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‘Full Metal Jacket’ Actor Discusses Career, Technology

By Judith Snyderman
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 21, 2009 – Retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. R. Lee Ermey -- a Vietnam veteran, film actor and TV host -- shared observations about modern military technology and his visits with American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq during a “DoDLive” bloggers roundtable today.

“They’re just as ready to eat their own guts out today as they ever were back in my time,” he said. “The only difference is we’ve got better equipment, better gear, better toys, and I spend as much time as I can with them.”

Ermey said he’s surprised by the enduring popularity of his 1987 acting role as a quintessential drill sergeant in the film “Full Metal Jacket.”

“When I go to the military bases and make an appearance, I just go hang out with the guys and give them a good talking-to and tell them my corny jokes, and then I’ll sit down and sign autographs,” he said. “And every time, thousands of copies of “Full Metal Jacket” pop up from somewhere – they’re still selling these damned things.”

Though Ermey retired from the military in 1971, he’s continued to work with fighting forces as a member of the Marine Corps Drill Instructor’s Association. He also appears in films, and is widely known as the exuberant host of cable television’s ‘Lock N Load,’ a documentary about robotic equipment, and the former host of ‘Mail Call.’

“I have some of these future weapons on the show ‘Lock N Load,’” he said. “We just did a non-line-of-sight canon; it’s a 155 mm howitzer, and you can push a button and 27 miles away an enemy tank disappears,” Ermey said.

Another show features a new type of unmanned aerial vehicle that has the potential to stop pirates operating off the coast of Somalia. “We highlight this helicopter, and we talk about the fact that it doesn’t require a pilot to put his life on the line and take risks,” he said. “It can go out 100 miles from a ship and land on a bow of a ship.”

But so far, technology hasn’t made war casualty-free, Ermey acknowledged. “It’s always going to be dangerous; there’s no question about it,” he said. “But the objective is to make it as safe as we possibly can for the young people.”

Ermey said his television shows aim to build public appreciation for the military.

“It kind of wakes people up as to who the military is,” he said. “They are very honorable, upstanding young American citizens out there, doing the dirty job that nobody else seems like they want to do in America.”

The actor adopted his drill sergeant-style movie persona to make another point. “People need to wake up, pull their heads out of their posteriors and get with the program!” he barked. “Support the troops!”

Ermey has been to Iraq four times and to Afghanistan twice, and said he plans to return to Afghanistan in December. His television program, “Lock N’ Load With R. Lee Ermey,” airs on the History Channel.

(Judith Snyderman works in the Defense Media Activity’s emerging media directorate.)

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