But as Act of Valor so vividly depicts, this team effort extends even beyond – and sometimes far beyond – the professionals of the Naval Special Warfare Community. The SEALs, of course, are part of the larger U.S. Special Operations Command (currently led by U.S. Navy SEAL Adm. William McRaven), and other service components of this team are also featured in the film. Conversations with people who have seen pre-screenings of the film confirm that they “get it” regarding what an integrated force the Special Operations Command represents once they see Act of Valor.
But Act of Valor also gives an “insider’s look” at other parts of the U.S. military – and especially the U.S. Navy – that is typically opaque to the general public. The film features U.S. Navy amphibious ships, U.S. Marine Corps helicopters and AV-8B Harrier “jump jets,” U.S. Navy H-60 helicopters – many of them armed – U.S. Navy submarine operations, unmanned U.S. military drone aircraft, and much more.
It would be easy for the lay person to watch Act of Valor and come away with the impression that the SEALs no longer aspire to be the “quiet warriors” and have even “gone Hollywood.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Act of Valor was made with a specific purpose in mind, and it accomplished that purpose magnificently. Now the Naval Special Warfare Community has returned to what it has done and continues to do best – ensure America’s security and prosperity.
Adm. Sean Pybus, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command, made this point repeatedly – and emphatically – at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association/United States Naval Institute “West” conference in San Diego, Calif., in January 2012. Pybus put it this way in response to a question regarding whether the Navy and the Naval Special Warfare Command planned any further efforts of this nature. As captured by this writer (who was in attendance at Pybus’ keynote, plenary address):
I hope, personally, to be “one and done” with the sanctioned movie business for a while. Navy Special Warfare is challenged in this environment – with the media exposure – and the number of public domain transactions. Operational security matters to us. We, as a community, are not used to operating under such a spotlight.
Bandito Brothers’ directors McCoy and Scott Waugh have worked mightily – and successfully – to ensure that this unique movie kept its riveting authenticity and didn’t go “Hollywood.” That said, Act of Valor is a major film release by a major motion picture studio, so there has been “glitz” in advance of the film’s opening on Feb. 24, including a Hollywood premiere on Feb. 13 featuring the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs parachute team as well as extensive representation by the Naval Special Warfare Community.
And lest the reader think that the film is only action and gunfire, award-winning recording artist Keith Urban has produced a song for the movie. For Urban, his song, “For You,” co-written by Urban and Monty Powell, marks the first time that he has written and recorded a song specifically for a motion picture. “For You” is featured during the film’s end credits. Urban’s comments regarding why he wrote “For You” are perhaps most representative of the powerful emotions Act of Valor stirs:
“I loved the challenge of writing for a film. I’ve never done that before. After seeing Act of Valor, my co-writer (Monty Powell) and I wanted to capture the essence of not only what these men and women do so extraordinarily well, but how that relates to all of us. Valor shows us what they are willing to give their all for, which made me wonder, ‘what am I willing to give my life for?’ ‘For You’ is intended to allow the listener to define who that is for them.”
To reveal any more about Act of Valor could run the risk of telling the reader too much, so this part of the story will wrap up here. But the “story within the story” about how Act of Valor came to be made in the first place is as intriguing as the movie and novelization. That story will be the subject of “Part II” of this telling.