Written and directed by Dan Krauss and based on his 2013 documentary film of the same name, ‘The Kill Team’ is a 2019 war drama film about US Army soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. It follows a new recruit, Andrew Briggman, who struggles to fit in with his fellow soldiers under the command of the relentless Staff Sergeant Deeks. While Briggman knows what he’s witnessing isn’t right, he craves the approval of his peers and Deeks. The 2019 action drama film depicts what it feels like for soldiers to be on the field and how their perceptions of doing the right thing might get mixed up with their emotions about what it means to work and fight as a team.
The super-talented Alexander Skarsgård plays the role of Sergeant Deeks, whose influence on the group and ruthless approach to dealing with local Afghans don’t sit well with everyone he is working with. The major role he plays in what comes to be known as the Maywand District murders and the kind of control he has over his unit might make you wonder how true his real story is.
Sergeant Deeks Is Based on Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs
While ‘The Kill Team’ provides a fictionalized account of the real incidents discussed in Krauss’ 2013 documentary, Sergeant Deeks is based on the real soldier, Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs, who, along with four others, was charged in 2011 for the murder of innocent Afghans. These soldiers were accused of being part of a “kill team” headed by Gibbs, and while the charges against one of the five were dropped, Gibbs was convicted of three murders and other criminal charges, which he allegedly didn’t plead guilty to. The other soldiers with him, Jeremy Morlock, Andrew Holmes, and Adam Winfield, pled guilty to murder and manslaughter charges.
They were all part of the Bravo Company, with Gibbs joining as the leader in 2009. Gibbs was 25-years-old and a father of one when this incident was brought to light. He hails from Billings, Montana, and had allegedly enlisted in the Army after dropping out of school. He was reportedly always looking for trouble, with a 2004 incident prior to this one when he and some others allegedly attacked an Iraqi family still being investigated. Before joining the team in 2009, he worked under a top commander in Afghanistan. According to the New York Times, Gibbs allegedly also had the skull tattoos that were shown in the movie, and he revealed to an investigator that it was his way of keeping track of his kills.
When the investigation into the Maywand District murders began, Gibbs’ teammates allegedly portrayed him as a ruthless attacker who nurtured a possible hatred for Afghans and felt a thrill in killing innocents. It was reported that he wanted a necklace of fingers from his victims, which consisted of innocent Afghan farmers who were unarmed at the time Gibbs and his team allegedly attacked them. During the investigation, while Gibbs did not plead guilty to the murders, he did confess to collecting severed body parts of people his team killed and likened them to collecting deer antlers after a hunt. He claims to be involved in only one of the three murder charges against him, in which he feels the one was justified, and he wasn’t physically present for the other two.
Calvin Gibbs: Where Is He Now?
Since there were 15 charges against him, Calvin Gibbs was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2011 with a chance at parole after or within ten years, so he could somehow be hopeful about reuniting with his son, who was born in 2008, one day. After a decade in jail, Gibbs contested his charges in a federal court, with his lawyers arguing that he didn’t receive a fair trial in military court and that testimonies of two witnesses, Staff Sergeant David Bram and Specialist Michael Wagnon, could possibly free him of some of the serious charges against him. There were also alleged inconsistencies in Morlock’s statements against Gibbs, since he had initially admitted during an interview that Gibbs wasn’t present during the offenses but changed his testimony the next day, which implicated Gibbs in these charges.
The lawsuit filed by Gibbs’ lawyers in January 2020, questioning US Disciplinary Barracks for allegedly conducting an unfair military trial, led to the federal court asking the committee to respond within a month. After that, nothing more is known of the case. Since there was no hearing after this, Gibbs is apparently still serving his life sentence for the crimes at the Disciplinary Barracks in Fort Leavenworth. Evidently, while Sergeant Deeks is based on Gibbs and shows a lot of similarities to the real soldier in ‘The Kill Team,’ it is still a fictionalized account where a lot of details are based on the perceptions of the case and don’t reflect the possible inconsistencies in the narratives as the real case does.