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Air Force removes film from Welsh's recommended list over scenes with sexual content

May. 19, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
The Danish documentary film 'Armadillo,' was recently removed from the Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh's reading list due to some scenes depicting half-naked women and pornography.
The Danish documentary film 'Armadillo,' was recently removed from the Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh's reading list due to some scenes depicting half-naked women and pornography. ()
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The film 'Armadillo' follows Danish troops during their deployment to Afghanistan

The film 'Armadillo' follows Danish troops during their deployment to Afghanistan

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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s crackdown on sexual assault in the military has led the Air Force to take a war documentary with scenes of nudity off the chief of staff’s reading list.

The movie “Armadillo” follows Danish troops during a six-month deployment to Helmand province, Afghanistan. Before they deploy, they throw a farewell party in which a half-naked stripper gives some of them lap dances. Later, some troops watch pornography while downrange.

After being contacted by two airmen about those scenes, the Air Force re-evaluated whether it should be recommended viewing said Lt. Col. Liesl Carter, director of the Air Force Chief of Staff Reading List.

Like all of the films that are selected for the reading list, the movie went through a “rigorous” vetting process, but officials reconsidered including the film on the reading list in light of Hagel’s guidance on sexual assault, Carter said.

Responding to a Defense Department report that found a sharp increase in inappropriate sexual contact last year, Hagel ordered defense officials to conduct inspections of workplaces “to ensure that our facilities promote an environment of dignity and respect for all members and are free from materials that create a degrading or offensive work environment.”

Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh ordered similar health and welfare inspections last year that deemed offensive more than 32,000 items, including an Air Force Times cover showing female airmen breastfeeding.

“In light of current [defense secretary] direction, moving forward our lens needs to look at all material that could possibly be offensive and to make that judgment of whether a disclaimer is appropriate enough or whether it is appropriate material for the chief of staff of the Air Force’s reading list,” Carter said.

The movie officially came off the list May 13, she said. Welsh, who approved the initial recommendation to include the movie on the reading list, also approved taking it off.

This is only the second year the reading list has included recommended movies, Carter said. In 2012, the list included the documentary “Restrepo,” about U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Based on feedback about the popularity of documentaries, Carter said the team went out looking for well-done movies. “They looked at the Oscars and they looked at the Cannes Film Festival to try to find some well-documented and award-winning films about war, and so that’s how they found ‘Armadillo,’” she said.

The nudity is a small part of “Armadillo,” which looks at war through the eyes of troops on the ground whose job is to protect Afghan civilians from the Taliban. Like “Restrepo,” the movie is named after the troops’ base in Afghanistan.

The movie neither justifies nor condemns the soldiers’ actions as they deal with the moral ambiguities of combat.

Over the course of the film, the troops’ frustration grows as locals refuse to help them, Taliban fighters elude them, and their comrades are killed and wounded by roadside bombs.

After one bomb attack severely maims one soldier, the group’s medic says he would have no qualms about shooting the Taliban.

“I’d feel worse shooting a stray dog,” he says.

Meanwhile the troops’ families are in a constant state of worry. Early on the film, one soldier called home and learned his mother had a bad fright when the phone rang in the middle of the night. It was a solicitation from India and they had forgotten about the time difference.

The Danish troops spent much of the film searching locals’ homes for Taliban to no avail. But when the shooting started, you can hear the crack of the bullets as they whizzed pass the Danes.

In the film’s climax, the troops get their revenge when they kill several Taliban. At the debriefing, one soldier said he and his fellow troops found four Taliban who had been wounded by a grenade.

“We liquidated them in the most humane way possible,” he said.

When one soldier’s mother heard about it, she contacted Danish officials. The unit felt betrayed.

“Outsiders may sneer and say that we’re insane or that we did something terrible,” said the soldier who claimed to have shot the four Taliban. “I know I did the right thing. I know we all did the right thing.”

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