The Modern War Institute (MWI) showed “Pech River Boys: Tales from Afghanistan” and hosted a panel discussion with members of the cast and crew on Friday, March 25. Roughly 300 cadets turned out for the event in Robinson Auditorium.
The documentary chronicles the deployment of the 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1-327IN in the 101st Airborne Division to the Pech River Valley in north east Afghanistan in 2010. The panel included former-CPT Genenbacher (West Point Class of 2009 and PL during the deployment), former-SGT Ortega (Gunner during the deployment), former-SPC Trahan (Rifle during the deployment), and Jason Ebarb, the film’s producer. Pech River Boys was developed by Ortega, Trahan, and Ebarb using footage from helmet cameras many of the platoon members wore during the deployment and subsequent interviews.
As a grassroots production, the film touches on themes of maintaining unit-cohesion, morale, motivation, and discipline in a high-stress combat setting, and dealing with loss. Ortega and Trahan conceived the project to help preserve the memory of their fallen brother, SPC Brian Tabada. The film was part of the healing process – a way to work through a very difficult deployment mentally and emotionally.
During the post-screening discussion, Ortega and Trahan discussed their expectations of and experiences with Genenbacher taking over the platoon in combat after the previous platoon leader had been shot in the face and taken out of the platoon. They said that it took Genenbacher time to earn their trust and respect, but he did so by constantly demonstrating he knew his job and was tactically proficient. They said there were many times during the deployment when they questioned his decisions to patrol aggressively or go out immediately after losing their platoon mate, SPC Brian Tabada; however, in retrospect, they believed that Genebacher’s decisions were ultimately the right ones to help as many of the platoon come home as did.