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Ghost Canyon

First Lieutenant Mike Scotti   ('Severe Clear') First Lieutenant Mike Scotti ('Severe Clear')

'A (Still) Clear and Present Danger'

Marine First Lieutenant Mike Scotti was among the first group of soldiers deployed to Iraq during 2003ís Operation: Iraqi Freedom. Already a veteran of Afghanistan, Scotti took a video camera to Iraq and he and his fellow soldiers documented their experiences, footages that would later become the film, Severe Clear.

He was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with combat ďVĒ for Heroic Achievement in October of that year. In 2007, he was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps.

Exclusive Magazine's Ashley Trombley recently talked with this decorated man of valor about his film, and experience as one of Americaís Few and Proud.

What inspired you to go into the Armed Services? "I was an avid reader growing up, and read a lot of first-person war narratives. It was just something Iíd always gravitated towards. There are pictures of me at 3 or 4 years old holding a rifle and wearing a helmet. Also, with it being the Cold War, it was sort of a natural progression. I had a cousin who was in the Marine Corps, and I went to his graduation from MC Guard School, and that was kind of the clincher."

Whatís your favorite first-person war narrative? "Itís called Storm of Steel, by a guy named Junger. Itís from World War I."

Prior to your tour in Iraq, you served in Afghanistan. What made you want to voluntarily extend your tour? "When youíre part of a unit, you train with those guys for a long time. I was with the same unit for two-and-a-half years, and weíd already rotated through Afghanistan. So you donít want to abandon them just because your contract is over. Iíd actually been asked by a battalion commander if I would voluntarily extend because there was an infantry battalion commander who wanted me to be his artillery officer. And I really liked his leadership, and liked that unit a lot."

In the opening, you mention that one of the first things they teach you as a Marine is about the power of friction - the force that makes the easy difficult, and the difficult impossible. How that has that sentiment affected your personal experience? "Friction affects everything you do. For example, in the battlefield, there was a point where I hadnít slept for 96 hours. And if you make a mistakeÖ [pauses.] In my job as an artillery officer, if I transpose the number, reading off a map, and youíre supposed to say papa victor 1-8-6-4-2-9, and you say 1-6-8-4-2-9, thatís a huge error. Huge."

"That means that the artillery bombs will land on the wrong grid, and then God knows what could happen. And those mistakes could easily squander the lives of other Marines or civilians. And the thing about war and friction, is that itís timeless. So if you make a mistake like that, and thereís pain and suffering as a result, thatís something thatís going to stick with you for the rest of your days."

That seems like a really intense job. When times got tough, what most kept your morale up? "Just humor, really. Talking to the guys around you, talking about the shared misery. Thatís kind of the nature of being a Marine. You saw some of the horsing around and stuff, thatís why you do that. Because youíll go crazy if you donít."

Throughout the movie, there were several instances where notes for a book were read. Has that book been written? "Thatís actually what Iím working on now. Iíve finished the first few chapters for a proposal, but the nature of the book has changed significantly. Itís not just a war memoir, it covers a greater period of my life. Itís picking up where the movie left off."

That sounds really appealing. In regard to the film itself, is there one particular moment that just sticks with you, even after all this time? "There are several, but I would have to say the defining moment was seeing the cab with the little girl in it, that reallyÖthat oneís not going away."

In 2007, you were honorably discharged. If you could, would you go back? "Yeah, well, I did two tours, so itís more like if I wanted to stay in, I would have stayed in. I got out because I didnít want to do it anymore. But if they would have asked me, I would have gone back. Thereís kind of a difference there."

After serving, what is the most difficult aspect of adjusting to civilian life? "Thereís a lot, actually. Understanding that selfishness is more of the norm than unselfishness. In the Marine Corps, everyone is looking out for each other, and youíre there for the common good versus in the civilian world where selfishness is more of the norm, at least in my experience. Mostly in the corporate settings, just all the corporate bulls**t that goes on, all the politics. That will drive you insane."

Finally, you served in Iraq during 2003. Here it is now, 2010, do you think we have met the goals we set out to upon first arriving in Iraq? "At first, Iíd say no, because there were no weapons of mass destruction. Thatís obviously a big one. That probably took me about a year and a half to get over, especially after losing friends and dealing with the human cost. Itís tough to swallow. And weíve kind of shifted the mission as to why weíre there, for democracy and all that. Iím just glad weíre getting out of there."

Itís been a pleasure. Thank you for all you did, itís an inspiration to so many, including myself - "Thank you very much, that means a lot."

Interviewed by: Ashley Trombley

Check out Ashley Trombley's 'Severe Clear' Movie Review right here!

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