Photo: Video via PBS
The documentary Armadillo follows a platoon of Danish soldiers as they endure a six-month deployment to Afghanistan in what ends up being the bloodiest two years of the war, fought in Helmand, the most dangerous province of the country.The grunts start off green, inexperienced, unseasoned, even innocent. But as they explore the depths, the frustrations, and the subtle horrors of the cold moral abyss that is the face of combat, they discover things about themselves they never knew, until Afghanistan demanded an answer.
Scars, seen and unseen, take shape throughout the course of their deployment.
Clean shaven and eager to fight — the troops line up to for the obligatory speech about duty, honour, etc
But the real camaraderie is displayed outside of formation — wresting and rough-housing brings the young troops closer — like brothers
Farewells to mums and girlfriends are the absolute hardest — truly like leaving a piece of yourself behind
Trapped in a tiny room deep in Afghanistan with a group of stinky dudes — they get it — six months without women
'Mads' — calls home on to find his mother already had a late night scare when her phone rang in the early morning hours
It's on his mind the first patrol out of Armadillo when the troops are confronted with local civilians — some say to go home while others complain about dead livestock — still others tell the troops Taliban will certainly kill them
Many civilians badger the troops for any sort of hand out they can get, but always on guard, the troops shoo them away for their own safety
It's not long before combat smacks them in the mouth though. Here's Mads, looking at a computer screen-like targeting system in his armoured fighting vehicle, shooting heavy calibre rounds at running figures on a screen
Consistently you see the detached nature, and varied levels of combat, as soldiers watch the life-and-death unfold from a drone camera
Running through smoke and gunfire, the patrol quickly becomes disoriented and the claustrophobic fog of war creeps in
The gunfight is pitched now, and Mads has had to jump out and reload his mounted weapons a few times — the number of rounds he's pouring on the enemy is indescribable
Suddenly it's over. They're back at the base. Ammunition's unloaded. All's quiet. Mads falls into one of those consistent habits — cleaning weapons, like gravity, is always there.
The next day the troops are planning a night patrol. Darkness can be worse than smoke and gunfire. Darkness is when the Taliban move.
Commander Rasmus is blown up by an improvised explosive device, but survives. The troops on the scene offer medical and emotional support.
The debrief after the patrol requires soldiers to methodically go through the step-by-step process by which the unit hit an IED — so it doesn't happen again
The next day at Armadillo, it's business as usual as an unmanned aerial vehicle catches three Taliban fighters out in the open
A few members of a sister platoon hit an IED, and don't survive, so the troops decide to hold a memorial for them
The next day all action is focused on tracking down the Taliban fighters responsible for ambushing their friends, and a night raid is planned
As the sun rises, innocent bystanders flee from the town — one of many 'Combat Indicators'. The Taliban is fully embedded in the village and ready to fight.
One of the assaulters takes a hit, and immediately goes into shock — Kim the Medic rushes him off to the side for treatment
Back at base, you can see the special kind of excitement and delight troops feel after finding themselves alive after a firefight
During the ceremony the group shows a type of relaxation bought only by nearly six months in the field — that jumpy, anxious feeling is all but gone outside of combat and patrols
Then again, in the post brief, they go through an almost surgical play-by-play of the prior day's engagement
Later he and Daniel talk about the single most relevant battlefield philosophy: when is killing right, if it is
Then the moment everyone has waited seven months for: Helicopters start to filter in and out of the base, bringing in the troops that will allow everyone to go home
With the new troops assuming their duties the guys have time to relax and unwind doing things they never had time for — like swimming
But after the initial thrill of coming home it becomes a struggle to endure and motorcycles, drinking, and fighting are all very popular
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