Netflix has dropped their trailer for the new Ben Affleck movie, Triple Frontier, a film that will explore what happens when former Special Forces soldiers utilize their skills to pull off a heist, in this case directed against a drug cartel in South America. The premise is interesting, and timely. 17 years of combat in the Global War on Terror has created a pool of hardened combat troops, and once they are done serving their country, some have moved — and will continue to move — on to lucrative careers in the private sectors. They might even turn to crime. In a few cases, that is exactly what happened.
The film is described by Netflix as:
Five former Special Forces operatives reunite to plan a heist in a sparsely populated multi-border zone of South America. For the first time in their prestigious careers these unsung heroes undertake this dangerous mission for self instead of country. But when events take an unexpected turn and threaten to spiral out of control, their skills, their loyalties and their morals are pushed to a breaking point in an epic battle for survival.
The idea that men who served their country honorably may turn around and use their skills, for just once, to serve themselves rather than some higher ideal, is an interesting one. How the film explores this issue remains to be seen and we won’t find out until it is released in 2019. In the meantime, we can look back on a few cases where operators did go rogue.
Talking about and theorizing how to rob a bank or commit a similar heist is pretty much a hobby-horse for young Rangers in the barracks. We all watched movies like Heat and considered how we would go about something like that. In August of 2006, four members of 2nd Ranger Battalion burst into the Bank of America in South Tacoma, Washington. Wearing ski masks and carrying loaded weapons, they were in and out of the bank in two minutes and twenty-one seconds. Their actions were rehearsed and executed with what has been described as military precision. They were also temporarily 54,000 dollars richer.
The problem was that the driver of the getaway car removed the rear license plate but not the front one. An alert member of the public noticed the crime in progress and wrote down the plate number. The vehicle was soon found at the 2nd Ranger Battalion barracks on Fort Lewis and the barracks rooms belonging to the Rangers involved were raided. The clothing, cash, and weapons used during the heist were seized as evidence. Those involved in the heist served varying amounts of time in federal prison for the crime.
The problem with bank heists in the United States is that they are a federal crime, one that the FBI considers to be their bread and butter. The smarter play would be to rip off some bad actors south of the border as depicted in Triple Frontier. Ideally, it would be ever better to get away with diamonds rather than bundles of cash since they are easier to move and basically untraceable.
A similar movie called Renegades will be released directly to DVD in January of 2019, the plot revolving around a crew of Navy SEALs deployed to Bosnia in 1995 to detain war criminals but during a three-day leave in country (the real life Ranger bank robbers ran their heist during a two-week leave) they learn about a vault of Nazi gold sunk at the bottom of a lake. The SEALs then launch a plan to use their training and sub-surface diving skills to recover the gold, which of course if located in enemy territory. For a heist like this, an upward falling payload would be ideal, as gold is obviously quite heavy.
These films blur some of the lines between fact and fiction, and in some cases we would probably be grateful if the worst thing former or active operators got into was a heist. Special Operations Command has recently launched a probe into ethics in their military profession, following a very long string of incidents including everything from troops murdering one another, to cocaine smuggling, to widespread allegations of war crimes.