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Marines get chance to see results of their labor in video

ABOARD USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, in the eastern Mediterranean—This probably was not exactly what Gen. Tommy Franks meant when he walked off a plane in Qatar and said, "Show time."

But as action films go, a new video about the Truman's part in Operation Iraqi Freedom got four stars when it debuted Wednesday evening.

Just before 5 p.m., Fox News, which has given way only sporadically to movie channels on the ubiquitous televisions aboard, flicked off in the enlisted crew's mess decks. On came the Truman's red flag with the slogan "Give `em hell."

Then came the drama: Helicopters moving overhead with supplies and forklifts ferrying bombs, accompanied by the thumping music of Linkin Park: "I want to run away and never say goodbyyyye." On the screen, planes shot off the aircraft carrier's deck, followed by a midair refueling, all to the howls of hardcore band Drowning Pool: "Let the bodies hit the floor."

The sight of the planes' afterburners drew cheers from the avionics division of the Marine F/A-18 Hornet squadron, which gathered in a small space elsewhere on the Truman.

Spliced through the tape were FLIR—forward-looking infrared—videos of bombs dropping on Iraq.

They had been "scrubbed" of sensitive information such as the geographic coordinates, but there was the ground far below, a spot in the crosshairs, then an expanding cloud of dust and smoke. It was impossible to tell what the bombs were hitting.

The squadron members cheered again when the bombs hit, said Master Sgt. Robert Freiler, 42, of Lancaster, Pa. The film "made you feel you're really in it," he said.

Some pilots even recognized the hits. "Filthy made that one," one said as he watched, using his buddy's call sign.

Airman Jason McKeown, 26, of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., who kept time by bouncing his upper body, thought it was all "great. Outstanding. We're doing what we came out here to do."

Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem said the purpose was "to allow our crew, who do all of this work to prepare these missions, a chance to see what the result is."

He said the video, scheduled to air hourly, was designed to "inform, but if it has a morale impact, that's terrific."

Toward the end of the 10-minute video, the screen turned black and white print appeared: "How did you sleep last night?"

Then the words "This is what we're fighting for" appeared, followed by scenes of Marines sleeping in holes in the desert or in the mud, and close-ups of battle-grimed faces.

"I just think it's amazing that we have people who will do this for us fighting face to face," Seaman Recruit Raymond Davis, 20, of Anza, Calif., said afterward. "It makes me proud to be an American."


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.