Military photographer - more than pushing a button

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Randi Flaugh
  • 460th Space Wing Public Affairs
I'm a military photographer.

You've all seen me. I'm the one in the battle dress uniform at the back of the room capturing a lifetime of memories at a military retirement, the one in service dress commemorating the memorial of a fallen comrade, and the one in battle rattle covering the war on the front lines. 

My job doesn't just consist of pushing a button -- although you may think so. There is a great deal of work to being a military photographer.

At Buckley Air Force Base we are the Air Force, Marine, Army and Navy photographers. All of these branches depend on us for countless photos -- from promotion packages to special duty assignment packages. If we were to ruin them in any way, that customer's promotion or assignment could be in jeopardy.

The job of a military photographer may sound like an ideal job, and to me it is, but don't fool yourself. There are times that the going gets tough.

Alert photography is an aspect of the job you don't want to experience. In fact, we rotate it among the work center because of the high-stress situations it can present. The alert photographer is required to take photos of major vehicle accidents, domestic violence and sometimes even death on the base. In these situations you have to be prepared for the worst because you could walk into anything.

Official ceremonies are a significant part of being a military photographer: retirements, changes of command, promotion ceremonies, awards and medal presentations. Every military member and family member wants to be able to remember the achievements of their loved ones. Photographs offer a timeless reminder of the memories you have made throughout your military career, and we are the individuals there to ensure those memories are captured.

War is a word in our everyday language and has become a normal occurrence in the days since Sept. 11, 2001. Military photographers play a big role in the War on Terror. We are the collectors for the history books our children will study in the future. Weapons intelligence, convoys, military personnel training Iraqi forces, and the day-to-day life in Iraq are a few of the many details we cover while on the front lines. It may be hard to believe, but occasionally our lives are put in danger just as much as any other Soldier or Airman that is serving alongside us.

In December of 2006 I was introduced to the reality that we lose Soldiers and Airmen. One of my first major tasks as a military photographer was photographing a memorial for a captain, who was lost while serving in Iraq, from the 27th Explosive Ordnance Disposal team at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M.

It was a heart-wrenching experience but I had to keep my composure and concentrate on the job at hand. I was there to commemorate a son, husband, brother, father, and most importantly, a military hero. In the end, we were able to provide the family with memorable photos of a life that was taken too soon -- a life that was an example of what every Soldier and Airman should convey while serving their country.

As I said, there is so much more to being a military photographer than just pushing a button. Next time you see us in the back of a room at a retirement, at a memorial service for one of our own, or in battle rattle on the front lines, remember those photographs we produce are not only our job but our pride and service to our country.