FORT RUCKER, Ala. (August 14, 2014) -- There are many things Soldiers have to do to prepare to go to an Army school or promotion board, but one key requirement seems to be causing a bit of confusion for Soldiers -- their official photos.
For Soldiers needing to get a photograph taken for work, Denise Reyes, multimedia and visual information service center quality assurance specialist, said that Soldiers need to come to the MVISC building early and they need to come ready.
"The end of the year is the time when many Soldiers try to update or get a Department of the Army photo in preparation for boards, but the longer they wait to make an appointment the harder it will be to make one," she said. "So we encourage all Soldiers to not procrastinate and get the photo taken now before all the appointment slots are taken."
To obtain a DA photo, Soldiers must be a first lieutenant or higher, a chief warrant officer 2 or higher, or a staff sergeant and above unless the Soldier is in the National Guard or Reserves. But if a Soldier needs the photo for a special packet or board and does not meet the rank requirement, the facility will take the photo. It is just not forwarded to Department of the Army Photo Management Information System, she said.
In recent months, many Soldiers, according to Reyes, have shown up for their photograph not knowing what they are responsible for, a problem for both the Soldier and the photographer.
"Army Regulation 640-30 outlines the Soldier's responsibility when taking the photo. And in that regulation it states that Soldiers must come in with a properly fitted and pressed uniform. We will not clip a jacket in the back to make it tighter," she said. "They need to ensure that their awards and racks are all correct and even. They must have a fresh haircut and be clean shaven when they arrive here."
Soldiers also need to bring their Common Access Card with them and they need to be prepared to give their whole social security number.
"Most Soldiers are getting a DA photo for a promotion, and a promotion is an evaluation. It is the Soldier who is entering this new professional rank and it is their responsibility to know how to set their uniform up, not ours," continued Reyes. "Although we help as much as we can, we are not the ones who are supposed to know how their awards should be laid out. And their uniform should be ready to go the moment they come in the door."
Jane Armstrong, MVISC photo lead, said that the problem can escalate if Soldiers come in not knowing what type of photo they need.
"Some come in here thinking they need a DA photo when, in truth, they don't -- they just need a DA-style photo, and it's very important that a Soldier knows what type of photo he or she needs before they get here," said Armstrong. "Saying, 'My commander just told me to come here for a photo,' is not good for us or the Soldier."
Armstrong said that Soldiers need to know what size and style photo they need, and if they need a physical print or not.
"Different specialty boards, like Soldier of the Year or Sgt. Audie Murphy Club, have different requirements -- such as a flag requirement in the background, or if it needs to be a head and shoulder shot," she continued.
There is sometimes a debate between Soldiers and the photographer over what ribbons are to be worn, but Armstrong said to trust the photographer.
"Soldiers only wear their permanent awards for our photos, besides their current unit crest. Many people believe that they take it off, (but) that is incorrect. It is the only non-permanent thing you wear," she said.
Having a mistake on a uniform is not enough of a reason for a reshoot, continued Armstrong, and with the Army constantly changing regulations it's important that a Soldier has up-to-date information on how their uniform should look before they come in.
Armstrong and Reyes suggest bringing in the uniform in on a hanger for the photo, not wearing it in.
"We cannot Photoshop a photo. We can't make a dirty spot on a uniform disappear. So please do not wear it in because it will get wrinkled and you take the chance of messing it up," she said.
The facility has three changing rooms for Soldiers to utilize, and Armstrong said the staff helps Soldiers look the best they can, and will lint roll and straighten out the uniform when they get in front of the camera.
Official DA photos can only be taken on Fort Rucker at the MVISC, which is free. Soldiers cannot obtain one at a post office or local photography studio.
If a Soldier gets a promotion or is awarded a new permanent award they should renew their DA photograph within 60 days.
Armstrong also suggests retaking a DA photo if there is a major change in appearance, such as losing a significant amount of weight.
To make an appointment for a DA, head and shoulders or a DA-style photo, Soldiers must make an appointment online at www.vios.army.mil. Appointments are not made by telephone. If Soldiers must cancel their appointment, they do, however, have to call the office at 255-0944 24 hours before the appointment. Soldiers cannot reschedule an appointment until they call in to cancel.
The center is located in Bldg. 535 on L Avenue and appointments can be made for Monday and Wednesday mornings, and Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.
For more information on regulations concerning official Soldier photographs, see AR 640-30 or call 255-0944.