US Marine says he was ‘systematically trained to kill’

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US Marine who was part of an elite group sent to Iraq to ‘clear a path’ to Baghdad ahead of the 2003 invasion says he was ‘systematically trained to kill’ and shown videos of heads being shot off to desensitize him to violence

  • Sergeant Rudy Reyes, 48, of Kansas City, Missouri, served in the Iraq War 
  • He was part of a small group of ‘Recon Marines’ sent ahead of the 2003 invasion
  • Sergeant Reyes describes how he was ‘systematically trained to kill’ people 
  • Told how he spent three weeks fighting with no sleep during the mission

A US Marine who once fought for three weeks ‘without sleep’ has spoken of how he was ‘systematically programmed to kill’ and desensitized to violence in a BBC documentary series about the Iraq War.

Sergeant Rudy Reyes, 48, of Kansas City, Missouri, was part of a small group of elite ‘Recon Marines’ sent ahead of the 2003 invasion in order to ‘clear the path’ to Baghdad, making it easier for the regular US Army to reach the city.

Speaking in tonight’s episode of BBC2 documentary Once Upon A Time In Iraq, Reyes explains how he was shown real-life footage of targets having their heads blown off by sniper rifles as part of his training. 

He also reveals how recruits are ordered to say the word ‘kill’ instead of ‘yes’ during boot camp training as part of their ‘program to kill’. 

A US Marine who once fought for three weeks ‘without sleep’ has spoken of how he was ‘systematically programmed to kill’ and desensitized to violence in the first episode of a BBC documentary series about the Iraq War. Pictured, Sergeant Reyes in the documentary

‘In our boot camp, do you know how we say the word “yes”? It’s the word “kill”. It’s the only way you can say “yes”,’ he explains. 

‘Then we go into ballistics. Then we’re watching real world: head shots, footage of sniper kills. And then they’re slowing it down in slow motion, head expanding three times the size, then vacuum collapse, then brains and skull. 

‘When I saw that I looked at myself inside and I said: “I don’t know if I have what it takes to do this.” Because there was still some human in me.’ 

Reyes, who left the military in 2005 and is now a TV personality and martial arts instructor, describes the Marine Recon as the ‘Jedis’ of the US Marine Corps.  

Recalling the Iraq deployment, he says: ‘We went three weeks straight with no sleep, straight fighting. No armor, no doors, no roofs. Just very capable violent professionals. Sixty men spearheading the blitzkrieg to get to Baghdad. That’s immense. 

Sergeant Rudy Reyes, 48, of Kansas City, Missouri, was part of a small group of elite Recon Marines sent ahead of the 2003 invasion in order to 'clear the path' to Baghdad, making it easier for the regular US Army to reach the city. Pictured, US Marines in Iraq in March 2003

Sergeant Rudy Reyes, 48, of Kansas City, Missouri, was part of a small group of elite Recon Marines sent ahead of the 2003 invasion in order to ‘clear the path’ to Baghdad, making it easier for the regular US Army to reach the city. Pictured, US Marines in Iraq in March 2003

Reyes, who left the military in 2005, tells how killing 'was not an issue' because it was something he had been 'systematically trained' to do. Pictured, in the documentary

Reyes, who left the military in 2005, tells how killing ‘was not an issue’ because it was something he had been ‘systematically trained’ to do. Pictured, in the documentary

He continues: ‘Our mission was to destroy any capacity they had for artillery or mortars. And also, of course, the NBC: nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.’

Describing the scenes he witnessed, he says: ‘Incoming and outgoing artillery, small arms, machine guns, birds and rotary wing and the sound of all the engines, and the radios going non-stop, word going back and forth. 

‘Imagine seeing the freaking Cobras criss-crossing above you and the bass of the boom, boom, boom, boom… It was god-like.’  

Asked if he thinks his time in Iraq was ‘worth it’, Reyes adds: ‘Yes, it’s worth it. I think it has to be worth it. What’s the alternative?’ 

Once Upon a Time in Iraq offers a closer look at the War and life under Isis.  

Once Upon A Time In Iraq: Episode 1 airs tonight at 9pm on BBC2 

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