Published at: Nov. 5, 2009, 8:22 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. When I got the call from local super publicist Brandy Fons inquiring about this rather unique opportunity how could I say no?
Dolph Lundgren was to tour Texas’ Fort Hood, observe a change of command ceremony as Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch hands over his position to Lt. Gen. Robert Cone and meet the troops, signing copies of his new DTV flick COMMAND PERFORMANCE where he plays a rock and roll drummer that stops terrorists from kidnapping the Russian Premier.
The offer was to tag along and get to be one of Dolph’s entourage, documenting the day with my trusty Nikon D80.
How could I turn that down?
I’m a night owl… hell, I’m writing this when everyone else in the world is asleep… but the Army doesn’t run based on a vampire’s schedule like I do, so I ended up just staying up to catch my ride to Ft. Hood.
Running off of 5 Hour Energy drinks and adrenaline fueled by fear that once inside Ft. Hood alarms would sound because a fat, agnostic, left-leaning movie nerd had infiltrated their ranks I began my adventure.
It was a cold, rainy day. The rain unfortunately moved the Change of Command ceremony inside a gym instead of out on the parade field. The poor weather canceled an airshow… jets were supposed to fly overhead in celebration of their new commander. The weather was a bastard because it also fucked me out of getting to join Mr. Lundgren on a Black Hawk ride, which was in the cards until everything was grounded. I can safely assume that’ll be the only chance I’ll see the inside of a Black Hawk Helicopter.
On top of all that we couldn’t find our way around the base, which is ginormous. By the time we finally got to the right building the ceremony had started. The band was playing patriotic music and the flag guard was doing its thing, so I waited behind a guy that was built to be a soldier… easily 6’ 3”… He was saluting as the band played.
Though late, Brandy and I didn’t miss the actual Changing of Command, which was represented by the old General, moving on up to DC, passing a flag to the new General in command of Ft. Hood.
Using super agility I made my way around the inner wall of the gym as Lt. General Lynch was being introduced to make his farewell speech. There were seats in the risers, so we sat with these young kids in uniform, most of whom were probably a good 8-10 years younger than I am… and I haven’t even hit 30 yet.
Brandy pointed out Dolph sitting floor-level.
Not too hard to spot amongst those suits, eh?
Lt. General Lynch started his speech, filled with as much rah-rah Army as you’d expect, but not without emotion. Apparently his successor is a good friend who has followed his career, taking each job he’s left due to promotion, for a good 4 or 5 positions now.
I wasn’t exactly comfortable with the religious fervor, his speech feeling more like a sermon. Being the pinko commie (or whatever they call liberal these days) I am, I can’t help but get a puckered butthole when I hear a General sermonizing about being part of God’s army and doing God’s work. But it was his party after all… the dude can say what he likes.
Then Lt. Gen. Cone spoke, a bit less fervent, mostly in praise of the soldiers, his commanders and his wife.
The flags were marched out in military fashion as the National Anthem played, all the soldiers around me standing and saluting. I did what every American or baseball fan would, stood and put my hand over my heart. I think that was the right thing to do under the circumstances, right? Or did I rudely violate my country’s honor somehow?
After the ceremony was over, I was introduced to Dolph who is everything you’d expect in person. Super tall, super fit, super tanned, super Dolph. And he’s also very easy going and nice.
As we left the auditorium I snapped this picture:
After a coffee (and some pictures with the lady who runs the shop) we visited our first stop:
This Museum on the base chronicles American combat from the Revolution through to the War On Terror. Upon entering the young lady at the desk kind of freaked out, recognizing Dolph right away.
We started looking around, starting with the earliest stuff, the history of the 1st Cavalry division.
It wasn’t long before the guy in charge, a Mr. Robbie Reinstein… sorry, I didn’t get his rank, obviously informed of his famous guest came out to lead us all in a tour.
Here are some pictures as we wind our way up through WW2, Korea, Vietnam, The Gulf War and the War on Terror.
Many Apocalypse Now references were made after seeing those hats in the Vietnam section. Just as many MASH jokes were made after seeing this:
There were many displays using real used war equipment and uniforms like this one:
Authentic, down to the Playboy!
The end was the modern War on Terror exhibit.
Next we headed outside to see the decommissioned tanks from not only our country, but countries all over the world.
After the tour we all piled into a van and headed to the other side of the base to try out some simulators. This was my view for most of the time spent in the van.
Dolph was very open about his work while we drove around. Seeing how open he was, I asked if I could throw out an impromptu Q&A for my Twitter followers. He said sure and within 10 minutes a few good ones. See that’s why you should follow me, cool shit like this!
He was asked if he saw the new Punisher movies and which Frank Castle would win in a fight, Thomas Jane’s, Ray Stevenson’s or his. Dolph had seen Jane’s Punisher, but not Stevenson’s, and hand to hand he would win no contest, but that from what he hears about the new one there are a lot more toys and that they both might have better hardware than he had.
Another question came in about Masters of the Universe, asking what he remembers the most about making that movie. He said the loincloth and laughed.
When we got to our destination there were a good dozen young soldiers sitting around outside, eating pizza out of delivery boxes and bullshitting with each other.
One guy in the group noticed Dolph and stood right up and said, “Yo! Yo! Yo! Oh my God! I can’t believe it!” His friends didn’t get it and he was like, “Rocky, man! The dude was in Rocky!!!” Dolph stopped and talked with him and was mobbed, shaking hands and taking photos with most of them.
Inside the building Dolph was met and shown to these bulky, scary machines.
Each one of those boxes are full scale tank simulators. I can vouch for that because my fat ass could barely squeeze into one. Dolph didn’t have the same problem. Here’s a look inside:
I didn’t have the heart to fail miserably trying to get into the extension, which actually has a rolling chair, the person inside laying down and driving the tank. There’s room for three max in the tank (or two me’s) and this fourth laying down so there’s room.
My favorite part of the trip happened next as we stepped into a 360 degree humvee simulator. It’s a giant, fully immersive video game that allows a squad to train together using real weapons and humvee, but without the cost of running full drills in the field.
Dolph took the huge fucking gun mounted on the Hummer, of course, and I was given a big Rambo style gun… sorry I don’t know my weapons better, but all I can tell you is it was a huge, heavy gun that I wasn’t prepared to be holding. It looked like the gun Rambo shoots up the office with at the end of First Blood Part 2.
Each weapon had a cord that fed information to a computer that keeps track of shots fired, accuracy, etc.
And yes, each gun was real, just not filled with any ammo. They worked like the real thing because they were the real thing. The computer (I assume) told my gun when it was out of ammo and the recoil would stop, no shots registered. I’d have to reload it, complete with all the clacking and sliding that goes along with doing so, before it’d work again.
My puny arms couldn’t handle too much of this, so I opted for the AK-47 instead. Much better.
Dolph’s training buddy took driving duties and controlled where we went on the screens all around us, set up to be a standard drive from secure zone to secure zone in Iraq, complete with insurgent attacks and IEDs on the side of the road.
I played along at first, but it was more fun watching Dolph work the mounted 50 cal (see, I know a little), plus I wanted some pictures. Here what it looked like when the simulator was running.
At one point Dolph pointed his 50 cal at me and said, “Hey, look! A journalist!” I can tell you it’s not all that comfortable being at the pointing end of a giant-ass gun like that, especially with Dolph Lundgren at the trigger.
Following the Hummer simulator (there can’t be all that many paragraphs that start out like that, can there?) we ate some Turkey wraps and bullshitted about his movie. Dolph spoke a lot about the pressures of directing and how when he’s directing a film as well as starring in it, like Command Performance, he has to put more of his energy into directing, maybe sometimes even neglecting the acting because directing’s a bigger job.
Dolph said that as an actor he prefers being directed by others and not directing himself because when being directed by someone like Sly he’s challenged, pulled away from his comfort zone. He cited by Stallone and John Woo as being directors that pull the best stuff out of him.
From there we only had one more stop before I headed home. Dolph was scheduled to do a signing for the troops and there was a ton of people that showed up.
I spent about 10 minutes watching Dolph interact with his fans, obviously grateful for their support, before I left. This was one of the last images I shot.
After saying my good-byes I was on the road home.
This kind of thing doesn’t happen often, an Almost Famous-ish tag-along and I’d love the opportunity to do something like this again. You really get a sense of a person. There were moments I saw Dolph conscious of his image and putting on a front, like seeing I had the camera up and waiting for me to take a shot, almost posing instead of just going along, but I don’t think I used any of those shots at all.
It’s far more interesting to catch him relaxed, just acting naturally.
Anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed my day with Dolph. His flick just hit DVD and Blu-Ray. I don’t know what Vern thought of it, but I’m sure it’s right up his alley! In fact, I got something for good ol’ Vern… watch the mail, dude!
Thanks for following along with this little adventure!
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