WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 30, 2007) - Like many Soldiers deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, Soldiers from the Oregon National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry brought their personal cameras to Iraq during their deployment in 2004. They snapped photos of each other firing weapons, shot video of explosives they detonated and logged plenty of footage of their own commentaries intermixed with Soldier humor.
But they never expected that their day-to-day antics would one day represent deployed National Guard Soldiers everywhere, preserved in a feature-length documentary film called "This is War: Memories of Iraq."
The National Combat History Archive and Lucky Forward Films used the unscripted testimonies of nine Soldiers of varying ranks and experiences to narrate the events. Photos and video they shot with their own personal cameras illustrate their experiences.
"We wanted to make a very non-political film that took someone who's never been to Iraq ... to show what it means to go into combat," said the film's director, Gary Mortensen. "We told it in a non-specific way so that it could represent Soldiers everywhere - we wanted to tell a tale that anyone who has been over there can identify with."
Mr. Mortensen added that the unique thing about the film is that these Soldiers had their own personal recording devices on hand, giving an intimate view of what they saw on a daily basis. The Soldiers had no idea any of it would be turned into a film, so the result is a very honest and raw portrait of their experiences.
"It's very powerful," said Sgt. 1st Class Phillip "Vince" Jacques, one of the Soldiers featured in the film. "It really represents the professionalism of these guys and shows exactly what troops are going through over there. They're the ones fighting the war. You might as well hear their story."
Present at various screenings of the film, Sgt. 1st Class Jacques noticed that the audience's reaction was often one of awe. "Whether they support the war or not, they come away with a whole different view of what Soldiers are doing over there," he said.
National audiences are also beginning to take notice. "This is War" won the Audience Choice Award and Best Documentary at the Idaho International Film Festival, and received the Jury Award: Best Documentary at the Florida International Media Market. It also took home awards for best documentary and best director at the Sweet Onion Film Festival in Walla Walla, Wash.
Unfortunately, the film isn't available in local video stores yet; Mr. Mortensen explained that they are working on the film's distribution and broadcast rights. It can be purchased by calling (503) 597-7030 or by checking out the Web site at <a href="http://www.luckyforwardfilms.com"target=_blank>
According to the site, all sales of the film help support the Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund, the National Combat History Archive, the Iraq/Afghanistan Oregon Memorial Fund and the Wounded Warriors Project, a non-profit organization that helps injured servicemembers by providing programs and services to meet their unique needs.
(Staff Sgt. Mary Flynn works for the National Guard Bureau Public Affairs Office.)