Zack Mayo is a young man who has signed up for Navy Aviation Officer Candidate School. He is a Navy brat who has a bad attitude problem. Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley is there to train and evaluate him, and will clearly find Zack wanting. Zack meets Paula, a girl who has little beyond family, and must decide what it is he wants to do with his life. Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Zack's grip on Foley's arm during the fight scene. See more »
[whispered to sleeping father]
[flashback to Manila]
Hey, kid! Are you Zack?
I'm Byron; nice to meet you. Come on, let's get your bags, OK?
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With special thanks to Art Kulman of the Washington State Dept. of Commerce & Economic Development, Fort Worden State Park, Gus Gustafson, Brent Shirley, and the people of Port Townsend, Washington. See more »
First, there is not, and never was, an Aviation Officer Candidate School (AOCS) in Washington state. I would assume it was used because the true locale for AOCS, Pensacola, FL, wasn't suitable for some reason. Officer candidates going to AOCS already have their degrees and are undergoing training, physical and educational, to earn their commission. No, it's not four years like the Naval Academy, but then again, it's not four years of hell at the Academy, as another reviewer attempted to posit. Any officer commissioned through AOCS is an officer just like an academy grad and both, ultimately, can end up with regular commissions vice reserve commissions.
Next, the training at AOCS was fairly accurately portrayed in the movie. Lots of running, swimming, academics, inspections, etc. all intended to result in the individual becoming part of a team. Another reviewer, obviously not a Republican (LOL), detests this movie just because of his perception that it endorsed the philosophy of the Reagan years. Utter balderdash, of course. What this movie portrays, again fairly accurately, is the growth of a loner into someone who realizes, as Spock so eloquently stated in one of the Star Trek movies, "(t)he needs of the many outweigh the needs, or the wants, of the one or the few." Mayo learns to be part of a team; he learns to care for others and cease being a "user" of people in his life...an example he learned from his father.
The terminology, during the 80s when I went through AOCS, was still DOR..."Drop On Request." It was an "out" exercised by very few people, mostly because those of us in AOCS were already motivated to come into the Navy and specifically into Naval Aviation. The rigors, as stated previously, are presented fairly accurately although a little melodramatic in places, e.g., the altitude chamber. Never in all my years in the Navy did I see anyone "freak" out in the chamber, which is a required test, along with swim quals, every four years to remain qualified to fly.
The legend of the "Pensacola Debs" was presented to us early on in AOCS. Yes, there are stories, many of them true, of men meeting their wives while going through training in Penasacola, but I'd wager there's not a higher incidence in P'cola than there is at any military base or college town for that matter. Odd, but you put men and women in the same room and some will pair off, and some will marry and remain together forever. The bar in the film, TJ's, was based on a bar in Penascola named Trader Jon's. Trader had a running deal that if you caught him wearing matching socks, you'd get some prize...can't remember if it was money or drinks. Let's just say, he never paid off as far as I know. Trader died a few years back, but I'm pretty sure some of the stuff from his bar is probably at the Naval Aviation Museum at NAS Pensacola.
The Drill Instructor portrayal by Louis Gossett is VERY true to life! While they cussed us, screamed at us, pushed us physically and looked for what would "trip" us up, they also, in retrospect, wanted us to succeed. One thing they never did, and would have been severely disciplined for, was hit us, so the fight scene, while improbable, works in the movie. PTing us into the ground, though...you bet they did! This movie works for me because I lived the life both during the AOCS part and during a career in the Navy in aviation. The portrayals are pretty much spot-on and believable. Sure there's dramatic license, but there is in any movie! Anyone who believes Full Metal Jacket tells it "like it is" is delusional; there's plenty of dramatic license there, too. Relax, enjoy the movie. It's about personal growth, love, and sacrifice; all in all good things. Not the best movie ever made, but certainly not the worst!
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