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Liaison officer expedites releasing imagery

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Dec. 02, 2002) -- The world's news media will soon have more pictures and video products available to them.

Civilian media needing photography or video footage of Air Force activities now have an advocate in Capt. Derek Fletcher, the career visual information specialist who recently assumed the task of bridging the Air Force's public affairs and VI communities.

Capt. Derek Fletcher previews raw video footage on the newly installed dub rack system in the Air Force Press Desk's Media Center in the Pentagon. Fletcher is the press desk's liaison to deployed combat camera units, and serves to expedite the flow of video and still operational imagery for internal and external media needs. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jim Varhegyi

Col. Alvina Mitchell, the Air Force media operations division chief at the Pentagon, said the addition of an officer to handle such responsibilities greatly improves the service's efficiency in providing visual products to the press.

"Captain Fletcher assists us with several areas, particularly in better coordinating our needs for imagery with combat camera assets locally and in the field," Mitchell said.

As the visual communications liaison officer on the Air Force press desk, Fletcher works hand-in-hand with PA specialists to fulfill the media's need for Air Force imagery. The relationship is already paying off in the form of increased coverage of Air Force activities.

"This morning, Fox News called," Fletcher said. "They wanted some video of the Predator aircraft; they had seen Predator footage on Air Force Television News. I called the Air Force News Agency and got the contact information for that footage so we could provide it to the media."

Fletcher can also contact combat camera units in the field and let them know there is a demand for certain types of footage.

"You can imagine the clamor for photography of the Predator aircraft and Hellfire missile," Fletcher said.

Fletcher worked nearly seven years in the field with combat camera on a dozen deployments. He said his knowledge of the VI community is the most valuable asset he brings to the press desk.

"I know who to contact for anything concerning imagery," Fletcher said. "I know who to contact to get people up in a chase plane to get fresh footage of the Predator. I can get the media their images faster, and I can get them the right image. I can call the videographers and tell them exactly what we are looking for, because I speak their language."

Fletcher said another way he helps provide imagery to the press is simply knowing where to look for imagery that already exists.

"PA often doesn't know what combat camera has been shooting," Fletcher said. "Just the other day, one of the press desk people wanted B-2 (Spirit) shelter video. They believed it didn't even exist. I called Whiteman Air Force Base (Mo.) and asked the VI people if they had any B-2 shelter video. They said, 'Sure, we have tons of it.' It's just a matter of knowing where to look."

When Fletcher is not fulfilling media and press desk requests for Air Force imagery, he is busy building new contacts with VI and combat camera detachments out in the field.

"Right now I am making new contacts," Fletcher said. "I am finding out who's taking what imagery and where. I've talked to the Air Mobility Command and Air Combat Command combat camera people to find out where they are deployed. I've talked to combat camera (people) in Sarajevo and in Southwest Asia. I am trying to give them a heads-up, to let them know I am here."

In the future, Fletcher believes there can be a better way to get the freshest imagery flowing from the field and into the hands of the press. Part of that plan, he said, will be for the VI and the PA communities to work to together in the field.

"We can have a PA person in the field who works with the combat cameraman," Fletcher said. "Images could be cleared right then and there. Then the images could be sent directly to the press desk, and we could get them out to the media."

Mitchell said creating such a synergy between combat camera and public affairs will prove beneficial to both the civilian media and the Air Force.

"Providing timely and quality imagery enhances the media's products and makes their coverage more interesting and comprehensive," Mitchell said. "The benefit of this strikes at the very heart of PA -- telling the Air Force story. If the Air Force expects to tell its story to a mass audience, we must put it in a visual format to reach a younger generation."