Travel shoots: Get out of your mom’s basement

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Everything you need for a travel shoot. Say hello to oversized luggage fees. Photo by MC2 Glenn Slaughter.

Sure it’s a cliche joke but if you’re stuck in your mom’s basement and looking for a way out, then listen up. Enlisting as a military public affairs specialist is a great way to get out of the house and start calling your own shots.

Travel shoots can be the best part of our job, if the story, location and team are right. There are two big things to keep in mind about this type of work:

  1.   preparation and movement
  2.   adaptability

Take a look below to avoid a painful travel experience!

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Using two camera to shoot the interview gives us more options during editing. The camera on the left is on a slider. Photo by MC2 Darien Kenney.

PREPARATION AND MOVEMENT

To start things off, a job is assigned to us by a supervisor. In this case, the job was Bee Haydu, a 95-year-old member of WASP, or Women Airforce Service Pilots. This was a group of women that flew military planes in WW2 to assist in the training of male pilots.

The people assigned to this travel shoot were:

  • MC2 Glenn Slaughter – video
  • MC2 Darien Kenney – photo & assistant video
  • Shannon Collins – print

First off, we are responsible for making travel plans and securing the proper equipment. Get ready to learn the dreaded Defense Travel System software to book your flight, hotel and rental car. Everyone in the military uses it.

To secure gear we head to our camera shop and let them know what we need. It’s a lot of stuff and yes, it sucks travelling with all of it.

  • Nikon D800 kit x 2 with Sachtler tripod x 2
  • Litepanel 1 x 1 light kit with stands
  • Rhino camera slider with stands
  • Assorted microphones including Rode and Sony wireless lavaliers
  • Gopro Hero 4 Silver with Feiyu Tech G4 stabilizer

That above list is easily worth $10,000. Since we’re E-5s, we’re the equivalent of middle managers in the civilian world. Our bosses have to trust our skill level as well as maturity in order to green light travel shoots.

At our level, no one is looking over our shoulders to make sure we get to the location and arrive with the proper gear. They hand us the job and wait for results.

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Kenney gathering photos to go with the print story. Photo by MC2 Glenn Slaughter.

ADAPTABILITY

The location of the shoot was Ms. Haydu’s home in Riviera Beach, FL. (We flew from Fort Meade, Md.) It’s quite common to do interviews in people’s homes. We need to be able to walk into the space, without ever seeing it, and start to envision where the best spot for the interview is. And it needs to happen while being respectful to the subject. We’re in her personal space after all.

While the camera guys make sure things like light and sound are good, Shannon takes care of the actual interview. When we’re ready she begins to go through a list of questions pertinent to the story. Teamwork is key to a smooth shoot. Remember, this person has never met us and here we are in her house!

It’s not enough to think like a camera person though. I have to be the producer as well. Am I getting everything I need for my video?

I’ve traveled over one thousand miles on the government’s dime. There is no going back to work and saying I missed a shot.

On this particular shoot, I actually called back to base and asked them if I could extend for three more days. No, it wasn’t so I could party! Ms. Haydu had an event working with a group of kids that I knew would be essential to the video, since she’d talked about kids in the interview. My command and I had to be adaptable.


This was a very basic breakdown of what a travel shoot is like. There are a hundred details I could go into, all of them important.

Doesn’t this seem much more interesting than playing video games in mom’s basement? If you have any questions, please send them in!

Soldiers and Super Heroes

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In the DMA studio, bringing the news to a global military audience. Photo courtesy of DoD News.

When we think of the word “military”, serious words like discipline and precision come to mind. What probably doesn’t come to mind are words like creative arts and comics. U.S. Army Sergeant Luther Washington embodies all of these words.

At first glance, Washington is your average, talented Broadcast Specialist. He works as a news anchor for Department of Defense News, headquartered on Fort Meade, Maryland. The job requires him to take usually-boring press releases from the Pentagon and repackage them for a military audience. It all happens in front of a camera, under very bright lights.

“It was scary as first. I’d never been on camera, never read a script,” said Washington. “I took a lot of notes and did a lot of practice runs, and I’m doing ok.”

He’s doing more than ok. Washington is widely-considered to be the best anchor in the department. His ease in the lime light and natural speaking rhythm make him the go-to guy for the news. His success, however, is his curse.

“To be honest, it’s not really where I want to be,” he said. “I want to be shooting and editing video. My ultimate goal is to become a filmmaker.”

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Washington at his cubicle. Are those super hero Pez dispensers on the left? Photo by Glenn Slaughter.

He laments in private that he’s dying to unleash his creative side. That creativity overflows at his cubicle, where an oasis of colorful action figures adorn every possible space.

“I was the child of a single mom, dad wasn’t around,” Washington said. “My mom worked a lot so I was alone a good amount. So it’d be nighttime and I’d be in the dark, all alone with my flashlight in bed but I had Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men to keep me company.”

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Batman watches Washington’s back while he works. Photo by Glenn Slaughter.

A lifetime of reading comics hasn’t made him into a fiction snob, though. He still has fun with the films that inevitably follow, even if they’re not accurate to the source material.

“One of the cool things is he’s into old school and new school,” said Petty Officer Lyle Wilkie, one of Washington’s coworkers. “He can enjoy a film based on a comic and not tear it apart. He’s very knowledgeable but shares it in a positive way.”

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Washington displays his favorite comics. Photo by Glenn Slaughter.

For now, a transfer into the Creative Services section of DoD News is out of Washington’s reach, but it may be a smart move for the military to unleash the beast.

Defense Media Activity triumphs as Staff Judge Advocates stay winless

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Opening tipoff, the only time the game was tied. Photo by Glenn Slaughter.

The bad dream just wouldn’t end as SJA found themselves behind and struggling to keep up in a 59-37 loss to DMA on Feb. 11.

The status of these two teams couldn’t be more different at the halfway point of the regular season. While the Staff Judge advocates watched their last chance at a .500 record fade, 1st place Defense Media Activity celebrated as the current rulers of the league.

Only several fans were in attendance at the Murphy Field House gym but the stands could’ve been full with all the noise generated by DMA. They seemed more motivated from the start, forming a circle and clapping a rhythmic beat as they waited for the opening buzzer. With 21 points, DMA Power Forward Darien Kenney continued to be a key to victory.

“We came out here and we did exactly what we said we would do. We were hyping each other up. At the end of the day it’s all about the team, putting ourselves together and scoring points,” Kenney said.

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An exhausted SJA defense can only watch as Kenney sinks another two-pointer on his way to an impressive 21 points. Photo by Glenn Slaughter.

The size of each team probably made an impact as well. DMA has a 13-man roster and was able to substitute fresh players every few minutes. The opposing SJA players were forced to play nonstop, as their team only had the minimum of five.

The defeat was softened by the fact that the Judges, who work together, experienced bonding through shared trauma. SJA’s John Cheney kept a positive outlook as he caught his breath after the game.

    “We just keep working on our teamwork, getting better. We need to get faster than everyone else. It doesn’t always work but there’s always the next possession,” Cheney said.

The Judges get their best shot at a win this season when they face the team from the Navy Information Operations Center. With only three wins, NIOC has struggled to score points lately.

Defense Media Activity faces the 5-2 Vikings next week. It’s safe to say that DMA is on everyone’s minds and they’ve got a fat red target on their backs.

For more information on league standings visit www.quickscores.com/ftmeadesports.

 

 

Can Staff Judge Advocates terminate Defense Media Activity’s league dominance?

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The clock’s ticking for the legal warriors of SJA when they take on first-place DMA and their public affairs squad this Thursday at Fort Meade’s Murphy Field House.

The winless Staff Judge Advocates shouldn’t be picky about who they beat, but a victory here would be extra sweet. They must still feel the sting of the 38-24 smack down Defense Media Activity handed them two weeks ago. Thursday’s game marks the halfway point of the season, and the last chance for SJA to salvage a winning record. DMA is fighting to keep their number one playoff spot.

DMA Power Forward Darien Kenney, with 13 points in their last outing, will be a key to success.

“We need to come out and communicate, hustle and play hard. That’s what it’ll take to win this game. We have a lot more heart than most teams out here,” he said.

The Fort George G. Meade intramural basketball league consists of 18 teams, split between division I and II, with a 12-game regular season. The top six teams from each division go to the playoffs. Each team represents a command on the base.

Created over 20 years ago, the league is funded by the department of Morale Welfare and Recreation. The importance of healthy competition was summarized by league organizer, Sports Specialist Beth Downs:

“The big thing is for the units and squadrons to come out and have camaraderie and friendly competition. It’s good to get PT while taking your mind off the day-to-day work, which can be pretty stressful.”

It’s free to watch but a CAC card is required for entrance to the building. Game time is Feb. 11, 6:30pm.

For more information on league standings visit www.quickscores.com/ftmeadesports.

Look Fantastic in a Navy Working Uniform

 

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Not sure what we’re supposed to be blending in with..

So you’ve enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Great, but now you’re panicking because you have no idea what you’re doing. The idea of wearing a uniform (that’s not from Applebee’s) is a little scary. Your recruiter assured you everything would be explained at boot camp but who wants to try to figure it out while some Recruit Division Commander (RDC) is yelling at you?

This How To article will give you five tips on how to stand out in your main threads, the Navy Working Uniform (NWU). Learn these rules and learn to love them. Trust me, it’s much better this way.

OVERVIEW

#1: cover

#2: t-shirt

#3: belt

#4: blousing straps

#5: boots

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My well-used cardboard cover stiffener. Look how saggy the cover is without it. Shameful!
#1: Forget everything you know about “hats”

First of all, you’ll be calling them covers in the Navy. Don’t let a superior hear you call it a hat. There are two important things about Navy covers, and they’ll both probably go against what you know.

1. Do not fold the bill. If you just have to, you can fold it a little bit but use the below photo as a guide and don’t go past it. I  keep mine almost totally straight.

2. The front of the cover, where the rank insignia is, should be stiff and vertical, not saggy and conforming to the skull’s shape.

Yes, you will look like Elmer Fudd.

 

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The cap should have a stiff, vertical front. A little bit of bill fold is ok.

This petty officer has a cover that shows she gives a damn about her professional appearance.

 

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A tight collar brings the entire uniform together.
#2: Get real snuggly with your t-shirt

The only part of the NWU’s t-shirt that is seen is at the neck. That’s why you have to make it perfect. Take a look in your closet and I guarantee you’ll find at least one shirt with a floppy neckline. Don’t let this one get bent out of shape. Here’s how to do it:

1. Wear it a size too small. It’s not as crazy as it sounds! You’ll get used to it quickly and the tight neckline will be worth it when the boss giggles in delight.

2. Strip the right way. When you take the t-shirt off, pull it over your head by grasping it on your back instead of on the neck. This will keep the shirt looking good for much longer.

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We can wear different belts but this’ll be issued to you at boot camp.
#3: Embrace the blast from the past

These belt buckles were HUGE in the 80s. Also, I hate them. There’s a couple of quick things to know about these stunning beauties.

1. Males thread the belt clockwise around the waist, women counterclockwise.

2. Shine the buckle when you shine your boots. it only takes a minute but many Sailors forget and get busted during uniform inspections.

 

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I’ve lost at least ten sets of these.
#4: Leave your ego at the door and love the blousing straps

Scroll back up to the top photo and look at his ankles. See how the pants looked like they’re tucked in to the boots? The pant legs have been wrapped up in blousing straps. If you dressed like this as a civilian you’d probably get some stares.

We do this in the military because in combat you don't want 
your pant legs getting caught on something.

PRO TIPS:

1.  Fold your pant leg between the third and fourth eyelets on the boots.

2. Strap up while sitting and then while standing. Notice the difference in where the pant leg ends up.

 

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This kind of shine is your get out of jail free card.
#5: THE HOLY GRAIL: Shine your damn boots!

This cannot be stressed enough. After haircut/shave, this is the number one thing your superiors will look at. If you want to seem like a super badass Sailor, but deep down you’re clueless, at least get this right.

You’ll fool everyone.

There are several schools of thought on the best polish method but here’s two things you can do to shine in this area.

1. POLISH OFTEN AND WHILE BOOTED. Do a “for real” 30-minute shine one day, then do a quick touch-up every day after you get dressed. If you keep up with it, it’ll only take about five minutes to get the shine back to the “for real” status.

2. DON’T JUST SHINE THE TOES. Many Navy Chiefs and officers will notice if you have the backs and sides shined up so get it done.

———-

It’s definitely weird to put this uniform on for the first time. You’ll be a scared Navy Recruit, a guppy swimming in a sea of sharks. Relax, with this guide you’ll be a much smaller target.

Best of luck to you and I’ll see you in the fleet!

DISCLAIMER: This is not a complete guide to the NWU. There are many basics that you will learn. Hit me up with any questions and check out these websites for more information.

All Hands Magazine
Naval Personnel Command
Navy official blog

Welcome to my world!

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Basking in the glory of DMA on Fort Meade, Md. – Photo by MC2 Tim Haake.

Hi everyone and welcome to The Military Lens! If you’re interested in the world of military public affairs specialists, TML is where you want to be. If you’re interested in becoming one of us, TML is your new home.

This is your Trust Tree and your Sanctuary of Safety.

I’ve been working as a Navy Mass Communication Specialist since July, 2009, and currently work for Department of Defense News. We’re located at Defense Media Activity (DMA) on Fort Meade, Md. This is literally the center of the military PA universe. Every branch sends us their photos, videos and written stories so we can redistribute that information to our global audience.

But it’s not just DoD News. Each branch uses the building to run their service-specific publications. It’s tough to describe such a complex web in one post. Here’s a quick overview (with pictures!) of the moving parts.

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See that guy on the right? That’s Tech Sergeant Nathan Parry. He just interviewed President Barrack Obama in front of a live global audience. He’s sort of my hero. – Photo by me.

Okay these photos aren’t super exciting but hopefully they give a good idea of the size of DMA.

In the Air Force, PA personnel have two names.

TSgt. Parry: “Air Force public affairs is split into two enlisted parts. We have the Photojournalist who take pictures and write stories, blogs, and handle quite a bit of the social media positions. Broadcast Journalists take care of the video side of the house be it for online or for air on American Forces Network. Overseas we also have the opportunity to be radio DJs.”

These two work with me at DoD News but there’s a section for just Air Force. Their publication is called Airman Magazine. (It’s the best but don’t tell them…they’re already cocky.)

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SGT. Luther Washington in the best-decorated cubicle at DMA. Yes he’s holding the Juggernaut. – Photo by me.

This is a fine example of the Army presence. Sergeant Luther Washington is a fan of comics…and being awesome in front of a camera. His job is called Broadcast Specialist. The Army’s publication is called Soldiers Magazine.

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Don’t these two look related? I would’ve sworn they were brother and sister. – Photo by me.

This is in the Navy section. It’s where the majority of Navy Mass Communication Specialists (MCs) work on awesome things like All Hands Magazine. With over 20 Sailors in just this area, the Navy has the biggest presence at DMA. It’s because we’re so cool.

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As you can see, we’re mixed in with civilians. It can take some adjustment if you’ve spent years working with only military. – Photo by me.

Ahh Marines…they’re usually the loudest and most interesting folks in the building. See that bald guy on the left? He’s an absolute BEAST. I’m pretty sure Rocky Balboa wasn’t as fit as that Marine. They stopped producing an online magazine a year ago but you can still find Marine stories at marines.mil and on their Facebook page.

Coming in hot with the coolest name, they’re called Combat Correspondents.

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Uniform inspections are always painful. Photo by me.

It’s not enough to be a good story teller. All service members here must also keep up their military discipline. A uniform inspection is an effective way to remind us that we’re Sailors first, Mass Communication Specialists second.

Shine your boots, then go play with the camera.