Is it instinctiveto like watchingthings blow up?

Eric Steinkopff - Managing Editor

I just saw R. Lee Ermey on TV the other day, a former Marine turned actor who was promoting the next season of his shoot ‘em up military show. They basically blow up stuff with all manner of explosives, shoot a huge array of large caliber weapons and drive any tanks and vehicles that the military will let them use.

I just had to laugh.

It reminded of his performance in the movie “Full Metal Jacket” in which he plays a Marine Gunnery Sergeant and drill instructor with all the force, confidence, profanity and twisted humor it takes to make a Marine. I’ve seen a lot of attempts to capture that adventurous experience and that is probably the closest anyone has come short of actually going through basic training.

The idea is to tear the person down psychologically and in many cases physically, so that they can build the person back into the product they are trying to produce — a Marine.

One analogy a mechanic friend of one mine once used, is tearing down all the parts of an engine, cleaning every surface, and then putting it back together so everything is new, fresh and running the way one would like.

The story that circulated about the filming of “Full Metal Jacket” was that Ermey was originally hired as a consultant, to teach actors how to play the part of a Marine drill instructor, but it was not something easily teachable — and they eventually just hired Ermey to play the role.

Kind of makes me think of a martial arts that I’ve studied in the past. It’s such a long and involved process, that you don’t “earn” a black belt, you “become” a black belt.

Maybe that’s why they say there are no “ex” Marines, only “former” ones. It’s something that stays with you and that you can draw upon when needed.

It also reminded me of my first year as a reporter. I was working the military beat covering Camp Lejeune in a military town of Jacksonville, N.C., and we were invited to a media day aboard the base. The public affairs officer took a picture of me shooting a MK-19 automatic grenade launcher and put it on the cover of the Camp Lejeune newspaper “the Globe.”

They made a little bit of a fuss that some “reporter” was so good with military weapons that he could compete with their weapons instructors and I just thought “duh,” I served for 23 years. First I learned how, then I taught others how, then I taught others to teach and eventually I arranged for the training and funding to make it happen, all while requalifying as expert every year. What did they expect?

I just had to laugh.

They circulated these issues of “The Globe” around the world on the military bases and my friends on a deployment to the Mediterranean Sea got off the ship for liberty at the Naval Base in Rota, Spain only to be welcomed with a photo of me blowing stuff up on the front page.

I heard about it time after time, how I was going “Hollywood” and they made all the inappropriate jokes one could imagine.

I just had to laugh.

If you’ve never shot a machine gun, or launched high explosive grenades down range, or fired an antitank missile at an armored vehicle — I can tell you it’s an exhilarating experience. There is something primal and testosterone-laden to watch a tank or artillery piece fire huge explosives while you are buffeted by the concussion through the air, despite wearing hearing protection.

I just had to bask in the memories, laugh at the good old days and wonder as we head into Fourth of July celebrations, if there is something instinctive in the human spirit that just likes to see stuff blow up.

Eric Steinkopff

Managing Editor

Reach Eric Steinkopff at or 580-482-1221, ext 2072.

Reach Eric Steinkopff at or 580-482-1221, ext 2072.

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