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Base photographers set their sights on Airmen

  • Published
  • By Dylan Laurie
  • 16th SOW Public Affairs
There are those among us who have been trained to capture in an instant. They blend into the crowd, seeking out their targets with efficiency and professionalism. They glide through the shadows, moving stealthily, so as not to frighten their mark, patiently waiting for the opportunity to strike.

Finally, vigilance pays off. The moment of glory arrives. Taking aim and holding steady, they draw in a deep breath and slowly release half of it. If you are the objective, the only thing you might hear is "click." You have just been shot by a base photographer.

The Airmen who make up the 16th Communications Squadron photo lab are dedicated to the motto, "Comm for Special Ops," and carry out their mission by providing global combat documentation support specializing in digital still, studio and location photography.

"My job entails skilled documentation for historical purposes of Air Force or Department of Defense missions on Hurlburt Field, ranging from retirement ceremonies to flying sorties with all special operations squadrons," said Senior Airman Andy Kin.

Their goal is to capture the day-to-day events in a way that transports viewers visually through time and space to that specific moment.

Senior Airman Jessica Klingler has been at Hurlburt Field for nine months after spending almost three years at RAF Lakenheath.

"I've been up in an MH-53 taking aerials of RAF Lakenheath and a C-130, hanging out the back and taking pictures of another gunship. It's cool when they open up the ramp and the other aircraft is so close you feel like you can reach out and touch it," said Airman Klingler. "Whether it is a change of command ceremony or taking a studio portrait, there's always going to be something, somewhere happening on base worth capturing. We are here to show the world everyday life in the Air Force."

They are able to accomplish this due to their ability to get out and experience what it is everyone else does by visiting other work centers and meeting different people.

"What I like most right now is the aerial side of the house," Airman Kin said. "All the training and exposure is awesome, and new missions keep it interesting. Also, the interaction with other Airmen and their jobs; being able to see what other people do in the Air Force is cool. I'm taking advantage of all the things I get to go and see."

Airman Kin highlighted his most memorable adventure - supporting Hurricane Katrina relief efforts in New Orleans.

"I flew down with the 20th Special Operations Squadron, on a MH-53 PAVE LOW and did rescue and transport of Katrina victims on the gulf coast," said Airman Kin. "We transported hundreds of people to designated (Federal Emergency Management Agency) checkpoints and flew through rural areas looking for any survivors. It was non-stop for about 12 hours, and it was the best mission I've been on."

Part of what makes being a base photographer fascinating is the challenges it presents to show off your creativity, according to Airman 1st Class Danielle Morrow.

"There is no clear-cut answer or method of doing this," said Airman Morrow. "It's very subjective, so your finished product can greatly vary depending on the customer requesting it."

"The artist and the viewer always see differently," said Airman Kin. "Finding that happy medium can sometimes be difficult."

It's a fast-paced career field that advances in leaps and bounds, daring the Airmen to strive to succeed.

"What I find most challenging is how fast new and improved things come out for photography; I'm just trying to keep on top of everything and learn everything I can," said Airman Klingler. "I hope to get from my experience in visual information greater job knowledge than the person who came before me; so when it comes time for me to be in charge of a photo lab, I will be able to lead my people with confidence and know what I'm doing."

No matter what asperities might arise, these Airmen will meet them head-on with assertiveness and poise.

"It's given me a better work ethic than most jobs on the outside would have," said Airman Morrow. "It's helped me to be more confident in taking risks and making decisions in life."

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then listen up because these troops have a lot to say.