ARLINGTON, Va. — As it did for many, the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and following quarantine measures created additional emotional and social stressors for Soldier Recovery Unit participants throughout the Military Health System.
By late 2020, retired Sgt. Maj. Robert Wilson decided it was time to bring his passion of photography to other soldiers at the Fort Bliss SRU in Texas as part of their adaptive reconditioning programming.
Wilson created a video series of virtual photography classes last winter, and classes are still available online to SRU soldiers.
He recorded a few sessions and made them available to the entire Fort Bliss SRU. Wilson tapped into 12 years of photography experience and distilled his knowledge into the videos, which describe various techniques photographers can use to improve their shots.
Wilson started the class both as a creative outlet for himself and as a way to help others.
He's received plenty of compliments from others who wanted to try something new after being isolated due to the pandemic, as photography was one of the few activities Soldiers could enjoy without gathering in groups.
Wilson first got into photography with a friend who was also in the service as a way to get out and clear their heads following their deployment to Iraq.
"It actually just started with hiking," he said. "Then we started taking pictures. Back then, it was really just landscapes. Then we got into astro-landscapes.”
Astro-landscapes refer to a style of landscape photography not restricted by daylight. Geospatial pictures with the Milky Way in the night sky are examples of those types of photos.
Wilson showed his photos to Amy Summers, a recreational therapist at the Fort Hood SRU, who immediately recommended that Wilson teach a class. Summers, who was once stationed at Fort Bliss, knew Wilson well and felt that his photography expertise would benefit other Soldiers at the SRU.
“It was during a time when nobody was able to go do a lot of stuff because of COVID,” she said. “I knew he had some specialty in photography.”
So they reached out to the Fort Bliss Resiliency Through Art program to ask if Wilson could teach his class with their resources.
“They had the cameras and the whole setup to do it, and a Facebook page, so we just checked to see if they were interested in him doing a class, and they were,” she said. “So we just worked with them in conjunction to do a virtual photography class.”
Wilson initially was hesitant but eventually realized the benefit it would provide other Soldiers.
"They were really on me about it, and I finally caved in," he said. "I was terrified to be in front of a camera to tell you the truth. I didn't want to do it. But what I was hoping to get out of it was to take a skillset I have and to give it to someone else."
You can find Wilson’s videos in the video section of the Fort Bliss Resiliency Through Art Facebook page.
The Army Warrior Care and Transition Program is now the Army Recovery Care Program. Although the name has changed, the mission remains the same: to provide quality complex case management to the Army's wounded, ill and injured Soldiers.