"Jarhead" (the self-imposed moniker of the Marines) follows Anthony Swoff, a third-generation enlistee, from a sobering stint in boot camp to active duty, sporting a sniper's rifle and a hundred-pound ruck on his back through Middle East deserts with no cover from intolerable heat or from Iraqi soldiers, always potentially just over the next horizon. Swoff and his fellow Marines sustain themselves with sardonic humanity and wicked comedy on blazing desert fields in a country they don't understand against an enemy they can't see for a cause they don't fully fathom."

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NOTE: This Spoiler was sent in by John from Alexandria, VA who says "...this movie is a very good movie. It is not a war movie. It's a drama that is in the setting of a war. There is little action. It was a little light hearted from the book (which was very dark), however still pretty loyal to it."

The movie starts with Swofford or Swoff (Jake Gylenhall) in Basic training. It is sort of like a lighter hearted version of the first scene in Full Metal Jacket. Swoff manages to piss off his Drill Sergeant, and gets his head smashed into a wall. Swoff comes from a military family, his father and uncle served in Nam, however he doesn't mention them much, indicating a troubled childhood

The next scene we see is Swoff being assigned to his platoon. We see the platoon members are “Branding” a person. They then see Swoff and wrestle him to the ground, and start heating up a brand and touch it to his leg. He passes out and when he comes to he sees there is no burn. A member of the platoon Troy (Peter Starsgard) says they switched the brand, and it's a thing they do to mess with the new guys.

Swoff, then fakes the stomach flu by drinking laxative, to get away from his platoon mates. Sergeant Sykes (Jamie Foxx) find him over a toilet, and says that he has been selected to try out for the STA (pronounced STAY) platoon, the sniper platoon. Swoff agrees.

Sykes then asks Swoff if he plays any instruments. Swoff says he used to play the trumpet. At the STA indoc, Sykes has Swoff stand in formation and embarrassingly mimics playing the trumpet with his mouth. Sykes then proceeds to instruct and test 80 marines in being a sniper. Only 8 will pass, which includes Troy and Swoff.

When they finish indoc, the Gulf War starts. The men watch Apocalypse Now and in the middle of the Chopper scene the marines are all informed that they will be going to war. They are flown into Saudi Arabia on a civilian jet. One of the marines, Fowler (Evan Jones), hits on a stewardess. When they get on the ground the Colonel Kazinski (Chris Cooper) tells them about Saddam, and his use of poison gas. He shows them a picture of a kid who was killed with mustard gas (or some other blister agent) and that the Iraqis have been fighting Iran since the 1980s. The colonel then tells them that they will await orders to fight the Iraqis, however their current job is to guard the Saudis. The men are all gung ho.

The STA, then deploys to its new home, a tent city somewhere in the desert. While they are unpacking their gear Swoff takes out two pictures of his girlfriend, Christina. The other guys take the pictures and ogle them. Fowler says she is probably screwing around. Escobar shows off pictures of his pregnant wife. Then Sykes then comes in and makes them put on their, NBC suits (Nuclear Biological and Chemical protection) and makes them take a run in them, not a fun thing to do in the desert. The STA goes and proceeds to train and are forced to drink water in formation to avoid dehydration.

However, boredom soon sets in. Swoff looks at a post board with pictures of women who were unfaithful to their boyfriends/husbands. Fowler tells Swoff that Christina will be on there soon, but Swoff doesn't believe it. Sykes tells the STA that reports are coming and they are restricted in what they can tell them. One of the men pipes up about this being censorship, however Sykes said they signed away that right when they joined the Corp. Anything bad they say to the reporters will have repercussions on Sykes and therefore the rest of the platoon. The reports then do one on one interviews and the men pretty much say the same thing, they miss people at home, they are proud to be here etc. Swoff says he is afraid, but not that seriously (They made a little about this in the movie trailer)

The reporters are talking to Sykes about operating in a chemical environment. Sykes shows them the NBC gear while Swoff is tossing around a football with another member of the STA. Swoff then realizes that Sykes is going to make them play football in the NBC gear, its 112 degrees, and tries to get rid of the football but its too late. Sykes then proceeds to do that and the men play football in the suits. Sykes brings out canteens, to demonstrate how they can drink in such an environment, however the men protest scene some of their gas masks are broken. Sykes tells them to finish the football game and the men then do a "fieldfuck" where they simulate having sex with each other. Sykes embarrassed hurries the reporters away.

The platoon's punishment is building a sandbag pyramid in the rain. (It does rain in the desert, just not much). Sykes tells them that they are going to the rear, with air-conditioning and showers, after they take the pyramid down. Before they go to the rear, Swoff gets a letter from Christina, telling him she met a guy, a hotel desk clerk, who is a good listener.

When Swoff gets to the rear he calls Christina, who tells him that nothing is going on, however he knows that there is. He has a weird dream about her, and he then vomits sand. Troy wakes him up, telling him he was making weird sounds. The men go and watch a movie sent from home, the movie is supposed to be the movie the Dear Hunter; however there is amateur porn instead. The owner of the tape realizes the people on the tape are his wife and his neighbor screwing, and breaks down, Troy comforts him. He wants to go home to try to fix things. When the tape is over, Swoff proceeds to rewind the tape, to watch it again, but Troy stops him. He asks him why he was going to do that, and Swoff says he wants to see it because of Christina, and he feels that see infidelity would help him. Troy takes him out for a run.

When they get back, Swoff goes to a desk clerk who is writing love letters for his commanding officer. Swoff buys from him a 5 gallon can full of Hooch. Its Christmas Eve, and he convinces Fergus, (Brian Geraghty) to take his watch. The men proceed to party and get drunk. Fergus is cooking sausages with a camp stove and accidentally catches a box full of flares on fire. Since it was Swoff's watch he is punished. Sykes first makes him drink a lot of water to purge out all the alcohol he drunk. (They are not supposed to have alcohol in the middle East, an order which stands today, so not to piss off the Muslim hosts) and then he has to burn the shitters. The men crap in these barrels, which are filled with kerosene. The barrel is set on fire and the content is stirred. While Swoff is doing this Major Lincoln, (Dennis Haysbert) tells him to put one barrel back in so he can crap.

Swoff and Fergus are reassembling and disassembling their rifles. Swoff blames Fergus for what happens and loads his rifle and points it at him. Fergus is really scared that Swoff will shoot him. Swoff yells at him a lot and then puts the rifle in Fergus' hands and yells at Fergus to shoot him. He then throws away the rifle and angrily runs out of the tent.

Troy is not happy with this and on patrol tells Swoff to apologize. Some Bedouins interrupt them. The men take up defensive positions and do not know what to do. Swoff diffuses the situation by going up to one of the Bedouins and somehow manages to communicate with them. When the Bedouins leave, Swoff tells the men that someone shot some of the Bedouin's camels. While going back to base on trucks Fowler mentions what a camel looks like after getting shot. Some Arabs in cars pass them and Fowler makes obscene gestures at a woman in the car(she is covered in the hajib).

The men then are told by Sykes that they are going to war, and go to the border, awaiting orders. Sykes passes out antidote pills for nerve gas and tells them to sign a waiver. The pills are experimental, and some of the men have problems with that. Sykes tells them to take them anyway, sighting the Iranians and Kurds who children were screwed up by the Saddam's gas. Some of the men spit out the pills.

While digging defensive positions, Troy who has been relatively gung ho and a moderating force, seems to be losing it. Sykes calls Swoff over, under the premises that Swoff's signature on the waiver was illegible. Sykes tells Swoff that Troy will be leaving the corps because Troy had lied about a criminal record. Sykes wants Swoff to make sure that Troy doesn't do anything stupid. Swoff is pissed at Troy for not telling him about this. The men then brand Troy.

The war starts. The Iraqis shell the Marines position. The STA has the coordinates of the Iraqis' position, however their radio doesn't work. Sykes orders Swoff to go to the como shack to get batteries for the radio. The men at the Como shack are arguing and give Swoff dead batteries. Swoff doesn't realize this until he gets back to his position when they stick the batteries in.

The Marines then proceed to move on the Iraqis. The STA is mistaken by the Air Force as Iraqis and are shot at by A-10s. The trucks behind the STA are destroyed killing some people. The STA moves across a sand berm and see a road cluttered with destroyed vehicles (The Highway of Death). The STA looks around a bit. Swoff goes and sits with some charred bodies.

Saddam lights up the Kuwaiti oil wells. The STA sees the ecological devastation caused by this as oil rains on the area and on them. They initially encamp in a place where it is raining oil, however Sykes pulls them away to a place away from the oil rain. Here Fowler is digging a position away from the STA. Troy, Swoff and Fergus see that he has mutilated a dead Iraqi, and is a little unhinged. Swoff goes to bury the body and Sykes helps him. Sykes tells Swoff that he loves his job and that pretty much he is a lifer.

Sykes chooses Swoff and Troy for a special mission. The Colonel has an airfield with 700 Iraqis on it. He wants Swoff and Troy to kill the two commanding officers so the rest will surrender. Swoff and Troy get in a very good shooting hide, and find the officers. They get permission to shoot the officers however, Major Lincoln at the last second tells them to stop. He is calling in an air strike, mostly because it is probably the only time he can do it. Troy protests because he has authorization from the Colonel and that this is his kill. However Swoff restrains him and the air strike destroys the airfield.

Troy and Swoff talk about what will happen to Troy after they get back. Troy will be kicked out of the Corp when they get back. They realize that their pickup never comes for them and they walk to their battalion's encampment. They hear gunfire and believe that there is an attack however they instead find a party. The war is over and no one told them. The men never got to fire their weapons in combat and instead are firing into the sky.

The marines come home, and a Vietnam vet, who looks homeless, thanks the men for pretty much "exorcising the ghosts of nam". Swoff goes to see Christina and we see them officially separate.

The movie shows what happens to various marines afterward. Fowler is making out with a woman in the bar. One of the marines is an executive in a board meeting. One of the Hispanic marines (Cortez) is working in a supermarket. Escobar is with his family. Sykes is still in the Marines, now in Iraq. Fergus comes to Swoff's door with the bad news that Troy is dead. They go to his funeral; we do not know how Troy died.

Swoff is now out of the marines, but he still feels affinity for all marines.

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