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Face of Defense: Coast Guardsman Pursues Passion for Photography

By Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Nick Ameen, U.S. Coast Guard Station Atlantic City

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August 28, 2015 — Striving for balance, Coast Guardsmen pursue passions while preserving devotion to duty. A rescue swimmer in South Jersey spends his off-duty time photographing professional mixed martial arts competitors. That opportunity, however, did not come easily.

“If you want something bad enough you can get it -- it’s just gonna take some hard work,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Chris Razoyk, an aviation survival technician at U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City here. “I wrote email after email to multiple magazines, and I’ve probably written over 200 letters to photo editors. The [Ultimate Fighting Championship promotion company] was one of those magazines that responded.”

Razoyk said the UFC’s response to his photo portfolio was favorable. They offered him the opportunity to shoot some of their fighters for the magazine.

“When somebody throws you that ball, you take it and run with it,” Razoyk said. “It’s developed into a great relationship, and I feel very honored to be able to work with them.”

Initial Interest in Photography

Razoyk began dabbling in photography while stationed in Astoria, Oregon, back in 2000. He said he didn’t have much to do outside of work, so he bought his first camera and started shooting. He purchased book after book about photography.

“Anything I could get my hands on I would read,” Razoyk said. “When I transferred to Air Station Miami they had the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale there, so I applied and I got in.”

Razoyk said he learned many technical aspects of photography at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, such as lighting and exposure.

“It wasn’t that I wanted to make a career or that I had set on some path to someday be shooting for magazines,” Razoyk said. “It was something I was passionate about. I just wanted to learn.”

Developing Photographic Skills

Razoyk spent many years developing his skills as a photographer and he worked hard to achieve his goal of becoming a rescue swimmer. He discussed the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

“Things can get stressful here at the air station,” Razoyk said. “You stand 24-hour duty shifts. You could go out on a night flight then be woken up at 3 a.m. for a search and rescue case. To have something outside the Coast Guard I’m passionate about, which is photography, gives me a nice work-life balance.”

Work-Life Balance

Coast Guard Capt. Peter Mingo, the commanding officer of Air Station Atlantic City, said he’s exceedingly proud of anyone’s efforts to achieve a strong work-life balance.

“I think every single one of us who wears the uniform gets so committed to the job that it’s nice to have a release outside of the service,” Mingo said. “Petty Officer Razoyk has this passion that’s so beneficial, I think that’s what makes it even more rewarding and makes his work-life balance stronger.”

Mingo said the work Razoyk does on duty is exceptionally rewarding, too.

“You need a sense of satisfaction, both in what you do professionally and what you do in your off time,” Mingo said. “He’s certainly gained some notoriety and success in his off-time pursuits.”

Razoyk said the key to a healthy work-life balance is doing things you’re passionate about, whether it’s at work or at home.

“I’m 100 percent satisfied here at work,” Razoyk said. “Being a rescue swimmer in the Coast Guard is one of the best jobs in the world. Second to that for me is photography. I’m happy at work, I’m happy at home, and that’s really what it’s all about.”