and a Multiple Launch Rocket System from White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

"Ever since I was a kid, I watched the Transformers cartoon," Buettner said. "To be able to grow up, watch the first movie and be a part of the creation of the second movie was awesome."

The Transformers sequel picks up with the Decepticons making their return to Earth. Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson returned to portray Cpt. Lennox and Sgt. Epps. Shia LeBoeuf and Megan Fox also came back to the big screen.

The movie is currently at number three in the box-office charts. It debuted at number one, has grossed nearly $340 million since opening and has had 66 million viewers worldwide.

"That's a lot of people watching a film that positively depicts the Army," Bishop said. Not only does the movie depict the Army, but it features real Soldiers in a few of the scenes, as well.

Soldiers operate the Army vehicles in the film, and charge out of the APCs. Auger and Buettner at first gave direction to the drivers of the tracked vehicles via radio behind the scenes. But they did it so well, Bay wanted them in the movie.

One day Auger and Buettner were standing next to the director and transmitting orders to the Soldiers driving on camera.

"They asked me to take off my sunglasses," Auger said sheepishly. "They said 'Yep, you've got good eyes -- get out there, lieutenant!'"

Auger, who has not yet seen the movie due to his son's birth July 1, was reluctant to the idea at first.

"Acting is not really my thing, but it's definitely a unique experience that I will have forever," he said. "I just hope I look good."

Bishop, Auger and Buettner spent 12 and 13 hours on set per day filming scenes. Mostly they stood by Bay and the crew radioing orders to the Soldiers on the set.

"It was a lot of hurry up and wait," Auger said.

In the end, all of the waiting paid off.

"It was an interesting and fun experience to be a part of it. It's really cool to be able to see the movie and realize how we witnessed the filming of the scenes," Buettner said.

The Soldiers had other perks to filming, aside from coordinating machinery.

"To be able to watch Megan Fox was a big deal for a lot of the guys," Auger said. "The actors, mainly Duhamel and Tyrese, thanked us for what we do for the country. It was very humbling from our perspective. To have these famous people appreciate us was a very heartfelt thing."

The Soldiers also allowed the assistant directors to ride in the tanks and see the equipment up close and personal. "The assistant directors really got a kick out of that," Auger said.

All in all, the movie has proven to be a success in the box office and with Army objectives.

Bishop said of the experience, "It was one of the largest joint films made with the military; it is a great film and the Soldiers had a lot of fun doing it."