Capturing a thousand words
May 25, 2011
YAKIMA, Wash.- Imagine seeing a photo of a deployed Soldier with his helmet off, leaning against a building in the middle of the day. What thoughts come to mind about this person and their work ethic?
Some may look at the picture and think the Soldier is lazy and out of uniform. Another person may see the picture and understand that the Soldier just finished a 48 hour patrol, and that’s the only time in two days he’s been able to take off his Kevlar and sit down.
It is common for the media to embed with the military during deployments and training. Because of this close working relationship, it is important that both parties establish a solid line of communication, as much as each situation will allow, so that the public can receive accurate and timely information.
“I think it’s important because people need to realize what the military does and to highlight individual units,” said Jeff Van Sant, a reporter with Q13 FOX News out of Seattle. “Being able to actually get in and see them do their work helps educate the public of what’s going on.“
Moving a brigade sized element of personnel and their Strykers can take a few days, and tends to get a lot of notice. Where this may seem like another day of work for most military personnel, it can often have a major impact on surrounding communities, all the more reason why building rapport is important.
Van Sant, recently traveled to Yakima Training Center to cover Soldiers with 3rd Stryker Brigade “Arrowhead”, 2nd Infantry Division, out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, working in the field.
“Instead of just seeing the guys with the helmets running around or just seeing the trucks on the road, you get to see what their job is,” said Van Sant. “It’s also important because we are at a time of war and we need to highlight everybody. This is a time to keep Soldiers, and the military in general, at the forefront, and that’s what my job is.”
In addition to being a public source of information to its communities, journalists provide a visually stimulating outlet for people interested in the military. Bryant Maddrick, a reporter with KNDU-TV, Kennewick, Wash., also attended the Arrowhead’s training in Yakima looking to capture the moment for viewers.
“One of the main reasons our station wants to cover an event like this is for the visuals,” said Bryant. “It’s a lot of great visuals and sound in terms of seeing the action of what a lot of men and women with the military are doing out here. The second reason is we have a lot of folks who live in Tri-Cities and Yakima who are either veterans or active in the military, so you have a lot of folks with a personal connection.”
But what of the photojournalists who want to highlight a Soldier’s contributions with a memorable shot of them taking a second to rest after hours of work while deployed?
One veteran offers a simple tip to those who might have concerns about publicly displaying images that could be misinterpreted and jeopardize a person’s career or the military’s image, provide clarity in the caption.
“Take note of the situation that’s happening at the time that you take the picture,” explained Spc. Devin Blackford, an Anderson Ind., native who is currently working in Bronco Troop, 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment. “Video says it all, because you’re listening to a guy talk and you’re seeing it; but a picture just shows one instance, and anybody can make up what they believe out of that picture.”