FORT LEE, VA – The deputy commander of the Army’s Public Affairs Office is seeking assistance from leaders of major Army commands in reducing instances of “photobombing,” which renders combat photographs unusable, and often makes the public relations war unwinnable.
“Our job is to get out there and capture real-world moments in combat, so that we can really tell the story of the Army to the public,” said Col. James Hutton, U.S. Army deputy chief of public affairs. “Our combat cameramen and women are some of the hardest working soldiers in today’s Army. They really do have a difficult job, and we want to make sure that people aren’t making it harder for them than it needs to be.”
Officials estimate the cost of photobombing to the Army — in terms of wasted man-hours and ruined photographs — at roughly $125 annually. “This might seem like a trivial amount,” says Hutton, “but there’s no way to put an appropriate price tag on the cost to our soldiers in terms of the headaches, frustration, and bitterness they suffer as a result of photobombing incidents, not to mention the mental anguish of having a potentially amazing shot ruined by some infantryman who isn’t supporting our mission.”
Combat camera soldiers are often attached to infantry units on patrols, sometimes carrying dozens of pounds of photography equipment. “I’d be willing to say that our job is just as physically demanding as the infantry,” said Private First Class Jessica Whitehurst, a public-affairs soldier attached to 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division.
“You know, we’re out there doing pretty much the same things. I mean, we don’t do the actual fighting or anything, but we’re out there just the same. And we have the added job of trying to take photographs of the action, and these jackass infantrymen, they think nobody’s ever seen someone throw up peace signs before."
Whitehurst related a specific instance when she tried to take a photo on a recent combat patrol.
"I’ve got it framed up all nice, with the mountains in the background, and I’ve got a great shot, when all of a sudden this douchebag lunges into frame at the last instant, whooping like a retard, and ruins the shot. You know how many times that’s happened? I can’t even begin to describe how frustrating it is.”
“Yeah, I did it on purpose,” said Sergeant Kyle Marcus, the soldier who photobombed Whitehurst’s picture. “We have this out-of-shape female photographer who’s gotta be at least thirty pounds overweight, out on patrol with us. It’s a tactical environment but she’s making the most unbelievable racket, smashing through branches and bushes, dropping her equipment over and over, swearing and yelling at us to slow down. She was constantly falling out of the patrol; we had to keep stopping and waiting for her to catch up. She only had a 9-mil with one mag, plus her camera stuff, but she was whining and complaining the whole time about how heavy her gear was.”
Still, Hutton believes the experience has serious consequences, saying it's similar to "having a great golf shot lined up."
"You know you’re gonna get it onto the green, and then some idiot coughs on purpose right in the middle of your backswing and your ball goes off into the trees," Hutton said.
“At least this is happening in the age of digital photography. It would be a lot more expensive if all these photobombed shots happened on film.”