So… 12 Strong… So much potential but ultimately a bit of a flat film. It’s a shame as it had the elements of what could have been a great portrayal of the early days of The invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001.
First off it’s based (Although very loosely) on the true life events of ODA 595 who along with other units such as 555 (pictured below) embedded in with the Northern alliance forces under General Dostum, Engaging in what’s referred to as FID (Foreign Internal Defence) which is a modern way of saying “Get the locals to fight your enemy for you”, A speciality of the US Army’s Special Forces despite many thinking that they’re simply direct action door kickers (Generally the preserve of CAG/SFOD-D or the 75th Ranger Regiment).
So, despite the film having some serious talent (Tell me one film that Michael Pena hasn’t shone in! Michael Shannon too for that point… And who doesn’t like Chris Hemsworth) and a great premise I’ll tell you right now, it’s very average… Somehow missing out on the personal touch that makes you connect with other portrayals of soldiers such as in Lone Survivor and Fury… The actors seemingly not being given the script or creative direction to allow us to actually connect with their respective characters to the point that you never really learn their names enough to remember who they are… There’s a lot of empty “Buddy Humour” but it feels forced and certainly not as natural as that found in either of the above films.
However, it did have some serious early 2000s GWOT Gear Porn… For those of you who grew up in the 80s and 90s, This Gear is the epitome of Tacticool… Raid cut BDUs and drop leg holsters, RRV Chest rigs and Shemaghs, M4 SOPMODs and PVS14s on skullcrushers… Very, Very cool.
So, let’s move away from the movie a little and look at the weaponry and gear…
Most of the weapons used by the Green Berets are Colt M4A1 SOPMOD Block 1 carbines with practically the only exception being an M24 bolt action sniper rifle. The accessories used are mostly era correct. CAR15 stocks, Knight’s Armament Company RAS railed handguards, Early Surefire incandescent lights (A 6P or similar on a low profile mount would fit the bill) and Trijicon ACOG TA01 optics… The suppressors are Knight’s Armament NT4 QD Suppressors and generally the slings are similar (If not identical) to the Tactical Tailor 2 point sling.
The Green Berets solely use the Beretta M9, Its seen being held in a Safariland 6004 drop leg holster… I’m not a massive fan of drop legs (Low belt ride being a far more comfortable option) but the 6004 rig is one of the better rigs to go for (Plus the holster can be re-assigned to a UBL mount if wanting a more up to date look) and judging by some of the reference material its an accurate option. I actually have this very same holster, Albeit in a left handed flavour and when you consider it cost £20 on eBay, You might end up with a very cool loadout for less than you’d think.
Uniforms are Raid Modded US Desert Tri-Colour BDUs, In a lot of the scenes you’ll see the soldiers wearing these in addition to civilian cold weather gear… Accurate as it might be, I’d say that your average airsoft game isn’t going to get as cold as the mountains of Northern Afghanistan. The fleece worn prominently by Hemsworth is the Polartec 300 (Thanks to Ninebar Airsoft for the spot) which I’m reliably informed is a great addition for a trip to “The Trees” which I can attest can get rather cold on a winters night.
Shemaghs are an ever popular addition as are watch caps, both having that air of late 90s/early 2000s chic that ties the look together. Another point I’d make is that mixing Woodland into the desert loadout would be both legit and also give you a little better concealment when playing in the UK.
The Chest rig took a while to track down, I’ll admit it had me nearly defeated when I couldn’t even get an accurate answer from the guys who actually provided the props for the movie. Luckily, Cheesy_C12 has an incredibly good eye for gear, Within minutes he popped back that the chest rig was very similar to the London Bridge Trading 0290, Although more popular as a company with the US Navy SEALs, The army has fielded their gear on occasion… However it appears that the rig is actually something a little more obtainable… the Blackhawk Commando Chest Harness. (A great spot by Blackburn1913)
Although if your unable to track down one of these rigs you could stick with a Rhodesian Recon Vest or even one of the many Arktis pattern rigs over a plain OD plate carrier, The one used in the movie could be one of hundreds… As its not really seen that much you could get away with a lot of artistic license.
Other little bits and pieces that will add a lot of weight to any early GWOT impression such as this or a Lone Survivor loadout are the “Essentials” such as Blackhawk! riggers belts, KABAR Knives, MS2000 Strobes, Bowman type headsets and the ever present G-Shock watches.
Avoiding anachronistic triggers such as Mechanix gloves, Peltors, Kryloned guns and other little touches that wouldn’t have been seen for a few more years is also something thats going to add a lot of credibility to the look. Nomex flight gloves are an ever popular option along with Oakley or ESS Eyepro and indeed look as good on an up to date loadout as one thats pushing the 17 year mark.
One final note, And a bit of advice when recreating this or any other look is that you need to get the items worn in to the point that it feels like putting on a second skin, get the gear adjusted right, put some weight in those plate bags and get a little wear and dirt on the clothing. It wont look good until theres at least one button torn off or a pocket ripped. artificial wear is alright but theres nothing quite like genuine damage… Get yourself against those walls and crawl through those murder holes, you’ll get the look your after pretty quickly.