Ancient Warriors speak to troops through Greek play
Dramatic readers used ancient Greek literature to provide a window to the past to show Marines and sailors that the battle seldom ends when the air falls silent, and that the effects of war are timeless.
The play “Ajax” consists of five scenes depicting a well-known and brave soldier, Ajax, and his emotional breakdown, which eventually leads to his suicide.
The story of the grief-stricken warrior aimed to illustrate the psychological and physical problems of some veterans returning from war, and the dangers of bottling up emotions that come with their experiences, said Bryan Doerries, founder of Theater of War, Productions.
Sophocles, an Athenian general and playwright, wrote the play more than 2,500 years ago and had it performed for his army of 17,000 soldiers.
The story the audience heard was written by warriors for warriors, Doerries said during the introduction. The way Sophocles depicts the mentally wounded warrior is one aspect of the play that relates to military members, he said. “The way he depicts what goes on in his mind and what happens after his suicide.”
The ancient literature was then put into context, matched with emotion and quickly came to life before the Marines and sailors in the Base Theater.
“The professional actors made the story,” said Lance Cpl. Austin Grey, an infantryman with Headquarters Company, 7th Marine Regiment. “The way they presented it was great and much better than other briefs I’ve had in the past,” said the Tampa Bay, Fla., native.
After the reading a four-person panel of Marines, sailors and civilians from the audience took to the stage to share their interpretations and experiences pertaining to Ajax’s suicide.
“I can relate with the story of Ajax, because as a commander, I didn’t have the luxury to show emotion,” said Maj. Trent Gibson, an assistant operations officer with Regimental Combat Team 7, who has served on two combat deployments in Iraq.
“I had to be the rock, to help focus my Marines on the mission.
“When it was over, ultimately I had to realize, ‘Pay tribute to the dead, but focus on the living,'”he said.
“Inside us, we all have weakness, fears and insecurities that make us human. As Marines, we think that we have to be machines, but we don’t. We think that having emotions makes us weak, makes us less of a man, but it doesn’t,” Gibson added.
Another panelist, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Shauna KingHollis, head of the deployment health department for the Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital, said there is a close correlation between what Ajax experienced and what she has seen from Marines and sailors returning from war.
“The timelessness- I think that through the depiction in the play, we realize these symptoms are very common in military members today,” she said.
The audience discussed different aspects of the play, comparing returning Marines and sailors, “modern day warriors,” to those of the past. “War doesn’t necessarily stop when the fighting stops. Just because his enemy was dead and buried, Ajax may have thought that the war was over, but it wasn’t,” Gibson added. “As warriors weakness is reviled. He didn’t realize he needed to face his emotions to stay strong.”
The presentation offered a unique perspective and broke the mold of the typical PowerPoint presentation, said Petty Officer 3rd Class Mitchell Groke, a corpsman with RCT-7, and a Bossier, La., native.
The Theater of War has completed 116 performances for more than 20,000 members of the military communities in the last year, 22 of them for Marine Corps audiences. In his closing remarks, Doerries offered one last thought before the Marines and sailors returned to their daily duties.
“You’re not alone. Just like you’re not alone in this room, in this country, or in the world, you’re
not alone across time.”
First female Marine advisor heads to Afghanistan
Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command 29 Palms
MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER, TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif.—Some members of the Afghan National Army are in for a surprise when they meet their new instructor, Staff Sgt. Tricia McBride, the first female to receive the Advisor Training Group’s stamp of approval to advise
host nation forces in Afghanistan.
After being the first female to graduate through the Advisor Training Group’s program, McBride, from Wilmington, Del., will be deploying with a team of six to teach and evaluate Afghan military logistician instructors in Kabul, Afghanistan. Although anxious about her upcoming deployment, her voice was mixed with excitement as she spoke.
“It’s a good feeling,” she said. “To be the first at anything is good, but to be the first female especially in the Marine Corps, is just great.”
But it’s only the beginning for McBride and the rest of the team. Since the Taliban takeover in 1996, Afghan women have not been allowed to attend schools or work outside their homes, making professional interaction with women an anomaly for most Afghan men.
“Thebiggest challenge that I’m facing now is the reaction to me teaching a class,” she said recalling bits of Aghan cultural lessons throughout her training, “I have been told they’re not going to take me seriously, and they’ll just get up and walk out of the classroom.”
During the course, McBride and the team developed a better understanding of an Afghan’s perspective at the Cultural Learning Center, where they were exposed to the language and other cultural differences.
“Let’s just say I haven’t heard a lot of positive things as far as females being instructors, because the men do look at the women differently
there,” she said, launching into her intended solution.
“I’m going to show them that I’m just like the rest of the guys. I’m going to show them that, although I am a woman and I might do some things a little different, we’re all brothers and sisters. We are all here to help each other and to learn from each other. So hopefully just because I’m a woman, they won’t take that away from me.”
McBride also received courses adherent to the advisor training course curriculum, learning some basic principles of advising, such as etiquette, and common challenges that advisors face, said Capt. Ben Lawless a supply officer, instructor and assessor with the ATG.
“I think they have done very well,” Lawless said. “They have shown a thorough understanding of how to use an interpreter while executing a class to a host nation force.”
Extending his confidence to McBride’s unique challenge, Lawless continued, “Staff Sgt. McBride is professional enough that, whatever situation she encounters while working with coalition and Afghan
security forces, she’ll be able to handle it.”
The team, with their pre-deployment training behind them, is focusing on the year ahead.