Act of Valor= Real Operators, Real missions….doesn’t get any better than this, gents. There’s also some great equipment shots that you won’t see in typical Hollywood action flicks.

I saw a private screening in LA and was blown away by how authentic the movie was.  Finally, someone gets a SOF movie right. The real credit for the movie (IMHO) goes to Bandito Brothers Productions (Step into Liquid) and not Relativity (they scooped it up on the cheap).

This is a SEAL movie but the team is chock full of other units and branches and that should be noted.  Check out our SOFREP exclusive with Special Boat Team member Ryan Branco below.


By: Cruz DelaVega, USN (RET).SWCC ( 11 Meter RHIB, COMS, NAV, FWD .50, ADV- MEDIC )

My wife tells me that I’m on Facebook too much, I tell her “not that much”, as I post it on my status update. If it wasn’t for my daily social media browsing, I would have missed a post from a friend and former crewmate of mine, Ryan Branco. We crewed HH-60F/H waaay back-in-da-day, recently he posted a picture of his helo (HH-60F) crew doing a fastrope maneuver onto what seemed to be a boat of some sort, the caption read “Me in the movies!!! Act of Valor, go see it!!!”

I figured that the fine editorial staff at SOFREP (finally a legitimate Spec Ops site) would like to get in contact with Ryan for an article that might be in the works; I contacted the editor and he was enthusiastic “Hey that sounds great!  Can you write it up?”, was the reply I got from Brandon, I shot back with a “HooYah” ( ref: SOFREP, “Shit Navy SEALS say” comments section). I haven’t written in years and I hope I don’t screw it up, so I badger my wife for guidance since she is a lot smarter than I am. “Just go with what you know and answer the questions, it will all come together.” Sheeeaat, that’s all you had to say!
I phoned Ryan and chewed his ear abit. After catching up and reminiscing I finally ask him, “How did you get this gig?”.  “Well the producers, the Bandito Bros., were going to use the Key West SAR station for the fast rope yacht scene and since they did not have the SWTI (Seahawk Weapons Tactics Instructor) qual to do so, it was decided that they needed us to do it. Accuracy and authenticity, all of it had to be accurate and authentic without giving away tactics.” Ryan said throughout our conversation. The Bandido Bros. were foremost looking to capture the most real life, legit, true to form commando movie. Everybody who has done time in the military and watched military movies have always commented on the actions of the stars and scenes. From “Top Gun”, “The Gaurdian” and most famously “Navy SEALS” the most frequent of all comments are “Oh Bullshit!”, “Nope, can’t happen” and “That’s not where that is!” even today the debate weather Goose could have been killed by the canopy is still ongoing.
The scene called for a Fastrope/VBSS ( Visit Board Search and Seizure) onto a yacht using Navy HH-60F and 11 meter RHIBS, what the producers did not want was another Hollywood cliche insert scene where the helo is 30ft up and 50 guys pour out of it using a multitude of lines being thrown out. What they wanted is what you would do if you had to actually do this. “So we took 3 days to plan, rehearse and execute the action.”, Ryan informs me. First day was planning: What the producers wanted, what the Boat Guys, Frogs and aircrew wanted to do and finally the placement of the camera crew and yacht. Second Day Rehearsal: We planed the OP now we just had to OP the plan, and fix any glitches that came up. Ryan and his crew flew the helo low and fast, low enough to have the tail boom hit the stern of the yacht and Frogs egress the aircraft and complete the takedown/scene by the numbers. Third Day: Execution, film day about a 5hr sortie.  No hiccups, well done, cut and print. Good day for  LCDR Ingargiola, LT Chris Otto, AWRC Ben Pilgrim, AWR1 Ryan Branco and Naval Aviation.
 What might be an Indie movie, unfortunately I don’t see it winning an Oscar like the true life struggles depicted in “Hurt Locker”, there are no multi-million dollar actors and half naked hotties plastered on billboards and TV spots. However,  I do fathom a film dedicated to and made for real operators and their support. A film were the comments will be rather “Pussies, back in my day we did “Cast and Recovery” with just a KBAR…and we liked it!” or maybe “Oh man that reminded me of the time when BLANK and I were in Spain and….”  or possibly  “That Coxswain is aswome!, he owes me money. ” Moreover even giving scenarios for liars, wannabees and posers to  use at bars, schools and the hollies of all hollies facebook. I would bet that Don Shipley is going to get even more busy than ever. Ryan is happy what with the Bandido Bros. made, as well as the NSW community in general. I have been lucky to have been a part of and worked with men in all three elements mentioned here. God speed Fellers. Looks like you made an bitchen’ flick, can’t wait to see it.
NOTE: Knowing Ryan I could not pass up the opportunity to inquire about the “After Party”.

Fourth Day: Recovery from “Crew Dinner”, I asked more about this and he said that after the filming the entire film crew, SEALS, Boat Guys and Aircrew met for dinner and beers and well discussed the “Don’t ask Don’t Tell” Policy. I pressed him more for some fun facts and he giggled and replied, ” Oh man yea well um, wait…you ain’t taping this are you?”