Documentary on Fort Benning soldiers premieres

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -  A group of soldiers from Fort Benning is hitting the big screen.

They're featured in a documentary which premieres Wednesday night at the National Infantry Museum in Columbus.

The filmmaker and Emmy-award winning director from Los Angeles met with reporters Wednesday to speak about the film.

"It seemed like in my own country, a lot of people had forgotten the American soldier. I decided that I wanted to go to Iraq and just talk to soldiers about what they were feeling and what they were thinking," said the filmmaker, Jon Steele.

A veteran combat photojournalist, Steele embedded with soldiers in the 3rd Brigade's Baker Company for three months during an extended tour in Iraq.

Steele was rolling as the Baker Boys made their way into an Al Qaeda stronghold and follows them through a counterinsurgency mission to secure the region until they returned home to Fort Benning.

"It captures the last three months of our company in Iraq in the 2007-2008 time frame which was the surge time frame in Iraq. We were one of the surge brigades or units deployed at that time," explained Major Richard Thompson, who was the commander of the company.

"The most compelling part was just having a group of soldiers, one at a time, putting them against a wall and asking them a list of questions and their faces telling you the answers. They're not talking to me. They're talking to the camera, they're talking to the American people. There are moments where it just breaks your heart," Steele said.

"There's one moment in particular in this film that really stuck with me where three Al Qaeda operatives who had been captured and blindfolded and handcuffed and they're led out toward the front gate. A senior officer says to these guys who I'm sure think they're going to Guantanamo or worse. Instead, he says we're going to let you go back to your families. You can tell by the look on their faces that the message went straight to their heart. It was just an extraordinary example of what a counterinsurgency is, how much different it is than all those years of fighting that came before," added Kern Konwiser, the film's director.

"All I really wanted to do with this film is have Americans understand the price they're asking of a young man or woman to put on a uniform, pick up a weapon and travel half way around the world and put your life on the line," Steele told reporters.

The documentary has been broken up into four parts and it will be screened at the National Infantry Museum's IMAX Theater Wednesday (Jan. 19) and Thursday (Jan. 20) at 7 PM both nights.

If you can't make it, the DVD will be released to the public in March. Right now, it is available exclusively to members of the military.

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