Articles

8 reasons why 'Aliens' perfectly captures Marine infantry life

I loved "Aliens" and think it is the best film of the franchise. It's an action-packed sequel to the original that establishes Lt. Ripley as a certifiable badass by the closing credits. But it is also, in my opinion, one of the better depictions of Marine infantry life.


Despite it being set far in the future and their name being "Colonial Marines" the second of the "Alien" franchise gives a good look inside the grunt life dynamic. Here's why:

1. All they really care about is finding the aliens and killing them.

Marines can conduct humanitarian, peacekeeping, and ceremonial duties, but infantry Marines train year-round for just one thing: combat. Understandably, grunts want to test that training in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Colonial Marines heading to LV-426 think the exact same way. While being briefed before the mission by their lieutenant, they are completely uninterested in the details of rescuing colonists.

The sentiment is summed up in what Vasquez tells Ripley: "I only want to know one thing [about the aliens]," she says, while imitating firing a gun with her fingers. "Where. They. Are."

2. They know how to pull pranks.

If you put grunts together for any extended period of time, they will inevitably pull pranks on each other. As part of the bonding and camaraderie of being close, Marine infantrymen will mess with each other's uniforms, food, or build MRE-powered tear gas. In the movie "Aliens," there's no better example of this than when Drake holds down Pvt. Hudson's hand as Bishop stabs the table in between his fingers.

He's shocked, terrified, and he didn't think the prank was very funny. To the rest of the grunts watching, it was very, very funny.

3. There's at least one whiny private who won't shut the hell up.

There's at least one in every platoon. No matter what is going on, this junior-ranking grunt is guaranteed to complain about something. There's a reason why "Man this floor is freezing," is the first line uttered by Pvt. Hudson. It sets the tone for what will be a constant theme throughout the movie.

Hudson's brain knows only that his recruiter lied, the food here is terrible, he should've joined the Coast Guard, and we're never going to make it out of here. "Game over, man! Game over!" You know he's super annoying when even the civilian embedded with the platoon thinks he needs to shut up.

4. They are experts at talking crap to each other.

Marine grunts know how to talk smack to each other. Even worse, if someone shows any sign of weakness, the rest of the platoon will just pile on with more insults. But it's all good: They do it only because they love them.

The grunts in "Aliens" play this part very well, and there are many great zingers and insults thrown out throughout the movie. Upon waking up, Drake says, "They ain't paying us enough for this man," to which Vasquez quickly responds: "Not enough to have to wake up to your face, Drake."

And there are many others. Here's a sampling:

Drake: "Hey Hicks, you look just like I feel."

Hudson (to Vasquez): "Hey Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?" Her response: "No. Have you?"

Frost (to Lt. Gorman): "What are we supposed to use man, harsh language?"

Hudson (to Vasquez): "Right right, somebody said alien, she thought they said 'illegal alien' and signed up."

5. Their gear doesn't work very well.

I'm going to go out on a limb here, but my guess is that much like the U.S. Marine Corps, the Colonial Marine Corps is underfunded and gets hand-me-down gear from the Colonial Army. They should be outfitted with high-speed futuristic gear but instead they get helmet cams that send back grainy pictures, and their radios work intermittently right when they need them the most.

And then there are the motion sensors. These things seem like a really cool piece of gear, giving the Marines the ability to sense movement around them and respond to threats. But the sensors include fatal flaws: They capture all movement — even little mice — and there is no way of distinguishing on what level of the complex it is coming from. The Marines think something is right in front of them, but it could be three levels above them.

"Movement! Multiple signals!" Hudson says, to which Apone asks, "what's the position?"

He says he can't lock in. Of course! Of course he can't lock in. You just know the Army version gives all this information and you can probably click a button to vaporize the aliens. But hey, Marines make do.

6. The platoon sergeant is a crusty old-timer who doesn't take any crap.

Marine infantry platoons are usually led by a staff sergeant or gunnery sergeant who simultaneously commands the respect of his commander and the platoon. In Sgt. Apone, "Aliens" excels in bringing to life a character grunts know well in real life. Just like an old platoon sergeant of mine throwing in a wad of Copenhagen right after he brushes his teeth (what, why?!?), Apone puts a cigar in his mouth seconds after he wakes up.

And then there's his "another glorious day in the Corps" speech, his use of the phrase "assholes and elbows," and his wonderful way of chewing out Pvt. Hudson. There's some added realism to this one: Al Matthews, who played Apone in the film, served in the Marine Corps during Vietnam.

7. They are pretty much pissed off all the time.

Among outsiders, grunts pretend like they love their job and it's the greatest thing in the world. Meanwhile, they are really thinking that it's pretty annoying that higher isn't telling them anything. Lance Cpl. Smith over there thinks this mission is total B.S. And the rest of the platoon can't wait to get out of this hellhole of Afghanistan and get back to important stuff, like drinking beer.

A similar sentiment permeates among the Colonial Marines, which Frost sums up pretty well after he wakes up and proclaims, "I hate this job."

8. The boot lieutenant has no clue what he's doing, and everyone knows it.

Brand new Marine second lieutenants are assigned to their own infantry platoons soon after they finish Infantry Officer Course, and "Aliens" captures this perfectly in Lt. Gorman, a super-boot (Marine-speak for total new guy) officer who has very little experience. While officers are treated with courtesy, it takes time and experience before they earn the respect of their platoon.

Gorman doesn't do too well in the respect department right off the bat, opting not to sit with his men at chow: "Looks like he's too good to sit with the rest of us grunts," says Cpl. Hicks.

When asked how many drops he had been on while enroute to LV-426, Gorman says (while looking totally freaked out): "38. Simulated." As for combat drops, he says, "Uhh, two. Including this one." The grunts onscreen and in the audience react similarly in thinking, "Oh no."

Later on in the movie, he completely loses communication with his men, then he freaks out and loses control. And like any good second lieutenant, he ends up getting lost (and then cornered by a bunch of aliens). You just know his story is now a tactical decision game (TDG) at the Colonial Marine Infantry Officer Course.

History

George Washington was nearly impossible to kill

Despite having two horses shot out from under him, history would have been much different if George Washington was born a 90-pound weakling. As it was, he was an abnormally large man, especially for the American Colonies. At 6'2" and weighing more than 200 pounds, he was literally and figuratively a giant of a man. This might be why nine diseases, Indian snipers, and British cannon shot all failed to take the big man down.

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

How R. Lee Ermey's Hollywood break is an inspiration to us all

While there have been many outstanding actors and celebrities who have raised their right hand, there has never been a veteran who could finger point his way to the top of Hollywood stardom quite like the late great Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey.

Keep reading... Show less
Lists

The 6 dumbest things I thought knew about the military before joining

When I joined the military, I didn't have a lot of time for things like "background research" or "making an informed decision about doing something that might affect the rest of my life." I didn't even look into which branch I should join. I just walked up to the line at the recruiters' offices. Like a drunk stumbling through the streets late at night on the hunt for food, I went with whatever was open at the moment I got there.

Keep reading... Show less

5 of the stupidest diseases you can develop at the gym

Ladies and gentlemen, for years, we've noticed an ongoing problem that occurs when certain people at the gym are looking for a little extra attention. After completing just a few repetitions of a weighted exercise, gym-goers develop horrible douchebag diseases that, over time, become harder to reverse.

If you know anyone who suffers from these or similar ailments, please contact a gym professional for immediate treatment.

Keep reading... Show less
Humor

11 memes that will remind you how boot you were

Newbies who first enter the military typically have a pretty tough time. They are continuously reminded that they suck by their superiors and are treated like children 99% of the time.

Now, fast forward in your military career a few years and, hopefully, you're an NCO by now. You look upon the boots who've just joined and probably say to yourself, "I hope I was never that bad..."

Keep reading... Show less

North Korea is still hitting 17 countries with cyber attacks

A North Korea-linked hacking group has been tied to a series of cyberattacks spanning 17 countries, far larger than initially thought.

A new report by McAfee Advanced Threat Research found a major hacking campaign, dubbed Operation GhostSecret, sought to steal sensitive data from a wide range of industries including critical infrastructure, entertainment, finance, healthcare, and telecommunications.

Keep reading... Show less
Military Life

6 things platoon medics absolutely hate

Navy Corpsmen and Army medics are some of the best medical professionals in the world who go above and beyond to render care to sick and wounded troops in the line of duty.

Although the armed forces' "docs" have earned tons of combat decorations throughout their proud history, not every part of the job feels valorous or glamorous. In fact, many docs must accomplish tasks they absolutely hate in order to do their job well. Here are just a few of unpleasant functions the job requires.

Keep reading... Show less

The US slammed Russia for moving more weapons into Syria

Russia has ratcheted up military tensions in Syria by announcing it would send the advanced S-300 missile defense system to Syria, and the US military had a savage response.

Asked for comment on the announced movement of the missile defense batteries to Syria, Maj. Josh T. Jacques of the US Military's Central Command, which covers the Middle East, said Russia "should move humanitarian aid into Syria, not more weaponry."

Keep reading... Show less