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More than meets the eye: 22nd STS Airman 'transforms'actors into combat controllers

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Master Sgt. Ray Bolinger, 22nd Special Tactics Squadron, admits he didn't know quite what he was getting into when he signed on to be a part of the summer blockbuster Transformers. 

What he ended up with was a behind-the-scenes glimpse of movie making, the chance to write some lines of the script, be on a first-name basis with Hollywood stars and a pass to the elite VIP section at the movie's premier. Sergeant Bolinger, an Air Force veteran and a terminal attack control instructor, was selected to help train the movie's actors to help add to the realism of the picture. 

He was a perfect fit on the set when it came to working with the actors and helping accurately portray the Air Force career fields and Airmen in them, said Capt. Christian Hodge, chief of future operations with the Air Force Entertainment Liaison Office. 

"He came in and did his thing from the start the right way," Captain Hodge said. "I think many folks -- including director Michael Bay -- were simply appreciative and admiring of the fact that they had a real-life, no-joke U.S. Air Force warfighter on their movie set." 

Last June before filming started, producers flew Sergeant Bolinger down to Fort Irwin in
Southern California to teach actor Tyrese Gibson, who plays Air Force combat controller Tech. Sgt. Epps in the movie, the mannerisms and language of a combat controller. 

"It was just a matter of helping him spit out the air traffic lingo with no unnecessary verbiage," Sergeant Bolinger said. 

Sergeant Bolinger also taught actors Josh Duhamel, Amaury Nolasco and Zach Ward, who play members of the special operations team in the movie, how team members dress, move, shoot and communicate with each other. After the week of pre-shoot work, Sergeant Bolinger said he thought his work on the movie was done. So did the producers. But Mr. Gibson and the rest of the actors wanted him on site when the action scenes were being filmed. So when that time came,producers flew Sergeant Bolinger to Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. 

While shooting next to Holloman at White Sands Missile Range, Sergeant Bolinger said he helped re-work a couple of lines in the script where the scene required Mr. Gibson to call in a medievac. 

After his work was done, Sergeant Bolinger attended the movie's premier in Westwood, Calif., in July. During the premier's after-party, Mr. Duhamel escorted Sergeant Bolinger into the VIP section of the party to hang out with the cast, producers and directors, he said. 

While Sergeant Bolinger's brush with fame hasn't pushed him out of the Air Force and into acting, he admits he gets a ribbing once in a while from his fellow squadron members. 

But it's worth it, he said. 

"It was a good experience," Sergeant Bolinger said. "I was really happy with the finished product."