NATO Photos Fly Thanks to U.S. Airmen
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 27, 1999 Air Force Master Sgt. Chuck Reger is a pro. When time is of the essence, he knows how to put out pictures.
He should. The photo chief has worked support operations in Panama, Somalia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Persian Gulf, as well as two presidential inaugurations.
The 11-year combat camera veteran spent at least 18 hours a day April 23 to 25 making pictures for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. By the third day of NATO's 50th anniversary summit here, his eyes were slits, his voice was gravelly, but his spirit was undaunted.
"It's been some very long days," he admitted. "In terms of pace and what the workload is like, I've done this several times in the military, so it's not a new experience to me. But for all of my people, this is the first time they've ever worked an event like this."
Reger, from Buckhannon, W.Va., is the visual information manager at Bolling Air Force Base, D.C. He runs the 11th Communications Squadron's photo lab and graphic presentation shop. When the president's host committee for NATO's 50th anniversary summit sought photo processing support, they turned to the Air Force.
By the time NATO's photography staff arrived from Brussels, Belgium, Reger's team, aided by a Kodak representative with some high-speed, state-of-the-art processing equipment, was up and running. NATO photo chief Armando J. Soares said his staff had more support than they have ever had before.
Soares heads the NATO Media Library, Office of Information and Press, at the alliance headquarters. Reger's military team worked side-by-side with NATO librarian Celeste Palmer and three NATO contract photographers, Walter Vanderhaegen, Serge Antoine and Didier Vandenbosch.
"This is the very first time we've had this kind of support," Soares said. "They are doing most of the job here. They are doing an excellent job putting out all of the imagery. 'Excellent' is the only word I can say. I am very happy."
Palmer, Soares' assistant, echoed his praise for the military photo team. "The NATO summit was manic, but the support has been marvelous," she said. "They know what hard work is. We've had hardly any criticism, just praise."
Normally at NATO meetings, Palmer and Soares do the same kind of operation, she said, but on a much smaller scale. "It's been a bit of an eye opener to see what can be done with all this technology. We're going to try to replicate the experience. Let's hope they'll give us the budget."
During the three-day summit, the Air Force team processed about 300 rolls of film and about 1,600 digital images. As the NATO photographers turned in film, Reger's crew processed, captioned and released pictures, often within 35 minutes. News media could then request prints or digital images and pick up their orders within a few hours. A steady flow of customers surveyed images posted on boards outside the lab. More than 3,000 international news media representatives covered the weekend summit.
As film came in and pictures went out, Reger's crew also posted images to NATO's home page at www.nato.int and to the U.S. Information Agency NATO anniversary home page at http://www.nato50.gov. They e-mailed and file-transferred photos to media outlets at home and abroad. Media customers equipped with pocket-sized, high-capacity diskettes could simply walk away with the photos they sought.
The summit was an exciting, learning experience for the American airmen new to the fast-paced, high-profile, international scene, Reger said. Since the Bolling photo lab supports all the Air Force needs in the metropolitan Washington area, he said, his people are used to being around high-ranking folks.
"But they've never worked an event of this magnitude where the deadlines and turn-around are that quick. The goal is, by the time we go home in the evening, we want that day's work completed," Reger explained. "Everything is pretty much Priority 1. Most of the work we've done has been ready to go back out to the media in four hours or less."
Staff Sgt. Scott Ash, from Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., was among the seven noncommissioned officers and one DoD civilian on Reger's team. The 11-year veteran still photographer said the summit was his first head-of-state-level event.
Ash said his days lasted from about 7 a.m. until 1 or 2 a.m. The first day, he said, he pulled a night shift, scanning negatives throughout the night in the temporary lab at the Reagan International Trade Center in downtown Washington.
"The vocabulary, the accents -- I feel like I'm in Europe," he remarked. Most customers, he said, particularly the foreign visitors, were pleased with the lab's service. "Working with the NATO staff in this environment was really dynamic," he said. "Hours felt like minutes."
Kodak representative Pat Nugent said he was chosen because of his military background. The national account manager for photojournalism and commercial imaging at Kodak's Professional Division is a retired Air Force photojournalist and 1985 graduate of the Navy's Advanced Photojournalism Program at Syracuse [N.Y] University. He served in Germany, covering Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
Nugent recalled that his last big military photo project was covering U.S. deliveries of food and medicine following the breakup of the Soviet Union. "We did 65 missions into the new 18 states," he said. "I took a whole electronic imaging center to Rhein-Main Air Base [Germany] and we based out of there for seven weeks."
During Desert Shield, Nugent was a senior photo editor at the Pentagon. "I took an electronic imaging center to Gen. [Norman] Schwarzkopf as well during Desert Storm." Kodak selected him for the summit project, he said, because "I can talk the military side and the corporate side. It makes things run a lot smoother."
The other Bolling team members were Tech Sgt. Mark Suban of Corpus Christi, Texas; Tech Sgt. Andrea Faison of Camden, N.J.; Staff Sgt. Joan Anderson-Brown of St. Petersburg, Fla.; Staff Sgt. Bradley Cerka of Colo, Iowa; Senior Airman Jennifer Gangemi of Aberdeen, Md.; and Tamika Mccory, from Alexandria, Va.