Oscar Mike

I just finished watching HBO’s new miniseries Generation Kill.  I would have to say that so far this is probably one of the most realistic Iraq dramas I have seen yet.  The show follows the First Recon Marines before the invasion, and then what happens after they invade Iraq.  Watching this I feel so many emotions bubbling up.  Although I am glad that I am not in the Marines anymore there was a certain simplicity in the Marine Corps that is still enticing.  What do I mean?  There is a certain comfortability within the Marine Corps that you won’t find anywhere else.  That is one of the aspects that this show captures really well.

It’s good that this show is on HBO, because on regular ass TV you wouldn’t get the sense of brotherhood, or the crudeness.  They didn’t shy away from some of the most lewd, and crude, but very fitting language that is prevalent amongst Marines.  No where else would you see blacks, whites, asians, latins etc all calling each other the most racist names they could think of, and not get in fights, but just laugh it off, because despite your differences you’re brothers.  It’s akin to a big brother who calls his little brother names, but as soon as someone else calls him names, he gets in a fight to defend his brother.  This show also gets the ridiculousness of the Marine Corps.  You see the commanding officers and the Senior NCO’s complain about Marines not tucking in their shirts or not shaving properly.  While all the regular Marines are concerned about the war, and surviving it, all the senior Marines are worried about stupid, meaningless regulations.  Most people don’t realize that this happens way too often, and that Marines end up spending too much time and effort getting hair cuts or worrying about dress regulations, than about the more important details of staying alive.  In one scene a Sergeant Major yells at the Marines for not shaving properly, and for not being properly dressed, yet when the Marines get their MOPP suits, they notice that the suits are camoflauged for woodland terrain, and not for the desert.  Also they don’t have all the equipment they need to fight the war.  As one Marines says, “they don’t give us everything we need to keep us pissed off.  If we were happy we wouldn’t be ready to kill all the time.”  To true, when the other branches of the Armed Forces go to war they have more than they need, the Marines, however, are always woefully undersupplied.

There is one scene in this show that cracked me up, however, and that was when the Marines heard a rumor that J-Lo was dead.  I remember that rumor–and the shit ton of other rumors like it–and how people were either kind of sad or just really, really happy that she was dead.  Rumors are a daily part of life in war, and most of the time some dude just starts a rumor just because he’s bored.  Actually most of the rumors are false, but they gave us something to talk about besides what we were doing, and because of that, rumors always spread like wild fire.  Then there is the real news that we get, like the story about Justin Timberlake and Pink recording an anti-war song.  Despite what we all thought about the war, we felt that that was a direct attack on us, and everyone was (and probably still is) bitter, and would have shot J.T. on sight.  He’s lucky he never did a USO show, because he probably would have never come back.

This show almost gets it all right when it comes to candy.  When you get your MRE’s you get some sort of candy in it.  You either get peanut brittle, M&M’s Skittles, or Charms.  The funny thing is is that most people that have had to eat these don’t eat Skittles anymore.  They were the most prolific candy of the bunch, and we all tired of them really quickly.  They don’t mention that in the show but I hope they bring it up in later episodes.  They get it right with the charms, however.  Charms are bad luck.  Everyone I have ever known who has eaten them has had bad things happen to them.  Luckily for us though we learned that while we were still in the states, so that by the time we were in country anyone that got charms in their MRE immediately threw them away.  This is another one of the small details that his show got right, and lends to it’s authenticity.

There’s plenty else that is good about this show.  It’s really hard to put everything into words, and I am still a little bit conflicted about watching something this authentic.  Here’s a few small details that were good: everyone dips, everyone hates their commanding officers, everyone knows better than the people that are planning the war (and seriously it’s hard to contend that point after how this war has turned into a complete debacle), no one trusts outsiders, and porn is everywhere.  These are just a few of the small detail points that this show gets right.  It’s little details that normally no one would notice if it was missing, but for those of us in the know it’s these details that make it realistic.

This show was based on a book from an embedded journalist with the First Recon Marines–he’s from Rolling Stone.  One of the best lines is when one of the Marines–commenting of Rolling Stone readers–mentions that they only feeling they know is the feeling of having a cock rammed up their ass.  One of the Marines yelled at the journalist saying, “so you gonna tell everyone we are baby killers and women rapers?”  The sad thing is is that most people don’t think that, but there are plenty that do.  Many anti-war activists have no clue, but enjoy throwing those pejoratives around.  I read a blog recently that called all the soldiers baby killers, and if I could have met that writer, I would have wrapped my hands around his throat until he turned blue.  This is why many veterans and current Marines don’t like or trust outsiders.  This show helps to convey the feeling among many Marines of “us against them.”  You get the sense from the beginning that all of these Marines hate outsiders, and feel like no one is on their side.  This is one of the most authentic feelings I believe that they conveyed in the show.  It’s an amazing (and not amazing in a good way) feeling to be half the world away doing something that you hope is right, but also knowing that most people don’t give a shit whether you going to live or die.  It’s that feeling that hardens you soul, and makes you do whatever it takes to get back home, to the few people, who you know actually care.  That feeling comes though loud and clear in this show; although I’m not sure that the viewers will really understand it.  Most likely they will just believe that the Marines are cocky, condensending assholes–which they are, but only because of the reasons I have mentioned.

But going back to the journalist, most of those guys were cocksuckers.  The guy in the show seems ok, but I’m not sure how he is going to turn out (since I haven’t seen the rest of the series or read the book.  For all I know this could turn out to be an expensive hit job on the Marines, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt).  For the most part it was hard for those journalists to separate their political beliefs from their duties as a journalist.  Most of them couldn’t and would end up writing a biased piece, or they would try to tell you how to do your job.  One asshole tried to tell us that we shouldn’t be breaking down doors in this school, because we were damaging the school.  He never wrote about how the schools haven’t been schools for years, because the Iraqi government had been stockpiling weapons in the schools for a decade.  We cleared out schools all over Iraq so that kids could actually use the schools for school, but regardless, we still ended up being the assholes.  I hope this show further explores some of these dichotomies throughout its run, and helps to show people a little bit of what it was like to be there.

One of the few things that bugs me about this show, so far, is that it follows a Recon unit, and not a regular Marine unit.  I would just once like to see a show that follows a Marine Infantry unit, and shows, realistically, what it is like to go on a patrol.  Not everyone gets to drive around Iraq in Hummers.  Many of us ended up spending more time walking than riding, and we walked through terribly dangerous neighborhoods.  Maybe someday something like that will come out, or maybe not.  I’m sure this article has been a bit disconjuncted, and I apologize for that, but I am drunk, and I am trying to remember everything that I wanted to talk about.  I’m sure I missed a few key points, but hopefully I told you enough to pique your curiosity.  You should watch this show, no matter what side you are on, because most likely you will learn something that you didn’t know before.  I looking forward to the rest of the series, however, because I want to see how my old unit the 1st Marine Division gets treated.


For those that don’t know and don’t read the comments, Oscar Mike stands for “on the move” in military jargon.

Bookmark Oscar Mike


~ by Perpetual Memory Loss on July 14, 2008.

23 Responses to “Oscar Mike”

  1. Still looking for the meaning of Oscar mike…

  2. It means “on the move” in military jargon.

  3. I haven’t read the book Generation Kill is based on either, but apparently the author doesn’t turn on the Marines (from the Wash. Post):

    In an afterword to the paperback edition of his book, author Wright restates his admiration for the soldiers with whom he lived and on whom he depended for survival. “Five years into this war, I am not always confident most Americans fully appreciate the caliber of the people fighting for them, the sacrifices they have made, and the sacrifices they continue to make,” Wright says. “After the Vietnam War ended, the onus of shame largely fell on the veterans. This time around, if shame is to be had when the Iraq conflict ends — and all indications are there will be plenty of it — the veterans are the last people in America to deserve it.”

  4. Good info Mike thanks for posting it here.

  5. The embedded journalist who wrote the book is also the writer of the screenplay for the show. The show had to be about the Recon Marines because that is what he experienced. I love the fact that the grunts didn’t like him because he was from “Rolling Stone” but then changed their minds when they found out he had previously written for “Hustler”.

    If you have access to HBO On Demand you can see the short films they made about the production. Some of the actors in the show are the actual Marines that they play so I’m sure that helped to keep it real. Those Marines ran a “boot camp” for the rest of the actors so they would learn some of the things a real Marine knows.

    My first hand knowledge of “stinky grunts” was from my time as a “mickey squid”. But my nephew (whose father was also a “squid”) was in the Corp as part of “Desert Storm” and my older brother was in during the mid 1950s. I think after Vietnam a lot of people learned to diferentiate between being opposed to a war and supportive of the troops that have no choice about going to fight it.

  6. Well I understand it had to be about Recon Marines, but all I was saying is that I would like to see a show someday that concentrates on regular ass grunts. I had heard that some of the actors were playing themselves, which is pretty cool, and helps the realism factor.

  7. got here by googling the meaning of oscar mike. bill’s on the right track, and i’m apparently equally clueless

  8. Right under Bill’s comment you will notice that I said that Oscar Mike stands for “on the move” in military jargon. So for example when on the radio someone may say “we are oscar mike to your location” which means “we are moving to your location”

  9. the man g up there googled oscar mike and it took him to your site duhhhhhhhh your getting some good traffic to your site

  10. Well stated. This show definitively brings back some memories. My Old Lady doesn’t always get why I laugh at what some would consider inappropiate moments but it is what it is. For my money this is the first show to truly portray how Marines act and talk. Like I said, it is what it is.

  11. I was also in the Corps, and I usually dislike most military movies that try to convey some idealistic bullshit about how great it is to be in the military (i.e., in this case, the U.S. Marine Corps). Being a Marine in most cases sucks.

    This HBO movie, however, is great. I haven’t missed an episode. It’s actually one of staple shows I need to watch each week.

    Generation Kill is real. The Marines are real. The language and attitudes are real. It also shows all the bullshit that goes along with being a Marine. Namely that officers and generals (and especially politicians like our Commander-In-Chief) don’t know what the fuck they’re doing. In short, if something can be done in a more difficult manner, some dumb shit officer will want it done that way.

    The Master Sergeant is also so damn accurate (in his portrayal), that I have to laugh out loud. My congrats to the actor playing him — everything down to the smirk he wears on his face when proudly listening to Godfather. In fact, every Marine has had a Master Sergeant or a Gunny that was a bit of a dickhead.

    Urahhh to Generation Kill.

    But thumbs down to Commander In Chief “Numb-Nuts” (also known as GW Bush) who has too many real Marines dying for nothing.

  12. @ Former – I know what you mean, I don’t know how many times I have had been look at me weird, because I laugh at something that is considered inappropriate.

    @ Peter – Like you this is really the first show/movie that I have seen that deals with the Iraq War, and life as it is for regular ass Marines. I think one of the reasons is that it wasn’t made to be a political tool, but instead Evan Wright wrote what he saw, and the show and book accurately reflect the way life is. I think that is the greatest strength of this show, is that it doesn’t cut any corners, but instead shows all the good, the bad, and everything in between. This show I hope will give civilians a more realistic idea of life in the military.

  13. I also got here by googling oscar mike. That shit should be OTM or mike oscar or some shit.. By the way, what’s a “pogue”?

  14. @ numbnutz – A POG is a person other than grunt.

  15. This show is great! A show that doesn’t “Hollywood-ise” the experiences of those who served. Though I was in the Army, I can obviously still relate to a lot of what’s going on. My wife also doesn’t understand why I laugh at certain things. She hates the language too. All I can tell her is that that’s how it is. No sense in censoring something that’s real.

  16. great blog post. i’m a journalist who dips secretly in the office. i wish i coulda been there.

  17. Good article on a great show!! I am a Canadian and while I don’t agree with a lot of US policy I have nothing but admiration and respect for most of the people over there doing their job. I have one question though: What was ratio of sane people to psychos? ie Trombley and Captain America.

  18. @ Colin – A ratio of psychos? I love that, would be a great band name. Well that’s hard to answer because technically I would say we were all a little psycho. I know what you mean though and that’s hard to quantify, but I would say that there is at least one in every group. Some are psycho in a different way, like our guy, who would break down crying, yelling, an then transform into extreme anger. Basically they can’t handle the stress and are undependable. But besides the psychos there are plenty of officers, who are like Encino Man, and don’t have a clue what they are doing, and spend most of their time trying to kiss ass or look good for their superiors. Thanks for checking out the site, and hope that answers your question. If not comment back or email me.

  19. My question is: Why do Marines say Oscar Mike when On The Move has the same amount of sylables, is it because it is clearer over comms??

  20. @McGysm – There are a few reasons why language like ‘oscar mike’ is used. First off it relies on the phonetic alphabet so when transmitted over comms commands are less likely to be mistaken for something else. Secondly, it is part of the Marine Corps language. Meaning that instead of have a few different commands for the same thing there is just one. Again this cuts down on the chances of miscommunication, and it helps to add another layer of encryption to the commands, in the off chance that maybe someone is listening in. Hope that helps thanks for reading.

  21. Got linked here from google as well, glad I did. You tell the same story as many of my brothers that have come back from deployment, not only in Iraq, but also asscrackistan (as a CCT buddy of mine put it). If people would like to hate or criticize, more power to them, I believe many do not intend to devalue or question the work you boys (and girls) have been putting in overseas, but want to know if the ass we’re (yeah, people, if it is a government of, for and by the people then it’s a we thing) sending you fellas to kick is indeed an ass that needs to be kicked. Either way, your service won’t be forgotten, and know that generally the voices of descent are only heard because they are the only assholes flamboyant enough to want the attention. We think about our grunts all the time and for every wooden box that comes home I know my people and I feel a loss. Here’s to getting out safe and hoping the blood, sweat and tears you guys shed wasn’t in vain due to shit-eating politicians that are more miserable than most of the people ya’ll end up having to put down over there.

  22. Nice story, but i gotta say, when I watched the series I kind of started hating the Americans in the later episodes. I mean, they REALLY acted as a bunch of tirants in the series. Killing innocents, turning them back to deatch squats, etc etc. gave an insight in the fucked up world of this war. Now, if you mean that this is how it was, than I can’t say I respect the Marines or the Army for what they did, even though I understand that the individuals on the ground are not per se bad people (a lot of them where very messed up tough…thats or sure).

    What im getting at is, you say that these marines (in the series and in real life) don’t trust “outsiders”, but what I don’t get is why they don’t accept there is this brotherhood which gives a real good feeling I guess, but what they are doing there is absolutetly fucked up, and if someone mentiones this they might be right in stead of just turning the agression knob on and go beserk on people who dont agree with the war like Justin Timberlake did…

    Just my 2 cents.

  23. Also linked here googling for Oscar Mike. It’s just started airing on terrestrial in the UK, and I had heard that it was a realistic show. After watching The Wire and being spoilt by the quality and realism, hearing Simon was involved in this, I was hoping for similar. It appears I will not be disappointed. Certainly good insight for a civilian without the political filtering or gung-ho nature of a lot of films about wars. The Hurt Locker was similarly impressive. I like the fact that a lot of the comments are from Vets backing the authenticity is good too. I understand the British military were poorly supplied as well…to the extent of the Marines? I did hear the US troops nicknamed the British ‘The Borrowers’.

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